Cumann Merriman is named after Brian Merriman, author of the celebrated eighteenth century Rabelaisian poem, Cúirt an Mheán Oíche (The Midnight Court). Its aims since its foundation in 1967 have been to promote interest in the poet and in the history and traditions of Thomond (Tuamhumhan, the old “North Munster” sub-division that includes parts of counties Tipperary and Limerick as well as the whole of the County Clare). In addition, Cumann Merriman aims to promote interest in all aspects of Irish culture: an Ghaeilge, history, literature, dance, music and so forth.
Cumann Merriman’s current Patron is The President of Ireland, His Excellency Micheál D. Ó hUigínn.
In the past we have been honoured to have had as Patron the poet, writer and Nobel Prize winner Séamus Heaney, and the Presidents of Ireland Éamon de Valera, Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh and the former President Pádraig Ó hIrghile, a native of County Clare.
The Winter School
The Cumann Merriman Winter School is held every year during the weekend closest to St. Bríd’s Day (February 1st). The first Winter School was held in Nenagh in County Tipperary in 1969. The Winter School has become the most important annual forum for the interchange of ideas between the Irish language academic community and Irish speakers.
An important aspect of the Winter School is Cumann Merriman’s annual publication. This is usually a new work of Irish language scholarship and is launched during the School.
The proceedings of the Winter School are entirely in the Irish language, with a lively bilingual social scene on on its fringe.
Winter Schools were initially held in the following towns in the Thomond region: Nenagh, Killaloe, Feakle and Ballyvaughan. Since 1980 Winter Schools have been held in Killarney, Kilkenny, Galway, Ennis, Westport, Dungarvan, Glanmire and Bunratty.
The Summer School
The Cumann Merriman Summer School is held during the last week of August in the district of Thomond, an area rich in archaeological treasures and a repository also of the best in traditional Irish music.
The first Merriman Summer School was held in Ennis, County Clare in 1968 and was mainly devoted to Brian Merriman and his work. This School, which attracted students from all over Ireland and abroad, set the pattern of success for the future. By now, Cumann Merriman has become a well-established Irish institution which has gained a reputation for its unique mixture of scholarship and conviviality, a combination of which Brian Merriman, in his grave at Feakle in the County Clare, would surely approve. The Summer School succeeds year after year in attracting a remarkable group of academics, writers, poets, journalists, public servants and students. Side by side with the lectures and academic studies there is a full social programme, trips to areas of literary, historical or archaeological interest and involvement in local activities.
Despite the Schools’ popularity with academicians, Cumann Merriman is anxious that lectures, seminars, symposia and other elements of the School programme be aimed at the general public of the county Clare and Ireland and, indeed, at interested visitors.
The proceedings of the Summer School are held in both English and Irish. This comfortable congregation of cultures and languages promotes a unique, rich and lively environment perfectly suited to both learning and relaxation.
The Summer School has moved from one centre in Clare to another since its foundation. There have been Schools in Ennis, Kilkee, Scarriff, Ballyvaughan, Lahinch, Lisdoonvarna and Ennistymon. In each place the students have had the chance to meet the local people, enjoy the traditional music and dancing of the locality, and join in the traditional diversions. These can be strenuous at times, so participants are advised to pace themselves during the week!