Iris na Gaeilge     November 2003   uimh 5

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PROFILE Fran O'Boyle

The first time that a weekend for Irish speakers was organised in the U.K. was in February 2001 at Stiperstones, Shropshire. It was the brain-child of Fran O'Boyle. It was an outstanding success, with Irish speakers from many parts of the country present. There was hill-walking, light entertainments, a Question Time. The Irish language was in full use throughout. Let Fran tell us how all this came about.

" I grew up in England but spent long periods of my childhood in the Glens of Antrim where I have roots. My Granny's house was the céile house for the townland and I got to hear lots of stories and songs there that would later give a good grounding for my chosen career.

However, it was here that I became aware of the Gaelic language. It was almost gone from the Glens at that time, but it was spoken by some of the local farmers in broken phrases. As a child, I was enchanted by it; and even at that age, I decided that I would one day learn to speak it. I'm still learning.

In my time, I've worked at many things, ranging from barman to forester to building site labourer. But my love of stories and ballads never left me, and about ten years ago I became involved with a storytelling club in the back room of a pub. It was based on the idea that anyone could contribute a yarn or a song, if eased along with a bit of Dutch Courage and good company.

One evening, a school teacher who attended the club asked me if I would come into her school and "perform" some stories for the children. A few days later, feeling a little nervous, I went into the school in question and did as she had asked. After about four hours, she paid me what I would have normally had to work three days to earn. For doing something that I loved doing !.

It was a turning point in my life. I began promoting myself as a storyteller, and pretty soon it became my full-time occupation. I work all over the U.K. and Ireland in schools, libraries and at festivals.
Lately, I have started to diversify into illustration work and combining my love of traditional Irish stories and drawing. I did a comic strip for the Irish language newspaper Lá. I really enjoyed it and would like to do more of that kind of work.

My ambition is to be able to tell stories in Irish. One day, eh?

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