A CLONAKILTY solicitor sat his Leaving Certificate higher level Irish papers last Saturday – more than 30 years after he managed just a C grade at lower level.
Flor McCarthy was inspired to take the most unusual step, which required considerable time and effort, for two reasons.
‘When I sat my Leaving Cert I couldn’t see any value in the Irish language and when I look back my attitude is something I have a lot of regret about.
‘Also, my brother-in-law and great friend Seamus McGeady from Donegal was a native speaker who worked with Radio na Gaeltachta, and he died suddenly at 54 in 2016. I regret that I was never able to speak to him in Irish.’
A third factor was that his son Florrie had expected to sit his Leaving Cert this year and Flor thought it might be fun for them to do it together, while giving him a deadline to work towards.
Covid-19 did its best to derail Flor’s plans. ‘I did some courses with Gaelchultúr in Dublin and I was coming along. I was preparing for the oral exam, and after that was cancelled I felt totally disheartened, I put the books away and thought “so much for that.” Besides there were other things to worry about at the time.’
He says he was ‘struggling away’ on his own again when he got help online from a teacher called John Gavin who runs leavingcertirish.com. ‘I have to say after six weeks I was transformed and I decided I was going to give the exam a lash.’
For those wondering, he didn’t have to work his way through Peig for a second time, as it no longer features on the curriculum, but he did have to get to grips with Maidhc Dainín Ó Sé’s A Thig Ná Tit Orm.
Most students, including his son, opted for calculated grades, and Flor was the solitary student sitting both papers last Saturday. As work on the new Clonakilty Community College is nearing completion, he sat them in the former Tech College on the Western Road, and he said he was very grateful for all those who helped facilitate him.
While both papers went well, he insists he doesn’t care about the result.
He’s holidayed with his family on Inis Meáin every year for the past 11 years, and next year he’s really looking forward to conversing with locals as Gaeilge.
‘But really I’m just so chuffed to have done this. It’s not the end, but more like the end of the beginning for me, as I go to the next level in my participation in the language.’