Irish language scholar and committed educator


PÁDRAIG TYERS:PÁDRAIG TYERS, who has died aged 84, was an Irish language scholar, author and educator. A former Stiúrthóir na Gaeilge Labhartha at UCC, he was also director of audio-visual services at the college.

He will be remembered for his role in stimulating interaction between UCC and the west Kerry Gaeltacht. At UCC he pioneered the use of audio-visual resources that not only underpinned the work of Bord na Gaeilge and, in particular, Ionad na Gaeilge Labhartha, but benefited language departments across the board.

The initiative that led to the acquisition of Dún Chíomháin hostel in Baile an Fhirtéaraigh, which functions as a Gaeltacht learning base for UCC staff and students, and also his successful fund-raising to support the activities of Bord na Gaeilge, are but two examples of his practical contribution to the historic switch from compulsion-backed to incentive-based support for Irish in the life of the National University of Ireland.

Born in Touraneena, Co Waterford, in 1925, he was the youngest of five children of Harry Tyers and Bríd de Paor, the eldest of whom died in childhood. His parents had met in London, where his father was a police sergeant; his mother had emigrated from Portlaw, Co Waterford.

Ill health forced Harry Tyers to take early retirement on a reduced pension, and the family moved to Touraneena. The Civil War was in progress, and arrival of a former London policeman in the area caused some disquiet. But the family stayed put and became part of the community.

Irish was still spoken in the area, and Pádraig Tyers was taught the language at national school by poet Pádraig Ó Miléadha. He won a scholarship to Mount Melleray where his Irish teacher was Mícheál Feirtéar of Corca Dhuibhne.

So advanced were he and his fellow pupils that for the Leaving Certificate they studied Cormac Ó Cadhlaigh’s Gnás na Gaedhilge, a book usually on the university syllabus; the class also read An tOileánach.

I ndeireadh a théarma mar mhac léinn ann, ghnóthaigh sé scoláireacht go dtí Coláiste na hOllscoile, Corcaigh, agus thosnaigh ar a chúrsa léinn ann fómhar na bliana 1943. Níor lú a shuim sa cluichí ná sa léann agus, murab ionann agus an gobadán, tháinigh an dá thráigh go feillebhinn leis. Gaeilge agis Laidean, agus an Ghréigis mar anlann leo, a bhí aige chun na céime BA.

He was in 1947 a member of the Sigerson and Fitzgibbon cup-winning teams. Later as an inter-county footballer he played in goal for Cork, and was a member of the team defeated by Galway in the 1956 All-Ireland final.

After graduating from UCC he taught for nine years, four of them at Mount Melleray, before joining Gael Linn. There he was involved in a range of projects, including with Louis Marcus, the documentary films Peiland Christy Ring.

It was he who persuaded the Cork hurler to take part in the film.

After eight years with Gael Linn in 1964 he joined the staff of UCC.

In the 1970s he developed a system of teaching Irish to replace the old syllabus, which by then was considered to have been a failure.

The “Tyers Course” aimed to teach students a broad vocabulary which would enable them to speak fluently about day-to-day events. As far as he was concerned, it was important that pupils should first be taught how to speak the language, and next how to read and finally how to write it.

A bhuíochas ar Phádraig gur thug glúin scoláirí a n-aghaidh siar ar Chorca Dhuibhne, cuid mór díobh ná beadh an áit feicthe go deo acu mara mbeadh é ina fhear cinn bóthair acu.

His work in Chorca Dhuibhne, prompted Dr Tim O’Mahony of Toyota Ireland, himself a language enthusiast, to bestow a substantial bequest on UCC, intended primarily for the development of Modern Irish at the college.

Pádraig Tyers regularly broadcast on Raidió Éireann, and his memoir Sliabh gCua mÓige was published in 2003. Other publications include Cois Laoi: léarscáil logainmneacha (1985). He edited Blasket Memories: the life of an Irish island community(1998), while Abair leat Joe Daly(1999) is an extended interview with the famous folklore collector Seosamh Ó Dálaigh.

He served a term as a member of the UCC governing body; he retired in 1988. Conferred with an honorary degree by UCC in 2006, he received Gradam an Phiarsaigh in 2008.

He is survived by his wife Betty, daughter Nuala and sons Colm, Brian and Liam.

Pádraig Tyers: born October 20th, 1925; died February 19th, 2010