Ability to swim

Today I found a school exercise book on the road outside my flat. This would normally not really be such an odd thing to find lying by the side of the road (especially not on rubbish day), but what made it usual was that it was Irish.

The cover has “Aisling copy book” written in the ye olde Celtic Riverdance font. Also on the cover is a drawing of some sort of tower, three lines for a name (which sadly are blank), information that the book has 120 pages ruled, and a logo certifying that it is “approved quality system”.

On the back there is a map of Ireland with the crests of the four Irish provinces, Ulster, Connacht, Leinster and Munster. (Oh, quick digression: At one stage in the history of New Zealand, the North Island, South Island and Stewart Island were going to be called New Ulster, New Munster and New Leinster.) Flying above the map is a bird. “Made in Ireland” is proudly written in the Riverdance font, and there’s a barcode that looks like was run over by a car this morning.

Then I opened the book and was utterly delighted to find some writing in it. There, in girly handwriting, was half a page of what looked like some schoolwork. And the best part was that most of it was in Irish. I will attempt to reproduce the page here:

Obair Ranga Ceisteanna lcl 286
1. Geineolaiocht is ea staideare ar.
2. Ability to swim
3. ar na chromosoim
4. Is gein arn na chemical
5. Dubh.
6. Gruaig [either £1 or Li]

And then it ends. How indeed did an disused Irish school book end up on the streets of Auckland? Did some Irish schoolgirl decide one day that she wasn’t going to do her homework and moved to New Zealand instead.

Quelle intrigue, yes. I may be a quarter Irish, but I’m afraid I don’t speak it. I did buy a beginners guide to learning Irish when I was in Dublin, but I can’t find it at the moment. What is the story behind the Irish school book?

Irish exercise book - inside

Irish copy book cover

Irish copy book back

One thought on “Ability to swim”

  1. Robyn,
    I’ve got a true story for ya. Goes like this:

    I’m 21 now, but when I was a young lad, my mom made her first trip to see the motherland, Ireland (albeit a few generations removed). She brought me back an Aisling copy book that matches your description TO. THE. LETTER, except it’s 88 pages instead of 120.

    It was the coolest thing, so soft an square and foreign, and special to me, an American whose notebooks are mostly held together with metal spirals that snag sweaters. Pitiful things.

    It was SO special to me that I kept it. It’s certainly been ten years now, and I’ve refrained from writing ANYTHING in it because I’m saving it for something special.

    The only thing that would empower me to write in it would be the knowledge that I could acquire another. In other words, I’ve been looking for assurance that it’s not so special after all.

    Of course, no such assurance is to be found. Careful Google searches for the numbers on the back and the description of the book have brought up ZILCH… except for this blog post.

    This was particularly amusing to me after reading the post soon after it about people winding up on your site while looking for something else and asking you all kinds of inappropriate questions.

    So I have to ask:


    Colin Morris

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