Three things an Irish teen thinks you should know before you visit Ireland–an interview with Thea Kelly

In my second book, The Celtic Captive, my protagonist Cáel Moore’s first language is Irish, having grown up in a Gaeltacht (an Irish speaking community). Though fluent at both Irish and English, whenever he is disoriented, feeling ill, or is in the, um, romantic way, Irish is his go-to language. When Molly Evans first meets him, he is feeling all three of those things.

The only two Irish phrases my mom, an Irish girl from County Mayo, by way of Maltby, England, taught me are “go raibh maith agat” which means “thank you,” and another phrase I can’t mention here. 🙂 So, I needed an expert to help me ensure Cáel’s language was correct.

That person is Thea Ní Cheallaigh (Kelly) from Oileán Chléire or Cape Clear Island in the southwest corner of Ireland. Thea, and Thea’s mother Dorothee Uí Cheallaigh, have a translation business called Ionad Foghlama Chléire. “Cape” as Thea calls it, is a Gaeltacht. It is also a 45-minute boat ride from the mainland.

Thea Kelly and her friends, Síle and Lucy

Thea Kelly and her friends, Síle and Lucy

Thea was kind enough to answer my many questions regarding her life as an Irish teen, and her view of Americans, in particular.

Here is part one of the interview. Part two will be posted next week, on July 8th.

So what’s it like to grow up in a Gaeltacht?

Growing up in a Gaeltacht isn’t much different from growing up anywhere else in Ireland to be honest. I think the real special aspect about where I live however is that fact that it is an island! One really has to adjust to coping with this certain lifestyle, I was born into it so I know nothing else. Our lives revolve around the weather, a day doesn’t go by where it isn’t discussed. I started boarding school at the age of 13. Having spent my whole life up to this living on a quiet and peaceful island, moving away to Dingle (a 3 hour drive plus a 45 minute boat ride) came as bit of a shock. I was never so homesick in my life for all of first and second year. It was only by the age of 15, and in third year (exam year!) that I really settled in. I got to experience everyday normal teenage activities, like going to the cinema or ordering Chinese takeaway. On Cape (short for Cape clear island), we never could have done these things! So now I am finished for the summer and come September I’ll be heading into my final year in Coláiste Íde. I am very sad now because I really love it!

Cape Clear Island, Ireland

Cape Clear Island, Ireland

Do you already have plans for after school?

After school I plan to go to college, where or which college however is a question I cannot answer. My guidance councillor has given me the summer to think about it and by October I need to have a decision made. I enjoy physics though. I have ever since the age of 10. I was too young at the time to capitalise on this passion and it was only in the summer of 2011 when I saw the final launch of the Space Shuttle Endeavour on the tv that I realised that this is something I wanted to do.

Working for NASA is my main goal 🙂
My other ambition is to travel the world! I keep a diary of all the places I discover and plan to visit them when I am older. Places such as Dinant in Belgium, or Tropea in the south of Italy. My number one destination is the U.S though. Ever since wanting to work for NASA, and having an unusual interest in WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) I gained a bit of an accent and a strong desire to travel there. Someday I will! 🙂
Your mom owns a translation service. Is it a family business? Do you help her often? What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever had to translate?
My mothers little Irish translating business isn’t really a family thing to be honest. It is only my mother and I who are fluent in Irish. My dad only has the “cúpla focal” (a couple of words) and my brother forgot all of his when he went to an English speaking secondary school. Every now and then she would have a job that I could do 🙂 like your book 🙂
Yes, I’m fluent in Irish and English! My mother being from Germany, I have some German as well but not considered fluent. I also study French in school and hopefully will be fluent soon enough 🙂
To be honest, I think your book was probably the strangest thing that I have ever translated! Usually my mom translates for the government e.g the Department of Education. This would usually involve reports and lots of boring essays. Your book was exciting and different and definitely more enjoyable to translate!
You mentioned wanting to travel. What are three things you think tourists to Ireland have to know before they get there?
Anyone who plans on visiting Ireland, they should most definitely bring a raincoat! Be prepared to put it on when you step off the plane, because more than likely it will be raining! We do have good weather as well but not as much!
Cape Clear

Cape Clear

It is very important to understand that in Ireland we drive on the left-hand side of the road! If tourist are planning on renting a car they’ve got to be careful! Many times on my way back to school have we passed confused tourists!
Finally, Irish people are in fact very friendly (that’s not a rumour!) and will always invite you in for a cup of tea or coffee! We are very proud of our heritage and culture, even though it may be dying in some places. We could rant on for ages talking about basically anything 🙂

One last question for this post:

I’ve been learning some new terms here, thanks to a much slightly younger office mate, like “on fleek” and “throwing shade”. Are there any fun terms you have that you could share with us?

We use “on fleek” over here too, but our own version is “on point”. Over here in Ireland, we have your typical sayings like “yolo” and “jk”, but then we have more Irish related words like “craic” or “banter”! They both mean to have fun 🙂
***** Note: “craic” is pronounced “crack,” as in “How’s the craic?” And “it was great craic”. By the way, my daughter has told me I’m not allowed to use either “on fleek” or “throwing shade.” 
“No, Mom,” she said. “Just no.”
Please come back to see what Thea thinks is the funniest thing about American tourists, her opinion on whether the Irish language is dying, and lots of other fun stuff, as well as the main project Thea helped me translate, which was the song Molly wrote for Cáel.
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