Older men describe how the Irish language was once spoken in their localities but has now all but disappeared.

In the year 1800, there were more people speaking Irish than there were speaking Dutch, Swedish, Danish, and Finish. While these other European languages grew in popularity, the Irish language slumped in use.

The disappearance in about two generations of a language which had been spoken throughout the land for at least fifteen hundred years.

There were over four million speaking Irish in 1840. It was down to less than a million by 1870. There are people still alive today who remember the dramatic decline in the Irish language and they recall the story of Irish language decline in their local areas.

Patrick Corrigan from Carrickmacross, County Monaghan describes how the Irish speakers died off and their families had to emigrate to English speaking countries. All their communications with back home then became through English. 

Joseph Neilan from Sligo recalls pockets of Irish speakers up to seventy years ago with some areas similar to the Gaeltacht region of Connemara. However, he recalls that in Sligo itself, a garrison town, not much Irish was spoken and anyone that did speak Irish was ridiculed.  

Every house in Maugherow you'd go into, Irish was the language.

Micheál Ó Citín from Clonmel County Tipperary recalls how the area was an Irish speaking area up to fifty years ago. However, the pattern of decline in the use of the language was also replicated here. While many of the older people spoke the language amongst themselves, they refused to speak to the younger people. He fears for the future of the language.

Malachy McAleer from Greencastle in County Tyrone describes how fifty years ago, fifty per cent of the people in the region were native Irish speakers. He believes that the number of Irish speakers is now around five per cent who have little opportunity to speak.  

This episode of 'Watch Your Language: What happened?' was broadcast on 17 February 1970. The presenter is Jim Sherwin.