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Cosslett O Cuinn

The collection made by Cosslett O Cuinn in the years 1936-1940 consists of stories, songs and expressions in Urris Irish from Peigí Ní Shearcaigh and and Paidíi O Dochartaigh. Peigí was the main source. One reason for her competence in Irish and for her great store, was that, as a child, she had been sickly and had very little contact vith the school. She spent all her time with the older people and avoided the main agency of anglicisation.

Cosslett went at first on a bicycle. He had no recording equipment apart from a pen and a phenomenal memory. So that all the pedalling and collecting and writing should not be in vain I suggested that it should be published. I asked Seamus Watson, now Professor of Irish in University College Dublin and an authority on dialects, to co-author it. We soon realised that we had a large project on our hands as it would have to serve many different interests, folklore, history, dialect, local culture and the dynamics of language shift. The book Scian a Caitheadh le Toinn was the fruit of much co-operation including that of two Inishowen people - Donall Mac Giolla Easpaig from Greencastle and Derry and Noleen Conboy from Buncrana.

Colmcille in Buncrana.

Cosslett collected thirty nine stories and some fragments of local interest. All of them are published in the book. They include versions of international stories, fairy stories, devotional stories and stories of the sea. The latter include the story which gives the title to the book. It translates as "Knife thrown in the Sea" and deals with a submarine underworld. The international themes include Cinderella and the Piper of Hamlin. Three of the six devotional stories are about Colmcille and are specific about what kind of curses Colmcille was supposed to have put on named townlands.

Dreams recall events and interpret them with uncensored imagination. So do the stories of Peigí Ní Shearcaigh; Colmcille lives in Buncrana, the locals get the better of Cromwell's soldiers and the ghosts of a shipwreck in the Swilly walk the roads. The last speakers of Urris Irish gave the bones of the dialect to researchers. Peigí Ní Searcaigh put flesh on the bones.




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