Michael Collins, an spásaire (republished reading for learners)

This reading is about Michael Collins, but not the Michael Collins you are thinking of. This one is an American astronaut.



Rugadh Michael Collins sa bhliain 1930. Bhí a athair ina oifigeach in Arm na Stát Aontaithe, agus nuair a chríochnaigh sé an mheánscoil, chuaigh sé ag staidéar in acadamh míleata na tíre, West Point. Theastaigh uaidh bheith ina fhear mhíleata cosúil lena athair. Bhí suim aige san innealtóireacht agus san eitleoireacht chomh maith, agus nuair a fuair sé a dhintiúirí ó West Point, chuaigh sé san Aerfhórsa.


rugadh ‘was born’ – note that the Irish autonomous form is an active (not passive) form, which means that you need to use the accusative forms of the pronouns with it, thus rugadh é ‘he was born’ (é ‘him’).


bhí…ina oifigeach word for word ‘was…in his officer’ – the underlying idea is that he was performing in the capacity of an officer. You can also use this structure if you are speaking of children assuming roles in a game: tá Seáinín ina oifigeach, agus an chuid eile de na páistí ina ngnáthshaighdiúirí ‘Seáinín is (being) an officer, and the other children are (being) common soldiers.’



Arm na Stát Aontaithe US Army. Note that it is not allowed to put a definite article before Arm in this phrase, because the fact that it is followed by the definite genitive plural na Stát Aontaithe, it is already definite enough. Similarly, na Stáit Aontaithe takes the article, but Stáit Aontaithe Mheiriceá does not, because Stáit Aontaithe is in it already definite because of being followed by the definite genitive Mheiriceá. The proper name Meiriceá is already definite by virtue of being a proper name.


meánscoil (being a feminine noun, it becomes an mheánscoil with definite article) means ‘secondary school’, but in America it can be used to refer to a high school.


chuaigh sé ag staidéar ‘he went to study’. In Ulster, it would be chuaigh sé a staidéar with a (< do). Note that while English takes the infinitive construction with ‘to’, in Irish either ag + verbal noun (+ object in genitive form) or a (< do) + verbal noun (+ object in genitive form) is needed after the verbs tosaigh/tosú, téigh/dul and tar/teacht. Note that for ‘he went to study’, we could also use chuaigh sé ag foghlaim léinn (Ulster chuaigh sé a fhoghlaim léinn, or …a dh’fhoghlaim léinn in a more pettily dialectal orthography). In English, ‘he went to learn learning’ sounds awkward, but in Irish, ag foghlaim léinn and léann a fhoghlaim have a good Gaeltacht pedigree. Léann ‘studies, learning’ is a very old Latin loanword, indeed the same word as the English word ‘legend’ (both are based on the Latin word legenda ‘things to be read’).


theastaigh uaidh: The verb teastaigh/teastáil means ‘be needed, wanted’ and it takes the preposition ó. Uaidh is the third person masculine singular form of the preposition and means thus ‘from him’. Note that the Ulster writer Seán Bán Mac Meanman’s use of ar rather than ó with teastaigh/teastáil is due to influence from synonymous expressions in his dialect such as bheith de dhíth/d’fheidhm/de dhíobháil, which all take ar. Teastaigh/teastáil was not a feature of Seán Bán’s dialect, and thus he used it awkwardly with an improper preposition.


innealtóireacht ‘engineering’


eitleoireacht ‘aviation’. Note this very productive pattern of word-building: when you have the name of the tradesman, you add –(e)acht and get the name of the trade. Innealtóir is an engineer, eitleoir is a pilot or an aviator. I can think of only one exception: siopadóireacht means shopping, but a siopadóir is not a person doing the shopping – that word means shopkeeper. (For shopkeeping, you will then need to use another expression, such as ceard an tsiopadóra, ‘the trade of the shopkeeper’.)


dintiúirí is the plural of dintiúr, which comes from the English word ‘indenture’. However, the plural dintiúirí (I guess the official standard plural would be dintiúir, but it feels more natural to add the extra –í) means ‘credentials’ in a very generic sense.


chuaigh sé san Aerfhórsa ‘he went into the Air Force’, i.e. joined it. Joining an organisation is ‘going into it’. And you shouldn’t add the word isteach here, san is good enough. Sa, san is the fusion of i(n) ‘in, into’ and an ‘the’; it might be easier to understand what it is, if you remember that the older orthography is ins an: chuaigh sé ins an Aerfhórsa.


