Alison Ní Dhorchaidhe is a writer, singer, Irish and Scottish Gaelic language activist and a naturalist.
As a native of Dublin, it was inevitable that she would tap into the historical energies of the Irish literary, language and cultural revivals that developed in the city, and she threw herself into the study of Irish cultural identity. While she was still in school, she fell in love with the poetry of W.B. Yeats — this interest was nurtured and fostered by mature fellow Yeatsians, and Alison won a scholarship to attend the Yeats International Summer School in Sligo in 2006. This was the start of a tradition — Alison has returned every year with the exception of 2010 since to work voluntarily, and in 2011 she had the privilege of giving ab initio workshops on the Irish language at the school.
She felt UCD (University College Dublin) was the college for her, so off she went to begin her BA in Nua-Ghaeilge (Modern Irish) and English in 2006. Supporting these majors were her chosen minors in Irish Folklore, Celtic Civilisations, Irish Art History and Drama Studies. As she progressed through her degree, Alison realised that her heart was in the Irish language; she had entered UCD with basic school Irish, and devoted herself to the development of her language skills. She had no idea where this passion for the language and its literature came from, as she was not fortunate enough to come from an Irish-speaking background, but she followed her heart and shrugged off bewildered logic.
In 2009, she began her Masters in Nua-Ghaeilge in UCD, and worked as a tutor for modules in Irish language revival literature and heritage. It was during her Masters that Alison began to turn her eye to Gàidhlig (Scottish Gaelic) — now that she felt that she had sufficient Gaeilge, she felt the urge to get to know Gàidhlig better. As a result, she fell as much in love with Scottish literature and culture as she had with Irish, and felt particularly drawn to the poetry of Somhairle MacGill-Eain (Sorley MacLean). Alison’s thesis was on the intertextual use of the Irish war goddess, the Mór-Ríon, in the Táin cycle of Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill’s poetry collection, Féar Suaithinseach. She presented a chapter from this thesis as a paper, ‘Agallamh na Mór-Ríona le Cú Chulainn le Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill’, at the Postgraduate Conference as part of HII Modern Irish Seminars, on 3 September 2010 in UCD.
On graduating, Alison improved her Gàidhlig through an Cùrsa Inntrigidh, the distance-learning course with Sabhal Mòr Ostaig (the Gaelic college) in the Isle of Skye, and worked to further acquainted herself with the Scottish Gaelic tradition. She started a blog called Sruth na Maoile in order to share her experiences as an Irish-speaker learning Gàidhlig, as she feels that the two Gaelic factions should become better acquainted in order to support each other. As a result of her proficiency in both Irish and Scottish Gaelic, Alison was invited to act as a judge at the annual Ri Chéile debating competition (organised jointly by Gael Linn and Comann na Gàidhlig), at which secondary school students from all over Ireland and Scotland come to display their debating skills in the two languages. She spent a period of time working as a substitute secondary school teacher, teaching Irish and striving to encourage her students interest in the language and culture.
Alison has also dipped her toe tentatively into the media; she contributed to the series of Cé a Chónaigh i mo Theach-sa? with Title Films for TG4, discussing the interest that W.B. Yeats had in the Occult and the supernatural. She was a member of the panel discussing the role that the Irish language plays in blogging and social networking at the symposium, Blagadóireacht na Gaeilge, as part of IMRAM Féile Litríochta 2011 in City Arts. Her opinions on the Irish language on her blog prompted an invite to write occasional opinion pieces for the Irish-language newspaper, Gaelscéal.
As Alison headed over to Scotland in 2012, she hoped to become involved in the Irish and Scottish Gaelic language movements in Glasgow and to get stuck in to a spot of “culture vulturing“. She became actively involved in a project on preserving and promoting Scottish Gaelic dialects and folklore from Argyll, which has grown into the dialect revitalisation project DROITSEACH. She decided to adopt the dialect of Lorne, which she now speaks and continues to develop as her research continues.
Since arriving in Glasgow, Alison has become actively involved on the Scottish Gaelic scene in the city, co-hosting the Gaelic social night An Gealbhan, giving classes and workshops in Irish and Scottish Gaelic language and song, co-hosting Ceòl ‘s Craic at Celtic Connections 2015, and has guest-hosted Ceòl ‘s Craic’s radio program on Celtic Music Radio. Alison was appointed as the Gaelic Youth and Community Development Officer for Glasgow with Comunn na Gàidhlig, a role which sees her travelling around the country with Gaelic-medium events for young people, and working closely with teenagers in the Glasgow Gaelic School to create a more socially relevant outlet for the Gaelic language.
Along with her interest in preserving the linguistic landscape, Alison has developed in interest in the conservation of the living landscape, and seeks to maintain the strong connection between the Gaelic languages and the landscape.