THE organiser of the very first ‘Gathering of Gobnaits’ in Ballyvourney earlier this month said the event was so successful that she hopes that it can become an annual event.
Eibhlín Gobnait Ní Lionáird, language planning officer with Comharchumann Forbartha Mhúscraí, told The Southern Star that despite planning it only two weeks ago, the event managed to capture the imagination of those who share the namesake of the patron saint of Ballyvourney.
St Gobnait was a sixth century saint, who travelled to Ballyvourney to build her convent. She kept bees and is the patron saint of beekeepers and blacksmiths.
Her holy shrine, where she is buried, attracts visitors to the area on a regular basis.
‘We were having a cultural walk anyway that day to her shrine to celebrate her feast day on February 11th and then to elevate that, I came up with this hairbrained idea for a call-out of Gobnaits and it suddenly grew legs,’ said Eibhlín.
‘I put together a kind of brief in English and Irish and posted it on social media. It was like ‘Glaoch ó Ghobnait’ (Call for Gobnaits) from all over the world and that included any person with the English version of the name which includes Gobbie, Abbey, Abina, Abigale or Deborah/Debbie, or those that have Gobnait as their second name, like myself.’
Gobnaits responded from all four corners of the globe, with 20 or so joining by Zoom.
When over 100 people turned up for the guided walk around St Gobnait’s Shrine, Eibhlín gave a talk about her and her history and the significance of the shrine.
‘We convened then to The Abbey Hotel – which is called Óstán Gnobatan – and we had tea and music. We also had a quiz for all the Gobnaits, including those attending on Zoom, so we had about 40 participating in this.’
They even took videos and posted them on TikTok too, making sure Gobnait goesglobal, with a picture frame entitled ‘Is Mise Gobnait.’
Eibhlín said she used to hide the fact that Gobnait was her middle name after being teased about it when she was younger.
‘I’m now proud of this name and this event was not only celebrating Saint Gobnait but also bringing a bit of pride to the name, and elevating it just like the way Brigid is being celebrated. Maybe we can get a day off now!’
Local Fianna Fáil councillor Gobnait Moynihan said there was a great sense of fun and celebration on the day.
‘It’s a special day in the parish anyway, with lots of people gathering to celebrate our patron saint day. But the gathering of Gobnaits brought a further twist!’ she said.
‘It was full of fun and laughter and it was gas to hear all the different English versions of the name.
‘One Gobnait from Tipperary spoke about how unusual her name is up there, but having spent the day in Ballyvourney, she couldn’t get over how many more of us are in the world.’
Cllr Moynihan recalled that when she worked in Kildare a few years ago, a colleague sent her a package to her home but forgot to put her surname on it and left it as just ‘Gobnait Ní M’.
‘The package was in the post van for days as the postman couldn’t figure which Gobnait it was for!’