There are around half a million Bretons who still speak their native language so the efforts of the international Committee for the Defence of the Breton Language have succeeded to an even greater degree than their Irish models in preventing their native tongue from dying out.
Breton is now taught in many schools, thanks partly to thanks to Diwan (seedling), a school system and movement formed to preserve and teach it. Breton is the language of instruction for about two per cent of pupils and it is hoped that this could reach ten per cent by about 2010. Breton language radio and TV stations are an important part of the overall strategy of bringing about a situation where more and more young people use Breton in everyday contexts, a necessary element of survival.
Another parallel between
Does a kinship of sorts really exist?
Some years ago, I waited outside the lighthouse at Cap Frehal in
Near Quimper in the south-west, a garage attendant with flaming red hair and freckles told me proudly that his great-grandfather had been an Irish fisherman and was reputed to have been able to consume huge quantities of alcohol ( as if..!). That brought to mind a Kilkeel fisherman who, when I asked him in the late sixties if he minded the Breton fishermen coming into northern waters and ‘pinching’ the fish, replied gravely,
‘ach no – them men come a long way in wee boats’.
To me, that says something more profound about the links between our peoples than any piece of writing or political philosophy.
A final thought: is it too much to hope that the undeniably stronger and more intimate bonds, outnumbering those things which separate us, will one day bring the true kinship of family to ‘our own place’?
Speaking of bands (or was that bonds?) the following was just contributed by Anthony Fitzpatrick!
I read with interest the article on the festival in Brittany but was surprised that there was no mention of Newry’s contribution to the festival over the years. The Thomas Davis Pipe Band has represented Ireland at the festival, first of all under the leadership of my late father Anthony and more recently under the guidance of my brother Joe.
I was lucky enough to wear the famous Red and Green during the festival.