The Irish college that’s making Gaeilge cool

TG Lurgan in Galway has become an Irish language internet phenomenon. We find out why.

The Irish college that’s making Gaeilge cool

Photo: Facebook

You can’t have failed to have notice that a certain Irish college has been making serious waves online with their inspired translations of modern pop hits into Irish.

TG Lurgan - part of Colaiste Lurgan - is fast becoming an Irish language internet phenomenon. Their YouTube channel has over 47,000 subscribers and their videos have been viewed over 12 million times.

That's impressive considering that they’re - in the words of the college’s bainisteoir Mícheál Ó Foighil - for all intents and purposes, “just another traditional coláiste gaeilge”.

Located in the small village of Inverin in Galway, they run four courses over June, July and August - each with 500 students between the ages of 14 and 17. There are Irish lessons, Mná Tí and everything else you’d associate with going away to Irish college.

So what’s the key to their success?

Hard work and, of course, the music.

Speaking to, Mícheál explained that music has always been a part of life at the college and that they’ve a long tradition of translating English lyrics into Irish.

“There’s nothing new about that. Music has always been part of the culture here. We’ve been translating songs since the college was founded.”

“All those wonderful songs were never recorded though which is a pity. They live on only in memory.”

Of course, now with the latest developments in technology, it’s never been easier for the college to record themselves and, with their clever use of social media, their music has been heard all over the world.

One of TG Lurgan’s biggest hits was their take on the Avicii song "Wake Me Up". It has been viewed over 4 million times on YouTube and catapulted the college into the public's awareness.

Avicii himself even watched it - the Swedish DJ tweeted his praise for the energetic cover even thugh some of t went over his head a little:

“This one’s so cool! Can’t understand a word but I love it!”

At any given time, there are up to 150 people working at the college - “a mini country” as Micheál puts it - and as time has gone on, the production values have gotten better and better - and take more work.

“ We have an excellent team of sound engineers, cameramen, editing etc. - a lot of repeat offenders who come back year to year. A lot of them would have started out as students and they just kept coming back.”

Micheál says that their latest project was one of their biggest yet. A cover of Kodaline’s ‘Love Like This’ - or ‘Grá Mo Chroí’ - the video featured hundreds of students, including a full band, three singers, drummers and a mini-play acted out in the middle of the crowd.

“It was filmed over just four hours. With such a large group of people to co-ordinate, there was a huge amount of work that went into it - organising the music, recording everyone, coordinating the video,” said Micheál.

And it seems like all the hard work is really paying off. The newest video was widely share online with Kodaline tweeting their praise.

Ó Foighil says that the band actually have a past connection with Coláiste Lurgan.

“ A few of the guys from the band attended the Coláiste a few years back. They made their first recording here in TG Lurgan in our little studio. So we keep in contact."

Students performing on the Late Late Show. Photo: Facebook

Of course, there would be no point to any of this if it didn't benefit the students. Mícheál believes that making the videos - translating, singing, playing, recording and so - form the students' favourite memories of their time at the Irish college.

“When you ask them at the end of the course what their highlight was, they will almost always say the videos," he said.

“It makes an impression on them. They really take ownership of the videos.”

Coláiste Lurgan’s motto is ‘Gaeilge Gan Eagle’ - ‘Irish without fear’ and it sums up their refreshing approach to the Irish language which for years has been viewed with a certain amount of fear and trepidation among students.

Mícheál feels that the Irish language deserves recognition and that they are willing to keep up the hard work, expense and time.

“Anything that gets people engaging with Gaeilge - that’s what we’re into,“ he said.

The college generally makes 15 videos throughout the summer months with a mixture of small projects and a few big showstoppers such as the Avicii and Kodaline covers.

At the moment, they are working in something fairly big and promise us that we'll be in for a treat.

So dust off your cúpla focail and join in because, as Mícheál says, “everything sounds better in Irish”.

To download the songs of TG Lurgan - for free - visit their Bandcamp here.

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