Note that there is a subtle difference between chuaigh le and chuaigh i. Le refers to embracing the stance, say, of a political party, and also taking up a trade. I refers to joining an organization as a card-carrying member. Thus, chuaigh sé i bhFine Gael, chuaigh sé i bhFianna Fáil, chuaigh sé i Sinn Féin means that he joined said party as a member, while chuaigh sé le Fine Gael, chuaigh sé le Fianna Fáil, chuaigh sé le Sinn Féin means that he embraced its stance. And Adolf Hitler’s fatal decision to go into politics – worded in his infamous book in German as ‘Ich aber beschloss Politiker zu werden‘ and in English as ‘I on the other hand decided to go into politics‘ would in Irish be ‘Mise áfach, chinn mé ar dhul le polaitíocht‘.



Ní raibh fonn air triail a bhaint as an Arm, ó bhí a athair ina oifigeach ansin. Shíl sé, dá rachadh sé san Arm, go mbeadh lucht a chomhaoise in éad faoi pé céim suas a gheobhadh sé, agus iad ag síleadh go mbeadh an tArm ag fabhrú do chlann lucht na ceirde. Mar sin, roghnaigh sé an tAerfhórsa.


fonn ‘wish, desire, inclination, urge’ takes the preposition ar, as emotions and urges usually do. An urge is “on” you in Irish. Note, though, that love (grá) and hatred (fuath) are not treated as transient emotions, but as more permanent attitudes: they are not on you, but at you (ag).


triail is a try, a trial, and triail a bhaint as…’to pull a try out of [something]’ is the usual way to say ‘to try [something]’. However, triail/triail is also a verb in its own right, and it would be just fine to say ‘an tArm a thriail‘.


lucht a chomhaoise ‘the people of the same age’


in éad ‘jealous’ – le refers to the person you are envying, faoi to the thing you are envying him.


means ‘any, whatever’. Synonyms include pé ar bith, cibé, cibé ar bith, and in some dialect it has mutated into fébrí. Usually just pé or cibé though, with ar bith often added for good measure. Note pé scéal é or cibé scéal é for ‘anyhow, in any case’.


céim suas ‘a step up’ is a promotion. A demotion is, of course, céim síos.


fabhraigh/fabhrú ‘to favour’. Note that you need to use do ‘to, for, to the benefit of’ with this verb. By the way, in Ulster there is an unrelated verb fabhraigh/fabhrú meaning ‘to develop’; it is probably just a local variant of forbair/forbairt ‘to develop’.


clann (collectively) ‘children, descendants’. To use in the sense of ‘family’ (i.e. including the parents) is not traditional, although this usage has made huge inroads in the well-known variant of the language to which the extremely strictly technical term ‘that dreadful school Irish’ is commonly applied. The ‘official’ word for ‘family’ is teaghlach, which is much better, although people keep suggesting it is somehow bad or not in their dialect. Other words for ‘family’ include muirín and muirear, which have the additional sense of burden (thus it is not surprising that family planning is pleanáil muiríne) as well as comhluadar, which actually means ‘company’ even in the sense of ‘jolly company’, but which in Connacht Irish has very strongly the sense of family. Conlán has been recorded in East Ulster folklore in this sense, but regrettably East Ulster Irish is extinct in the wild.


lucht na ceirde ‘the people of the trade’, in this example the military trade.



Chaith an Coileánach na blianta fada ag foghlaim eitleoireachta agus innealtóireachta san Aerfhórsa, agus sa deireadh thosaigh sé féin ag oiliúint meicneoirí don fhórsa. Murab ionann agus cuid mhór de spásairí a ghlúine féin níor throid sé i gCogadh na Cóiré. Rud eile áfach gur eitleoir trialach a bhí ann, is é sin go mbíodh sé ag baint trialach as cineálacha nua eitleán, ar nós a lán eile a chuaigh le spásaireacht.


oil/oiliúint ‘to train’


meicneoir ‘a mechanic’


glúin ‘knee’, but also ‘a generation, an age-cohort’


murab ionann agus ‘unlike’


Cogadh na Cóiré ‘the Korean War’; the Irish means ‘the war of Korea’. Note that an Chóiré ‘Korea’ includes a definite article, as many names of countries do in Irish.


rud eile áfach ‘it’s another story’


eitleoir trialach ‘test pilot’


ag baint trialach as ‘testing’. Note that triail ‘try, trial, test’ is a feminine noun and its genitive is trialach, and when the object of a verbal noun follows it, it is usually in the genitive form.


is é sin ‘that means’


ar nós a lán eile ‘in the way of many others’. Ar nós ‘in the way of, like’ should basically be followed by the genitive, but usually isn’t, in natural speech.


a chuaigh le spásaireacht ‘who became astronauts’ (note again chuaigh le ‘went with’). Spásaireacht ‘astronautics; the astronaut’s trade’



I dtús na seascaidí chuir sé spéis sa spástaisteal, ó bhí Údarás Aerloingseoireachta agus Spáis na Stát Aontaithe (NASA) ag déanamh an-dul chun cinn san am, ach nuair a chuir sé isteach iarratas ar oiliúint spásaireachta, níor glacadh leis. Bhí cúrsa spásaireachta dá chuid féin ag an Aerfhórsa, áfach, agus cead isteach ag an gCoileánach ansin.


