“In our hearts forever”
In ár gcroíthe go deo
Margaret Keane, Bean an tí (Woman of the House)
When Anglican Ecclesiastical Judge Stephen Eyre QC decided to reject a proposed headstone inscription because of a Gaeilge phrase, In ár gcroíthe go deo - which means In our hearts forever - the Ecclesiastical Judge decision was quickly and widely regarded by other Church of England members as both bizarre and discriminatory.
A statement was published on the Diocese of Coventry webpage about Judge Eyre’s Irish Language Ruling and rejection.
A spokesperson said, “The Bishop is very concerned pastorally that a judgement of the chancellor has caused anguish”.
But for many Irish Citizens looking on from near and afar. The Ecclesiastical Judge rejection in this instance, at the Meadows Burial Ground, Church Lane, Ash Green, Coventry, seems strident, ignorant and insulting because it does not appear to reflect or articulate, any national Church of England policy.
A lay member in the Church of Ireland described the rejection as “questionable and a matter that needlessly prolongs family grief. “
Stephen Eyre QC, the 62-year-old judge of the Church of England’s Consistory Court, ruled that without a translation the inscription would not be understood by many visiting the church yard. The Judge stated:
Given the passions and feelings connected with the use of Irish Gaelic there is a sad risk that the phrase would be regarded as some form of slogan or that its inclusion without translation would of itself be seen as a political statement.
Among everything else and much more, Margaret Keane was a wee Irish Mammy and Granny and Gaeilgeoir (fluent Irish language Speaker) who spent most of her life, working and rearing her clan in England. Margaret was the Keane clan, Bean an tí (the Woman of the House) Taoiseach (Chieftain) and Anam Cara (soul friend) to her extended Coventry clan. Margaret Keane died on 29th July 2018. However, due to this disappointing judgement, rejection and for many a bewildering imposition by any Anglican Church Elder. The fitting graveside epitaph for Mrs Keane now almost 2 years later remains outstanding.
If you are Irish, know the Irish or feel Irish, no second reading or explanation is necessary to comprehend. A fullest Irish language essence of the Bean an tí as a pivotal keystone of all Irish clans that permeates the collective Irish soul itself. This cannot and should not be lost in any translation or fractured by fear, ignorance, prejudice or indifference by anybody.
The noble, passed on, tried and tested ways of our Irish ancestors’ and our language span time and space. These honourable ways are carried by the Irish people wherever they travel in the many faraway lands. The Irish are taught through example by our Bean an tí never to impose on anybody. We respect the ways of the clan. Our Family and community are important to us. Furthermore, at all fireside gatherings, we are always encouraged, that when in Rome to do as the Romans do and always add to the lives of others.
It is clear, The Bean an ti Margaret Keane, did this, in all her affairs, albeit at Goodyers End Primary School Bedworth, where she worked since 1984 as a dinner supervisor and indeed when she relentlessly promoted and served the Roger Casement GAA club, Coventry.
Such time-honoured Irish altruistic ways were lived and advocated by Margaret Keane and transferred through the medium of the Irish Language (Gaeilge) ways or idiom. Respect for the living is one aspect of the Bean an tí mentoring but another aspect is respect for our loved ones, when they pass through the veil to the other world. The dead do not leave us they are always with us. That is why tending to and honouring our dead in our way and by using our language to do so is important to us and indeed it is important to the entire Keane Clan.
Halloween, Samhain or All Souls Night demonstrates this better because we celebrate a time of the year when the veil of the other world is most thin. Our ancients believe that our dead “live” and “walk” among us always.
An Ghaeilge is more than 2000 years old. Our language is filled with the residual integrity, spirituality and the passed-on wisdom of our people like Margaret Keane and indeed many of the Irish speaking Saints and Scholars who brought Christianity to Coventry and England. The Keane clan is awash with such integrity.
The Bishop of Coventry, Christopher Cocksworth in a personal message to those who have written to him about Judge Eyre’s Ruling on the Irish Language rejection said,
I am praying for this particular situation, especially for a distressed family, and I am ensuring they are made aware of their legal rights according to the procedures of the Consistory Court.
Mrs Keane’s family have launched an appeal against the decision.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a h-anam agus In ár gcroíthe go deo
May her soul be on the right-hand side of God and In our hearts forever.
Seán Mac Eachaidh is an Irish author.