Craobh Chumar an Dá Uisce, or the Two Rivers Gaelic League, is a branch of Conradh na Gaeilge, founded in Albany, NY, in 2016, which takes its name from the confluence of the Hudson and Mohawk rivers in upstate New York and acknowledges the shared name with the beautiful Vale of Avoca, Wicklow. There’s also a sense of a meeting of the waters of American and Irish cultures blending towards a shared goal and future.
Sharing: that is something the Two Rivers Gaelic League does so well. It is their aim to promote and share the Irish language with everyone through teaching, community events, arts and family. They see the Irish language as a gift given to them and they want to pass that gift on to others.
“It is a gift and it’s a gift we’d like to share with as many people as we can,” says Aodan de Barra, their Marketing and Outreach Officer.
And when we think of the true meaning of the word gift: a thing given willingly without payment, this group really stands tall. “We are explicitly a non-profit,” he adds, and they truly are.
From the teachers to the marketing team and every member of the board, all these people volunteer their talents, services and time to share the Irish language with all for free. They are “all volunteer efforts," says de Barra, "and dedicated people, for sure.".
Classes are very affordable at just $50 for a 10-week term. You can’t get better than that, or can you? That also includes annual membership, and there are additional reading and comhrá classes on other nights if people want to join to improve their Irish further, all at no extra charge.
By keeping costs low, they really make the Irish language accessible to all people from all walks of life.
“We try to keep tuition and membership low. We are not doing this for money. We really enjoy what we do, through and for the language,” says de Barra.
For this fall semester, classes continue online, and there’s over 100 learners taking the classes from beginners’ class to daltaí eile agus Gaeilge líofa acu from all over the world.
The Two Rivers Gaelic League also hosts numerous events, and have wonderful connections with Irish speakers in Ireland, and make these events available to everyone, and, again, these have been free.
“A lot of the connections we have on the island of Ireland are writers, teachers, singers -- people that we’ve had to run these events we hosted online, through Covid especially; interesting linguists, novelists, and storytellers,” according to de Barra.
By simply connecting on Zoom they were able to continue to bring the Irish language, culture, and music into so many homes, especially when people needed a sense of community during Covid.
Online events have included an oíche airneáil with storytellers and singers, with over 60 people attending. Antain Mac Lochlainn gave an amazing talk on Béarlachas. de Barra says, “encouraging all to perfect your Irish and move away from Béarlachas and try to be as naturally Irish as you can when you’re speaking."
They’ve had Pop-Up Gaeltachtaí, GAA sports days, walks, and so much more -- everything that helps both the community and the Irish language.
Last month they had their first in-person event since the pandemic and held a Lá na Gaeilge in their venue: Celtic Hall, Albany, which was really important to the community.
“This group started as a branch of Conradh na Gaeilge in December 2016,” de Barra recalls, “but it started as a study group in the area.” They really just used the Celtic Hall in Albany “to get together and to really work together and perfect their own Irish. And they’ll tell you that’s what this group is at the core of its foundations."
“At the core of the group is that they really want to be an accessible study group for people to come together and work together,” he says. The Lá na Gaeilge in person “just kind of breeds that welcoming environment for those who can go."
Over 30 people attended, and the weather gods played ball, so they spent most of the day outside teaching and speaking Irish. “It was a great success,” de Barra reports.
De Barra himself has beautiful Ulster Irish, and many would perhaps first think he’s from the Donegal Gaeltacht area, but he’s a Massachusetts native, who loves the language and loves this particular group of teachers and Irish-language enthusiasts.
“The reason that I’m here is because I always thought this group was strikingly organized and the classes are fantastic and the teachers are fantastic and the events they do online are always fantastic,” de Barra says.
His great grandparents were from Newfoundland and their parents spoke Irish, and on the other side his great grandparents were from Cork and the Inishowen peninsula and again their parents spoke Irish.
He met these teachers based at Craobh Chumar an Dá Uisce through his own teachers in Massachusetts, and everything just clicked for him.
“With the ease of Zoom I got connected with this group and it just so happens that the high-level teacher is also an Ulster Irish speaker so that’s kind of a draw as well,” he says.
As their Marketing and Outreach Officer, based in Massachusetts, he reaches out both digitally and locally around Albany, marketing with local TV and radio channels. And de Barra is willing to go the distance for this group in every way.
“I really like this group even though the distance is almost 3 hours. It’s a really rewarding project to be a part of,” he says.
The group lists all their events/imeachtaí on their website and Facebook and Twitter pages, and there’s always something happening at the meeting of the waters.
“Ag spreagadh,” says de Barra. “Spreading the love as best we can and hopefully spurring that love in other people who take courses with us, or do events with us, and I think that will naturally build up the strength of the language overall,” says de Barra.
Craobh Chumar an Dá Uisce (tworiversgaelic.org)