spéis ‘interest’ in the sense of becoming interested in something (interest in banking is called ús or – if exorbitant – gaimbín). It can also be suim (a word also meaning ‘sum’) and at least Colm Ó Gaora uses the occasional or nonce word suiméad with suim in the negative expression níl suim ná suiméad agam ann, which I facetiously translate as ‘I am neither interested nor shminterested in it’. Anyway, as you see here, interest, whether spéis or suim, is in Irish at (ag) you, and you take an interest in (i, in) something. Or actually, you ‘put’ (cuir/cur) it in something.


spástaisteal is ‘space travel’, of course.


Údarás Aerloingseoireachta agus Spáis na Stát Aontaithe is my attempt to convey the sense of ‘National Aeronautics and Space Administration’, i.e. ‘the Aeronautics and Space Authority of the United States’. Aerloingseoireacht, ‘air-seamanship’, is the word for aeronautics (loingseoireacht ‘seamanship, navigation, voyaging’, loingseoir ‘navigator, mariner’, loingeas ‘fleet’, long ‘ship’). Note that Aer Lingus is just a fancy (read: wrong) way to write what should be Aerloingeas ‘air fleet’. Administration is riarachán, but in my opinion it sounds like the act or activity of administrating something – in the sense of an authority administrating something, údarás or authority feels more natural.


Dul chun cinn means ‘progress, forward movement’, and an-dul chun cinn is obviously good progress, a lot of forward movement.


Iarratas is an application, and when you apply for something, you ‘put in an application on’ it (iarratas a chur isteach ar rud). Note that cuir/cur isteach ar dhuine means ‘to disturb’.


cead isteach ‘permission to enter’ means simply that he could go there, nothing more official or formal. Note that if somebody has cead a chos/cead a cos (‘permission of his/her feet’) he/she can move freely, and if he/she has cead a chinn/cead a cinn (‘permission of his/her head’), he/she can decide freely. Note also cead cainte ‘permission of speech’, i.e. freedom of speech – at meetings, the English expression ‘Let the man/woman talk!’ corresponds to Irish ‘Cead cainte! Cead cainte!


I ndiaidh an chúrsa sin d’fhill sé ar a sheanobair agus chuir sé isteach iarratas nua. An iarracht seo chuaigh Deke Slayton, príomhspásaire an Údaráis, i dteagmháil leis lena fhiafraí de, an raibh spéis aige sa spásaireacht i gcónaí. D’fhreagair an Coileánach go raibh, agus fuair sé oiliúint chuimsitheach spáis. Mar a scríobh sé ina chuid cuimhní cinn ina dhiaidh sin, tháinig sé aniar aduaidh air go gcaithfeadh sé staidéar a dhéanamh ar gheolaíocht mar chuid den chúrsa. Níor taibhsíodh dó san am go mbaistfí “armalcoilít” (ainm a thagraíos do Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin agus Michael Collins araon) ar cheann de na mianraí a d’aithin na geolaithe sna clocha a thug an triúr seo leo ón nGealach.


príomhspásaire: my attempt to translate “Chief Astronaut”. Slayton was actually Chief of the Astronaut Office.


cuimsitheach ‘comprehensive’


tháinig sé aniar aduaidh air ‘it came as a surprise to him’


níor taibhsíodh dó ‘he could not imagine, he had no foreboding, he had no presentiment’. Taibhsigh/taibhsiú ‘to loom, to appear’ is used like this in the autonomous form to convey the sense of foreboding or presentiment.


Thug an Coileánach an chéad chuairt ar an spás sa bhliain 1966. Ba é “Gemini a Deich” an misean a bhí i gceist. Bhí áit do bheirt spásairí sa spásbhád den déanamh Gemini, mar is léir ón ainm, agus ba é John Watts Young leathbhádóir an Choileánaigh. Bhí Young tar éis a chéad seal a chaitheamh sa spás cheana féin – “Gemini a Trí” a bhí ar an misean sin, agus ba iad Young agus Virgil “Gus” Grissom na spásairí. Bhí Grissom le bás a fháil go gránna nuair a chuaigh an spásbhád tástála úd Apollo a hAon trí thine sa bhliain 1967.


thug…an chéad chuairt ar an spás ‘paid the first visit to space’, ‘visited space for the first time’. (It sounds better in Irish!)


leathbhádóir ‘companion’


déanamh can mean ‘a make, a model’


