Presenting An Briathar Saor

An Briathar Saor (‘The Free Verb’, ‘The Free Word’, ‘The Passive Voice’ or even ‘The Autonomous Form’ are all possible translations!) is the name of a magazine in Irish of which four editions were published in Cardiff, Wales, beween 1994 and 1997, in order to promote contacts between people throughout Britain who are interested in the Irish language.

In the early 1990s an informal group of Irish speakers had grown out of an Irish class Barry Tobin, a Corkman who has lived in Cardiff since 1960, had started in the 1980s.

Among the people who had joined that class was Patrick Egan from County Westmeath who had studied Irish at secondary school back home in Ireland. In 1993 Patrick bought an Apple Mac home computer and after some months getting to grips with this new technology he had the gumption to suggest to the others that it was high time we thought about publishing a magazine in Irish.

His proposal was well received.

So, the members of that informal group mentioned above held a meeting at Patrick Egan’s home on 23 January, 1994, to set up our new society, Comhluadar Caerdydd. The following people were present:

John Breese, a native Welsh speaker, who died just before Christmas the same year. Ruaidhrí Ó Broin, an artist born in England of Irish parents. Farouk Daruwalla from India – he died three years later. Patrick Egan himself as coordinator. John Evans, a teacher of French in a secondary school whose mother came from Kerry to Wales as a three-year-old – he is a fluent Welsh speaker. Hywel Merfyn Jones, a native speaker of Welsh. Tim Saunders from Cornwall who speaks Welsh, Irish and Cornish fluently – one of his teenage daughters was a member of Michael Flatley's Lord of the Dance troupe. Barry Tobin, and Stephen Yates, an Englishman and rock musician whose only foreign language is Irish!

Unable to be present for the inaugural meeting were:

Risteárd Ó Fuaráin, a student from County Kerry at the University of Glamorgan, Treforest; Richard Lewis, a native Welsh speaker who used to teach that language to adults full time (since January 2002 he has been living in Adare, County Limerick) and Miranda Morton, who is Welsh. Miranda learned Welsh in evening classes and then went on to learn Irish.

Barry Tobin was elected to the Chair, Patrick Egan was elected Secretary, and Hywel Merfyn Jones was elected Treasurer.

The meeting then accepted a proposal that we should publish a magazine entitled, An Briathar Saor twice yearly, in summer and in winter and Patrick Egan was elected Editor.

The magazine would consist of 12 A4 pages and we accepted a plan that it should include articles, short stories, poems and cartoons. We hoped that we would be able to find ‘correspondents’ in every place in which there were Irish speakers who would send us accounts of activities in their own areas. We also hoped to be able to supply the magazine post free for an annual subscription of £2-00.

After months spent on publicity, writing and learning a new craft we printed 500 copies of the first edition. The An Briathar Saor, the first magazine in Irish ever published in Wales, was launched at the Wales National Eisteddfod, Llandeilo, in August that year. Seán Mac Réamoinn, a retired writer, journalist and broadcaster from Dublin joined Harri Pritchard–Jones, a doctor, writer (including an article on the Great Famine) and broadcaster from Cardiff (and father of the BBC Political Correspondent, Guto Harri), to do the honours. Seán spoke in Welsh and Harri in Irish!

We had a second launch ceremony in the ‘Royal Oak’ the old Irish pub in Broadway, Cardiff. Mike Flynn from Dungarvan is the landlord and he allowed us to give the magazine a send off in the boxing ring upstairs! This is a special ring (where local youngsters still learn he noble art), however, for it was here, that the celebrated Jim Driscoll used to train.

Three editions were published with Patrick Egan as Editor. However, in the autumn of 1996, Patrick went back to Ireland and Barry Tobin took over as Secretary and Editor. He succeeded in bringing out Edition 4 in spring, 1997, but did not manage to do any more.

It is a fact worthy of note that it was at a meeting of Comhluadar Caerdydd on 30 September, 1994, that the matter of what we were going to do about the coming 150th anniversary of the Great Famine in Ireland (1845–1849) was raised.The decision taken during the meeting itself was to place the matter in the hands of the Secretary and Chairman who would meet within a few days to discuss the matter and recommend a course of action. The question was resolved by an acceptance of their opinion that it would be too much and too inappropriate for our small and very language specific group to handle. It was therefore decided to call a public meeting, with the kind permission of the Parish Priest, Fr.(now Canon) John Maguire from County Cavan, at St. Mary’s Church Hall, Talbot Street, Canton, Cardiff. That meeting on 12 November, attended by Fr. Maguire and 21 other people and chaired by Harri Pritchard‒Jones, decided to set up a Steering Committee which eventually led to the formal launch of The Wales Famine Forum as an independent organisation launched at a meeting on 25 February, 1995. The fact that Barry Tobin became Secretary of the new body and was later to become Editor of their publications, Y Ddraig Werdd and The Green Dragon had something to do with the relative decline of Comhluadar Caerdydd since 1997.

We did have a draft of Edition 5 on the stocks for a while but it never got to be published. Our biggest problem was the lack of writers. If we had received written contributions further editions would have been possible, at least on the internet.

Gaeilge / Irish

Cymraeg / Welsh

An Chéad Eagrán

The First Edition

Yr Argraffiad Cyntaf

An Dara hEagrán

The Second Edition

Yr Ail Argraffiad

An Tríú hEagrán

The Third Edition

Yr Trydydd Argraffiad

An Ceathrú hEagrán

The Fourth Edition

Yr Pedwerydd Argraffiad

Magazines of Irish / Welsh interest

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