1952 - Giant Experiment in Gaeltacht Area
- Bedford Gazette
September 26, 1952
IRELAND PLANNING GIANT EXPERIMENT IN GALWAY AREA.
Galway, Ireland (AP) - Up in this desolate corner of northwest Ireland,
which sent crowds of immigrants to the United States in the middle of the
last century, they are now trying to keep people at home. The government is
starting a $5,600,000 experiment.
This is called the Gaeltacht area because most of the people speak the
ancient Irish language. It has rugged mountains, deep bogs, magnificent
scenery, beautiful women and great poverty. Included are the counties of
West Cork, Kerry, West Claire, Galway, Mayo, Roscommon, Sligo and Donegal.
The land is poor and rocky, there is little work and emigration
Now, Ireland has an aging, declining population and can't afford
emigration. In the last 25 years, for example, Ireland's population has
dropped from 2,972,000 to 2,959,000 and there is no sign that the downward
trend will ever be reversed.
One hundred years ago the British who then ruled Ireland recognized the
danger of a deserted desolate Gaeltacht. To arrest the flight from the area
they started a forerunner to the works progress administration, paying small
wages for hard work in clearing the land. Small handicraft factories were
set up. But still there weren't enough jobs and emigration still climbed.
The project lapsed, the British were forced out of Ireland and the
Gaeltacht continued to lose its people.
Now, in a gesture to save the area from utter depression, Prime Minister
Eamon de Valera's government is making work in the Gaeltacht. Some of the
works projects include the gathering of seaweed for the extraction of
iodine; the collection of carrigeen moss which grows on rocks and from which
agar is extracted, and the setting up of a little knitting and weaving
plants and a minor toy industry.
For industry which will establish plants in the area the government
offers money grants and special tariff protection for its finished products.
Plants to be built in the area soon will make shoes and woolen goods. There
will be tanneries and a factory for the manufacture of insulating board out
of the ubiquitous peat.
Daily Deputy Jack Lynch is in charge of the project for the government.
A tall young man who speaks Gaelic as fluently as he does English, Lynch
becomes lyrical about the scope of the project which he believes will save
the area from complete desolation.
Most of the men in the Gaeltacht are farmers, he says, and the average
income is $280 a year on which the average man keeps a wife and their three
or four children. He farms a rocky patch of an average of five acres,
raising a little wheat and potatoes. He supplements his diet by fishing and
his income by "hoking," that is, picking potatoes.
"These people, the most hospitable in the world, have been helped out in
years past by remittances from relatives in America." Lynch says, "but those
remittances are drying up now.
"There is no starvation, but there's great hardship which the government
is trying to ease."
Already 12 little factories, each employing 15 to 20 people, have been
set up, and at Spiddall there's a doll factory. Once made, the dolls are
sent across the mountains to Crolly where in another little plant they're
dressed. The dolls are going well in the export market, Lynch said.
In the counties of Donegal, Mayo or Galway there are 30 knitting
centers, employing a total of 650 men and women and there's a weaving plant
More about Gaeltacht
Cathy Joynt Labath
Ireland Old News