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Pisusuuq, The One Who Walks

Irish teacher, Mick Mallon has dedicated his life to working with the native Inuit people in the Canadian Arctic, developing a successful method of teaching the native language, one of the most difficult languages for an English speaker to learn. (2017)

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Janna Graham

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Pisusuuq, The One Who Walks

Sidney Tate ‘Mick’ Mallon is an Irish teacher and linguist who has dedicated his life to working with the native Inuit (Eskimo) people in the Canadian Arctic.

Mick was born in Belfast in 1933. Raised in a working class family, he attended Campbell College (Belfast) and Cambridge University in the U.K. As a vocal and opinionated left leaning Protestant with a Catholic surname, Mick figured there wasn’t a place - or a job - for him in Belfast. And so in 1954, he left Ireland for a teaching job in Canada. One year in, he was fired for "moral turpitude". Soon after, his then girlfriend and soon to be wife, Cynthia, also joined him from Belfast.

Not one to take rejection to heart, Mick’s love of adventure led him to teach in the Arctic - first in northern Quebec and eventually in what is now known as Nunavut - a massive, sparsely populated territory of northern Canada which forms most of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago - and is literally, at the top of the world.

Fascinated by language, Mick began to learn Inuktitut, the native language of the Inuit (the indigenous people of the Arctic sometimes referred to as Eskimo). Arguably one of the most difficult languages for an English speaker to learn, this Irish man not only picked it apart, he developed a method for teaching it.  

Mick and his colleagues empowered the Inuit people to become educators and leaders in their own language. Creating a curriculum that’s contributed to the revitalization of Inuktitut, Mick is widely regarded in Canada for his work with the language and his passion for teaching. 

After the death of his first wife Cynthia to Alzheimer's, in 2000, Mick married family friend Alexina Kublu, an Inuk (Inuit Lady) and together they've built a unique and fulfilling life in a remote part of the world.

In 2008, at the age of 75, Mick Mallon was awarded an Order of Canada medal, one of the highest Canadian honours, for "his contributions as a teacher and linguist who spent decades preserving and revitalizing the Inuktitut language."

Almost six decades after he left his own native Ireland, Mick has never looked back. That is until now - as an 83-year-old living in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Northern Canada.

Documentary On One: Pisusuuq, The One Who Walks is narrated by Janna Graham

Produced by Janna Graham with Liam O'Brien

First Broadcast at 1pm Saturday September 3rd. 

An Irish radio documentary from RTÉ Radio 1, Ireland - Documentary on One, the home of Irish radio documentaries.

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