The townland was a Breac-Ghaeltacht, an Irish speaking district in a English speaking area, right up until the 1920’s and 30’s. Fr Reilly, the curate from 1915 to 1921 in the parish was well remembered for at the end of each Mass, he would meet the local people and talk with them in Irish. He often remarked on the Irish speakers of Lisheenaheltia and their fluency in both English and Irish. In the past it has been well documented by scholars in UCG, especially the late Monsignor Eric McFhinn. In the sixties it became the only ‘Scoil Éigse agus Seanchas’ in East Galway.
A ‘Scoil Éigse’ was an Irish speaking folk school, or, group run by Co. Galway Vocational Committee and based in Gaeltacht areas. The group met once a fortnight and discussed local history and folklore and composed stories, poetry and engaged in dialogue.
Robert Canny was President of the group. He was a gifted Irish speaker, actor and he always did well in competitions. He was involved in local drama too, or, ‘dramaíocht’ as he referred to it as their production was in Gaelic. In the early 1970’s he was a very proud man when the group, having won the provincial final in Taibhdhearc na Gaillimhe, went on to compete in the “All Ireland Drámaíocht” in the Abbey Theatre in Dublin and returned home to Lishenaheltia with the 1st prize. Robert was a creative writer and penned some lovely poems and stories in Irish.
Another great Irish speaker was Larry Comer (Labhrás Ó Maoilchiaráin). He was known as Larry Mór and he wrote in Irish every week for the Connaught Tribune. He is also recorded in 1930 by Professor Tomás Ó Máille, University College Galway, and German researcher, Karl Pempel, as part of the Humbold University of Berlin Doegen Project. In 1926 the Irish government asked Dr Doegen to make recordings of Irish speech in the Gaeltacht and in areas of the country where Irish had suffered decline. In the 1901 census many Lisheenaheltia residents are recorded as having Irish rather than English as their first language. Nonie Golden a native of the village, who lived in Puirse Gabha (the blacksmith’s lane) along the golden mile route in her youth writes in our ‘Golden Mile’ booklet – “My grandfather, Larry Comer, went to school until he was ten years old. He was a great Irish scholar and wrote for the Connacht Tribune in Irish each week. I was seven years old when he died. He made me promise I would never forget the Irish. I didn’t and I love it to this day. I have lovely stories about him and the neighbours. They all spoke in Irish and they sound just as good in English!
Source: Lisheen Golden Mile – Its History and Hidden Treasures, 2015