Uachtarán Oireachtas Gaeilge Cheanada, 2012
Máire Uí Chobhthaigh
Tá croí agus anam curtha ag Máire Uí Cobhthaigh sa Ghaeilge ar feadh formhór a saoil, bíodh sí ina scoláire i gClochar na Trócaire agus i Meánscoil an Chroí Ró-Naofa sa bhaile i gCathair na Mart, Contae Mhaigh Eo, nó ina múinteoir Gaeilge in Ottawa, Ceanada, an áit ar chuir sí fúithi. Cé gur tógadh le Béarla í, bhí Máire chomh tógtha sin leis an nGaeilge nárbh aon dua di líofacht an chainteora dúchais nach mór a bhaint amach sa teanga.
Tháinig Máire go Ceanada sa bhliain 1955 in éineacht lena fear céile Ben agus beirt pháistí, agus lonnaigh siad in Ottawa. Níorbh fhada gur éirigh siad gníomhach sa phobal Éireannach tríd an Irish Society agus Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann. Níor mheath an spéis a bhí ag Máire sa Ghaeilge le linn na tréimhse seo, agus bhí sí go mór taobh thiar de ranganna Gaeilge a chur ar fáil chomh maith le bheith ina comhbhunaitheoir den ghrúpa Gaeilge atá in Ottawa agus den deireadh seachtaine Gaeilge a eagraíonn siad gach bliain. Má mhinic di a bheith ina aoitheagascóir ag deirí seachtaine Gaeilge eile timpeall Ontario agus Montreal, chomh maith le bheith ina teagascóir de ranganna oíche faoi scáth an Chláir um Oideachas Leanúnach ag Bord Scoile Ottawa. Tá bua na múinteoireachta ag Máire, agus is iomaí duine a spreag sí agus a chuidigh sí thar na blianta chun an Ghaeilge a fhoghlaim, roinnt acu a choinnigh leo leis an teanga agus atá anois ina dteagascóirí féin ag na deirí seachtaine seanbhunaithe a reáchtáiltear i gcónaí.
Nuair a cuireadh ceist uirthi cén chaoi ar éirigh léi a hinniúlacht sa teanga a chothabháil agus a fheabhsú, dúirt Máire go raibh dúil aici riamh sa léitheoireacht, agus gur léigh sí gach rud Gaeilge a raibh sí in ann lámh a leagan air. Rachadh sí ar thóir leabhar de chuid na scríbhneoirí is fearr léi nuair a d’fhillfeadh sí ar an mbaile ar cuairt. Bhí spéis ar leith aici i leabhair de chuid an ghearrscéalaí chlúitigh Gaeilge Pádraig Ó Conaire, agus ba mhó an tairbhe a bhain sí as na seoda litríochta sin. Tá dúil aici i ngné eile den litríocht chomh maith – an fhilíocht – agus is iomaí ábhar atá aimsithe aici sa réimse seo freisin a chuidíonn leis an meirg a dhíbirt óna cuid scileanna Gaeilge agus í thar lear.
Tá Máire ag leanúint uirthi ag cur ranganna Gaeilge ar fáil ina teach féin, agus bhí sí taobh thiar d’fhoilseachán dhá leabhar Gaeilge – dhá chnuasach ábhair ó phinn a cuid scoláirí.
Thug Máire a tacaíocht iomlán don Ghaeltacht ón gcéad lá riamh, agus is mór an onóir di a bheith ainmnithe ina hUachtarán Oireachtas Gaeilge Cheanada, 2012.
Mary Coffey was born in Westport County Mayo in 1925. In 1955 Mary and her husband, Ben Coffey, and two children at that time, moved to Canada where they settled and had six more children. Over the years Mary has been extensively involved with the Irish community in Ottawa .
She was one of the founding members of the Irish Society in Ottawa and years later she became the first woman president. Over the years, Mary has been involved with the Irish Society bowling league, the Tara Players, the Ottawa Gaels Gaelic Football Club, Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann and Irish Language classes.
The Coffey house was always filled with music at the many fine parties Mary held in Gatineau and later in the old coachhouse.
Mother Coffey, as she was affectionately called, always had a cup of tea and a heart full of kindness for anyone who dropped in. Mary has dedicated many years to promoting and supporting Irish language, culture and heritage.
She is a beautiful singer who has shared and passed her love of music down to her eight children.
Mary’s large family has grown to include grandchildren and great-grandchildren who consider themselves blessed to have such a wonderful matriarch to look up to.
Mary Coffey has been deeply committed to the Irish language for the greater part of her life, first as a student at the Convent of Mercy and the Sacred Heart Secondary School in her hometown of Westport County Mayo and later as a teacher of Irish in Ottawa (Canada) her adopted home. While Mary grew up with English as the language spoken at home, nevertheless, Mary’s great love for Irish was such that she easily became a ‘near-native’ speaker.
In 1955, Mary, along with her husband Ben and their two children, immigrated to Canada and settled in Ottawa. Very quickly, they became involved in the Irish community through the Irish Society and Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann. Throughout this time, Mary’s deep interest in the Irish language never ceased; she was a driving force in language instruction, and was a founding member of an Irish language group in Ottawa and its annual language weekend. She was very often invited to teach Irish classes at other Irish weekends established around Ontario and the Montreal area and as well, instructed at evening classes through the Ottawa School Board’s Continuing Education programme. Mary has a talent for teaching and over the years, encouraged and assisted many to learn Irish, several of whom have continued with the language and instruct at the ongoing, well-established language weekends.
Asked how she was able to maintain and fine-tune her own skills in the language, Mary responded that she was always an avid reader and as such, she read everything she could find in Irish. On trips home to Ireland, she would search out books by her favourite authors, in particular Pádraig Ó’Conaire, the celebrated Irish short story writer, and these treasures of literature served her well. Poetry is another literary passion of Mary’s and here too she has found great works to keep her Irish skills honed.
Mary continues to give Irish language classes in her home and has been the catalyst in the publication of two books in Irish, both composites of pieces scripted by her students.
Mary has as well been a strong supporter of the Gaeltacht since its inception and is honoured to be named Uachtarán for Oireachtas Gaeilge Cheanada in 2012.
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