Is éard a bhí i gceist le tionscadal Gemini ná scileanna tábhachtacha spásaireachta a chleachtadh go praiticiúil – mar shampla, ba nós leis na spásairí seal a chaitheamh taobh amuigh den spásbhád – is é sin, siúlóid spáis a dhéanamh. Thairis sin, bhí siad lena spásbhád féin a nascadh den “fheithicil targaide”, is é sin, spásbhád gan fhoireann a scaoileadh chun bóthair in éineacht le Gemini – Agena a thugtaí ar an gcineál seo “feithicle”. Go bunúsach is éard a bhí i gceist le hAgena ná inneall breise a d’fhéadfaí a nascadh de spásbhád den déanamh Gemini. Le linn a misin bhain Young agus an Coileánach úsáid as a nAgena féin le luas a chur faoina spásbhád-san, agus ansin thug siad cuairt ar an Agena eile a d’fhág foireann an mhisin úd Gemini a hOcht ina ndiaidh roimhe sin.


siúlóid spáis ‘space walk’. In fact, I would not object to saying tá sé ag siúl an spáis (‘he is walking space’) to refer to an astronaut on a space walk. Note, by the way, that space is called an spás in Irish. This is an example of the definite article used in Irish in the generic sense.


nasc/nascadh and ceangail/ceangal: In my opinion (which is based on solid reading of folklore) natural Irish prefers the preposition de (yes, de, not do, although these two are confused in much of natural spoken Irish) to refer to the object one ties to, or clings to. Le should refer to the thing you use for combining or tying two things with. It is common non-native error to use le with verbs of tying or combining, where de would be more appropriate.


I Mí Iúil 1969 a gheal lá na cinniúna: ansin bhí Collins, Armstrong agus Aldrin le heitilt a fhad leis an nGealach. Nó – bhí sé i ndán don Choileánach fanacht sa mhodúl ceannais, agus an bheirt spásairí eile ag tuirlingt i Muir na Sáimhe sa mhodúl gealaí. Ar ndóigh, ní raibh braon uisce sa mhuir sin. Níl uisce ar bith i “bhfarraigí” na Gealaí, nó ní farraigí iad i ndáiríribh ach machairí basailt – is é sin machairí as cloch bholcánach, agus iad níos gile ná na “garbhchríocha”, atá níos sine ó thaobh na geolaíochta de.


gheal lá na cinniúna ‘the day of destiny dawned’


a fhad le ‘as long away as’. Especially in Ulster Irish, this is simply used in the sense ‘to (a destination)’


bhí sé i ndán dó ‘it was in store for him’


modúl ceannais ‘command module’


agus an bheirt spásaire eile ag tuirlingt ‘while the other two astronauts are/were landing/descending’. Tuirling/tuirlingt ‘to land, to descend’.


Muir na Sáimhe ‘Sea of Tranquillity’.


modúl gealaí ‘moon module, lunar module’


cloch bholcánach ‘vulcanic stone’, i.e. igneous rock


na garbhchríocha ‘the highlands’, here used to refer to the parts of lunar surface that aren’t “sea”.


ó thaobh na geolaíochta de ‘as far as geology is concerned, from a geological point of view’. Geolaíocht = geology.


Ar dtús chaith spásbhád na bhfear seal ag fithisiú an Domhain. Ansin thug sí aghaidh ar ár satailít go dtí gur bhain sí amach fithis na Gealaí, áit ar fhág an bheirt eile slán ag an gCoileánach le tuirlingt a dhéanamh. Chaith sé tamall taobh thiar den Ghealach, ionas nach raibh teagmháil raidió aige leis na spásairí eile ná leis an Domhan féin, agus é ar an duine ab uaigní riamh. Mar sin féin dúirt sé i ndiaidh an mhisin nach raibh an t-uaigneas sin ag luí air. Bhí sceitimíní air roimh an gcéad uair eile a bheadh sé in ann labhairt le daoine arís, áfach.


ag fithisiú ‘orbiting’


fithis ‘orbit’


agus é ar an duine ab uaigní riamh ‘him being the loneliest man ever’. Note ar in expressions referring to relative position: tá sé ar an duine is uaigní riamh ‘he is the loneliest man ever’, tá sé ar an gcéad fhear riamh ar éirigh a leithéid de chleas leis ‘he is the first man ever to have success with such a trick’.


sceitimíní ‘thrilled anticipation’


Nuair a tháinig Armstrong agus Aldrin ar ais ón nGealach, bhí an-mhífhoighne ar an gCoileánach, agus an-lúcháir air rompu. Ag teacht isteach d’Aldrin ba dhóbair don Choileánach póg a thabhairt don fhear chomh ríméadach a bhí sé na cairde a fheiceáil chuige slán sábháilte.


lúcháir ‘welcoming joy’


ag teacht isteach d’Aldrin ‘when Aldrin was coming in, entering’


ba dhóbair dó…’he almost…’


ríméadach ‘happy, elated’


na cairde a fheiceáil chuige ‘to see the friends coming to him, towards him’


slán sábháilte ‘safe and sound’



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