Cork author Rachel J Cooper with the Ukrainian children of Shtab Pivdnya.

‘It’s a pleasure to teach the children’

Ukrainian children in Cork have found solace in the words of the Irish national anthem thanks to a well-known Cork writer.

Leeside author Rachel J Cooper has taken it upon herself to teach 'Amhrán na bhFiann' to children forced to flee their homes as a result of Vladimir Putin’s war on their home country.

Impressed by how well Ukrainian children know their own national anthem, Rachel contacted a Ukrainian-Culture Sunday School in the Cork Academy of Music in Cork city.

The school, which is run by volunteer organisation Shtab Pivdnya, invited Rachel to come and teach 'Amhrán na bhFiann' to its pupils using a phonetic version of the song featured in her 2022 book 'Our National Anthem'.

Spurred on by the realisation that very few people at any match she attended could sing the Irish anthem, Rachel wrote her book about Ireland's history and emblems with the anthem reinterpreted for modern times: we are all soldiers fighting against bullying, viruses and inequality.

“It’s a pleasure to teach the children, they are such quick and avid learners,” said Rachel.

“Also, I think the words can be applied to times now. For example, the words: ‘Buíon dár slua, thar toinn do ráinig chugainn, Faoi mhóid bheith saor, Seantír ár sinsear feasta. Ní fhágfar faoin tíorán ná faoin tráill – Some have come from a land beyond the wave, sworn to be free, no more our ancient Ireland, shall shelter the despot or the slave’.”

“This is absolutely applicable to Ireland now. We are sheltering many people from despotic rulers, including from the clutches of Putin, for example,” she added.

After the last few turbulent years, Rachel feels that a big push for Irish people to learn our anthem nationwide would be a great way to give us the cohesiveness we all need, especially as 2023 is the 100th anniversary of when the anthem was officially published as Gaeilge in 1923. Liam Ó Rinn, a civil servant, translated it from ‘The Soldier's Song’ written by Peadar Kearney and Patrick Heeney between 1909 and 1910.

Shtab Pivdnya welcomed Rachel and said the children are thoroughly enjoying learning about Irish culture and history. “We are delighted to welcome Rachel. By knowing a bit about Irish culture and history, it is a way to integrate the children. The pictures are also very welcome to keep their attention.”