Irish Language Blog

Cé Mhéad Tuíodóir? (How many thatchers?) Posted by on Apr 21, 2013 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

In the last blog, I raised the question of how many professional thatchers are out there, curious as to whether the trade growing or declining.  Trying to search for numbers of thatchers in the US, Canada, and Australia proved a bit time-consuming.  Computer searches mostly ended up giving me results for “dethatching” services, particularly as geared toward golf courses and fine lawns.  And no, “dethatching” doesn’t mean removing thatched roofs from cottages — it means, bhuel, ag baint féar marbh ó fhaiche (chun an ithir a aerú).  A “gluais” for that phrase is below, btw.   I don’t see a single word definition for “dethatching” in Irish anywhere, otherwise I’d have used it.

So I’m just giving some results for Irish and British thatchers here.  Maybe at some future point I’ll check further into the North American and Australian scene.

Cad a shíleann tusa?  Cé mhéad tuíodóir atá ag obair inniu?  Deichniúr?  Caoga?  Céad?  Míle?

The site “” lists 77 thatchers in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, many of whom may work in teams or with small crews, so I’d estimate that there are at least double the number of people actually working:

For England and Wales, (National Society of Master Thatchers) lists 140 thatchers.

For Scotland,  lists 36 roofers offering thatching services.  Many of them seem to offer other roofing services as well (unlike the English/Welsh and Irish listings above, which are specifically for thatching) but some do appear to just do thatching (like Hebridean Thatching Services,, whose website also offers some interesting videos and a blog of projects undertaken).

As for a more comprehensive number, thatcher Leo Wood, commented in an interview by David Ross for Britain Express:  “When I started in1963 around 200 full time thatchers were left, this is now around 2000 and has been so for five or six years.” (“Life as a Thatcher,”  I couldn’t find a date for the article, but assume it was sometime in the last 10 years.

That’s actually more that I expected but it’s encouraging in terms of keeping the tradition alive.  Hmm, now I’ll have to re-run my search for “yelmers.”

A side benefit of raising this query is looking at the basic structure of the question: Cé mhéad tuíodóir?  You might have noticed that “tuíodóir” stays singular here.  This is true whenever you ask “How many?” of something in Irish.  Additional examples would include: Cé mhéad bliain?, Cé mhéad coileán?, Cé mhéad míle?

It may seem unusual, from an English perspective, to keep the noun singular, but it follows the pattern that’s also used in Irish for “cúpla” and with numbers: cúpla bliain, trí choileán, srl., lit. “a couple of year” ” three puppy.”

Ar aon chaoi, tuíodóir ar bith ar an liosta?  Má tá, bheadh sé go deas cluinstin uait!  SGF, Róislín

Gluais don fhrása “ag baint féar marbh ó fhaiche (chun an ithir a aerú)”:

aerú, to aerate

faiche, lawn (as in yards, gardens, etc., not the fabric, which as it happens, is “péirlín,” for those of you in Downton Abbey garb)

féar marbh, dead grass, “thatch,” i. gais mharbha, riosóim mharbha, stólain mharbha, fréamhacha marbha agus duilleoga marbha.  NB:  see how important the síneadh fada is in the word “féar“?  “Féar” [fayr] is “grass.”  “Fear” [far, with the “a” like US “bat” or “cat”] is “man.”  “Man” … “grass” … two words we don’t want to mix up, especially if one or both are “marbh” ([MAR-uv] dead).  And hopefully, we’ll always know whether we are removing “féar marbh” or a “fear marbh” from the lawn, unless, of course, the “fear marbh” has been fargoized.  Ach sin scéal eile.

NB also what has happened to the adjective “marbh” when modifying the plural nouns above.  The plural ending is “-a,” giving us “marbha” [MAR-uh-vuh], as used with “fréamhacha” agus “duilleoga.”  “Marbha” changes to “mharbha” [WAR-uh-vuh] after the nouns “gais,” “riosóim” and “stólain” because of their slender ending (“i” + final consonant). This is the same rule that gives us “fir mhóra” and “báid bheaga” but “buachaillí móra” and “naomhóga beaga.”

ithir [IH-hirzh], soil, earth (in an agricultural context)

Gluais don ghluais: duilleog, leaf; fréamh, root; gas, stem; riosóm, rhizome; stólan, stolon

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