‘ “Going till Castelderg” -Tyrone-speak’ by Joe McVeigh


I came across an article in a recent edition of Folklore/Bealoideas about a man by the name of Packy Jim McGrath from Lettercran on the Donegal/Tyrone border near Aghyaran/Castlederg. The author, Ray Cashman is an American folklorist. He met up with Packy Jim many years ago just by chance when travelling around this part of Ireland. He is enthralled by his gift for storytelling, his colourful language, his memory and his imagination. Packy Jim has all the qualities of a good story teller. So fascinated was the American by his subject that he has written and published a book entitled ‘Packy Jim’.

I am also interested in local folklore but in this instance I am fascinated with the way the spoken language is used. One example is Packy Jim’s use of the word ‘till’ for ‘to’. Packy Jim is always going down ‘till’ Castlederg rather than going ‘to’ Castlederg as we more sophisticated citizens of Fermanagh would say. I suppose it reveals the closeness of the people to the Irish language in that part of Ireland. In Irish it would probably be ‘ag dul go dti Caislean na Deirge’ . ‘Go dtí’ also means till/until. This is only speculation on my part. Another Tyrone man I have noticed who uses this way of speaking is the irrepressible MLA from Carrickmore, Barry McElduff. I have heard him on BBC Radio Uladh a number of times saying things like: ‘I am going till Stormount today’ or ‘I am not going till take lectures from Stephen Nolan.”

Now I am not finding fault or trying to be politically correct. Far be it from a Fermanagh man to question a Tyrone man’s way of speaking. Indeed, I am half Tyrone myself since my grandparents came from Drumquin or Drumqueen -as some call it. I too have picked up some of the local dialect like the saying: ”It’s a wild day.”

Language is an interesting study and the connection of the spoken English with the spoken Irish is a very interesting subject for discussion.

Another example of a word that is often used especially in Derry/Doire is ‘Mucker’. I was thinking about it one day and it occurred to me that it might derive from the Irish ‘Mo chara’, once again showing the close relationship between English as spoken here and the native Irish language.

This is all by way of saying we are not that far removed from our native Irish language that we could not revive and speak it fluently in daily conversation -with a little encouragement. ‘Is fearr Gaeilge briste na Bearla cliste’, as my Irish teacher used to say. That’s my new year resolution.

10 Responses to ‘ “Going till Castelderg” -Tyrone-speak’ by Joe McVeigh

  1. Jude Collins December 29, 2016 at 3:12 pm #

    My father, who was from Aghyaran direction and a cattle dealer, would frequently have spoken of “goin’ till the [cattle] fair in Deirge” , which I now realise was a shortened form of ‘Caislean na Deirge”, the original Irish name, meaning …I’m not sure. ‘Red Castle’? Any idea, Joe?

    • giordanobruno December 29, 2016 at 4:56 pm #

      If the Derg is the Red River your story naturally suggests the idea of your dad as John Wayne bringing those cattle across with yourself in the role of Montgomery Clift.
      Ok it is a stretch but in your youth maybe…
      Yee ha!

  2. Donal Kennedy December 29, 2016 at 3:39 pm #

    Is fearr Gaeilge briste na Bearla cliste?

    Bullshit in any language is nonsense.

  3. michael c December 29, 2016 at 5:01 pm #

    My uncle would have went “till” Magherafelt livestock market and “fell in” with “Mickey so and so” who he had’nt seen for years.However “Mickey” would still have “knowd” him and “put spake on him”!

  4. Joe McVeigh December 29, 2016 at 6:17 pm #

    Interesting comments and questions. Yes Jude the Irish is Caisleán na Deirge ie The Castle of the River Derg. According to Patrick Mckay the castle was built by Sir John Davies circa 1610 on the site of an earlier castle on the north side of the river in the townland of Castlesessagh. Davies got 2000 acres here in 1609. The meaning of ‘Derg’ is a bit more complicated. It may not be from Dearg meaning red. It could also come from the Irish word Deirc meaning caves or another Irish word ‘gerg’ meaning a grouse but also used figuratively to mean a king or warrior. The name is also related to Loch Dearg where Station island -the place of pilgrimage for centuries-is situated. The most popular understanding is the red coloured river. Im told that Davy Crocketts’ people came from Castlederg which connects with giiordanobruno’s theory. Local people refer to it as Garig or The Derg.

    • Jude Collins December 29, 2016 at 7:11 pm #

      ‘Garig’ – that’s exactly how my father pronounced it…Thanks, Joe.

  5. Am Ghobsmacht December 29, 2016 at 8:52 pm #


    It is a chief regret of my life that I never recorded the voices of my Grandparents and an elderly neighbour; their turn of phrase, range of proverbs and delivery makes me feel like a MTV reality TV idiot.

    A curious example of ‘English words on Irish syntax’ is none other than the baffling Orangeman George Chittick: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XR1_KFwPkbc

    A great irony.

    Can I propose that everyone on here who is interested in such things that they buy a pencil and a fridge note-pad and give it to any and all people who have such a way with words and ask them to jot down any words, phrases and proverbs that they can recall.

    It’ll be a precious cultural commodity in years to come.

    On that note, thon lottery winner who bought the Sion Mills recently bought old recordings of elderly Tyrone people in the 20s/30’s.
    A different world.

  6. Patrick Fahy December 30, 2016 at 1:46 am #

    Garig is of course the completely accurate pronunciation of the Irish word Dearg meaning ‘red’. I think the name of Castlederg in Irish, Caislean na Deirge has the meaning ‘The Castle of Red Hugh, referring to Red Hugh O,Neill. The castle was built long before the Plantation and the arrival of Davies, although Davies may have sequestered the castle.

  7. meh December 30, 2016 at 2:32 pm #

    “Where are me car keys, I need for till go till the shop a message”?

  8. Willie D. January 1, 2017 at 12:51 pm #

    “Till” meaning “to a person, thing or place” is a Scots word which has probably been in the Northern part of Ireland since the 17th Century, it’s common not only in Tyrone but right across Ulster, including my part of Co. Antrim. “The Concise Scots Dictionary,” edited by Mairi Robinson (Aberdeen Uni Press, 1985) gives other meanings for the word, but this specific meaning dates from the late 14th Century.