This page was created by Emily Bengtson.  The last update was by Dawn Duncan.

Star of the Sea : A Postcolonial/Postmodern Voyage into the Irish Famine

Use of Irish in the Novel

What came out of the Irish being forced to speak English was a strange mix of Irish and English called Hiberno-English. The Encyclopedia of Irish History and Culture defines Hiberno-English as “a variety of English strongly influenced by the Gaelic that was spoken by most of the Irish population until well into the nineteenth century” (Donnelly 295).

Examples of Hiberno-English can be seen in the plays of writers such as Yeats, Beckett, Heaney, Joyce, Synge, and O’Casey, so it’s no surprise that Joseph O’Connor utilizes a few phrases of Hiberno-English in Star of the Sea. The Irish word for girl is ‘cailín’ and girls are referred to as colleens and girleens (O’Connor 122, 245).

It’s also interesting to note where he discusses the Irish language being spoken. O’Connor makes a point to make David Merridith’s love of the language obvious. Though he’s a landlord educated in Hampshire, he’s fluent in Irish thanks to Mary Duane’s mother, Margaret, raising him and teaching him Irish as a boy.

He loved to speak in the Irish language. He would address her mother as ‘Woman of Duane’, her father as ‘Friend’ or ‘Esteemed Person’. As he entered their cabin he would grin and announce: ‘Christ between us and all harm!’ He’d say ‘the Lord bless all here’ in the Gaelic idiom, and ‘God and Mary be with you’ for hello or good morning (O’Connor 63).

The author also makes a conscious point to mention that David has a stutter, but never stutters when he’s speaking Irish (O’Connor 64). The only times the Irish language is printed in the novel is during highly emotional points of the plot. We see David praying the Hail Mary in Irish with the rest of the servants when David's mother, Lady Verity, dies: “Anois, agus ar uair ár mbáis” (Now and at the hour of our death - O’Connor 57).  David also confesses his love for Mary in Irish, mumbling to himself after they make love - “Tá grá agam duit, a Mhuire. Tá grá agam duit” (I love you, Mary. I love you - O’Connor 67). When David’s passionately upset with his nemesis, Grantly Dixon, he asks “Ar mhaith leat Gaeilge a labhairt, a chara? Cad é do mheas ar an teanga?” (O’Connor 131- Do you like speaking Irish, friend? What is your opinion on the language?). The use of Irish always happens with Merridith. Though there are times when Captain Lockwood attempts to transcribe the Irish he hears and Dixon corrects him in the footnotes, the only time Irish words are in the main text are when David is speaking them. In contrast, Mulvey, a native Irishman is portrayed like this: “‘God be with you,’ said Mulvey in Irish” rather than as saying dia dhuit (O’Connor 216).

Works Cited
Donnelly, James S. Encyclopedia of Irish History and Culture. Vol. 1. Farmington Hills, MI: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004. Print.

O’Connor, Joseph. Star of the Sea. Florida: Harcourt Books, 2002. Print.
Researcher/Writer: Michaila Gerlach
Technical Designers: Emily Bengtson and Maren Connell

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