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A celebration of the 18th century Irish poet Brian Merriman and all aspects of Irish Language and culture.

The Cumann Merriman Summer School

This page contains an article by Diarmuid Breathnach about the Cumann Merriman Summer School.

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A Convivial Holiday

Summer Schools Archive

You can browse our archive to find out about Merriman Summer Schools held in the following years:

See also the Winter School archive

About the Merriman Summer School

Animated discussion about the topic of the School, be it in pubs, hotels or restaurants, is unplanned, but Cumann Merriman sees it as an important aspect of that ’learning through leisure’ idea which is at the heart of the Irish Summer School. Anyway, for many, meeting people socially is essential to holidaying. At the Merriman Summer School you will be mingling with 200 fully registered students of all ages. Others come for a day or two and some, local people in particular, simply attend lectures of their choice. Some students are inveterate attendees and striking up an acquaintance with any of them is a sure way of meeting many, many others. In the streets of Lisdoonvarna or of Ennistymon or in whatever Clare village or small town our Summer School is held, students are quick to salute each other.

A clear majority of them will be Irish, an added attraction for discerning visitors who know the best way of assessing a country is to know its people; in this instance, they are likely to be people with a deep interest in the past, present and future of their country and its place in the world.

A Typical Day at the School

What is the Merriman day in Lisdoonvarna? A majority will begin at a class or an Irish-language seminar. Others will stroll down to the Wells for a cup of coffee just before the set‑dancing class commences at 12.00 noon. The class is for beginners but over five sessions, and with an opportunity to practice nightly at Club Merriman, many become reasonably adept. The lasting impression of the class will be the good humour and laughter of the participants at finding themselves children again! Dancing at the Wells is a tradition of this spa town. After the dancing there is no scarcity of places to eat. In the Roadside pub a singing session may break out and continue until students make hastily for the afternoon lecture at 3.00. With contributions from the audience the lecture could last until five. Many will carry on with argument and discussion until dinner. Others will make the short trip to Doolin for music, to Ballinalacken for its views of the Aran Islands or to Fanore to swim.

After the 8.30 lecture there is the Club at the Royal Spa with dancing by highly proficient local people to the best of Clare music. For students, the dances they learn at the Wells will be called out by their dancing master. Those who are still intent on talk will adjourn to a nearby hotel where eventually singing will break out and continue until the small hours.

A Lark in the Clare Air

The Lark in the Clear Air is a well‑known song and a Cumann Merriman committee member once described our School as a lark in the Clare air. To honour the energy and humour of Merriman’s great poem, to fit in with something of Clare’s spirit of spontaneity and fun, and, of course, to recognise that our students are on holiday, Cumann Merriman from its beginning intended, however serious the School’s topic, that there should be room for diversion.

Learning, poetry, company, music, dance and song, scenery... what more could you ask? What’s that you said? Weather? Well, the Merriman School can happily ignore whatever weather it gets!

Diarmuid Breathnach

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