The ‘Irish College’ in Glangevlin was the last Gaeltacht to exist in County Cavan. .
In West Cavan native Irish speakers were still comparatively numerous towards the end of the nineteenth century and this was particularly true of the area west of the Gap. The Gaelic League was established in County Cavan in 1901. There was a branch in Glan in 1909 and by this time Irish was taught in some of the local schools.
Fr. Michael McLoughlin, a native of Drumkeerin was curate in Glan from 1905-1908 and he founded feiseanna, Irish classes, camogie clubs and he urged the young people to speak the Irish language. Even after his death in 1920 his influence persisted throughout the county. At a meeting of Coiste Chontae held in June 1920 in Cavan, Seamus O’Glasain, Gaelic league organiser for the county proposed that a memorial in honour of Fr. McLoughlin should take the form of a Summer Irish College to be established in the county preferably in Glan. There was a thriving branch of the Gaelic League in Glan and classes which were run by Thomas S. Mac-Cionnaith were highly successful. Thomas himself also made a collection of songs, prayers, stories and poems of the area. The prayers appear in the prayer book compiled by him -” and published in Cavan in 1921.
With the college in mind T. P. Mac Fhionnlaoich ( a leader in the language movement) visited Glan to find out if the district was suitable. He met local people and some of the native speakers like John Maguire of Legnagrow and Patrick Fitzpatrick of Esvaugh. Regarding the dialect he found it was very interesting, being half way between the Connacht and Ulster bias. The whole project got under way and a local committee with the help of Padraig Dolan, was formed to organise accommodation for teachers and students. All appeal for financial help was launched through the Anglo-Celt. Within a shorttime £300 was collected and the county Feis committee subscribed £30. The college known as Ard Scoil Breifne started on July 11 th 1921 but as this was the day of the Truce it was taken as a free day and the first session commenced on the following day July 12th.
Seamus O Glasain was appointed registrar of the college, Giolla Criost O Broin headmaster and teachers included Maire Nic Shamhrain N.T., Swanlinbar and Proinnsias O’Briain N.T., Dernakesh.
The classes were held on the loft opposite the local pub and on a nearby dispensary loft. A marquee was also used as a classroom in a field nearby. Tullycasson N.S. was used on Saturdays and during school holidays. The first session ended on August 14th and the second commenced on 15th. There were up to between 60 and 70 students at the first session and over 100 at the second. Students came from the surrounding counties and as far away as Dublin & Wexford. A sports committee was organised which was responsible for organised walks, ceilithe and concerts. Ceilithe were usually held at the Droichead or “amuigh fen speir” and one was held at the Shannon Pot.
Visits or turasanna to local sites were arranged. One such visit lasted until daylight where the “bean a’ti” Mrs. Pat McGovern in Altnasheen entertained the students with tea, music, singing and dancing.
During the second session a memorial Mass for Fr. McLoughlin was celebrated by Fr. Murtagh and Fr. McGriskin on Saturday September 3rd. The students gathered and marched four deep to the church singing their new college song.
“Seo slainte an Ghleann, gach fear is gach bean.
Gath buachaill is cailin brea Croiuil,
Seo togaidh an rann gach einne bhi ann
Ag Ard Scoil Breifni i nGleann Gaibhleann/’
A siamsa was held on Sunday 4th September which was a great success. The ladies looked after the refreshments, the flag sale and 200 copies of the Glan Prayer Book, were sold and sports were held. Robert McKiernan Curratavy came 2nd in the 100 yards, boys race,
T. Shannon, Esvaugh was 1st in the 100 yards men’s race and the high jump was won by Seamus McManus, Derrylahan.
The Summer college ended on September 16th with a presentation of prizes and medals followed by a musical evening. Fr. McGriskin presided and Fr. Murtagh and members of the staff were on the platform.
Fr. McGriskin presented the prizes:-
Charles McGovern, Moneensauran, silver medal and cash prize (now a retired P.P.).
Seamus Mac Shamhrain, Corrava bronze medal and cash prize (became a doctor).
Padraig Dolan, Tullytiernan, Lena McGorry, Derrylahan, Brid McGovern, Ardvagh.
Each received a medal and cash prize. Cash prizes were also won by Cathal McGovern, Doonmakeever and Paddy McGovern of Ardvagh.
Marie McGovern, Lattone; Eibhlin Ni Ruaire, Doobally.
Each received a medal and cash prize.
In the summer of 1922 the Ard Scoil opened again with the same teaching staff but unfortunately it did not achieve the success of the previous year. The majority of the county committee and the college committee favoured the Treaty while the majority of the staff of the college were anti-treaty. At any rate the staff of 1921/22 never taught again in Glan, the only exception being Maire Nic Shamhrain.
A coure was held for school children under the auspices of Cavan Vocational Education Committee and the Gaelic League and a class for teachers under the authority of the Department of Education, Maire Nic Shamhrain and Liam O’Ceallaigh were the staff members. Among the school children was Patrick Mulligan, now retired Bishop of Clogher who had a Glangevlin grandmother.
When we mention Ard Scoil Breifni we refer to the year 1921. The college itself may have survived had the civil war not affected it or perhaps the lack of a permanent building of its own or perhaps it was founded too late. However at the present day there are people who can speak Irish having learned it at school and who take a keen interest in the language.