TONY BIRTILL, a leading Irish community figure in Liverpool, has died.
The author, journalist and teacher, who was also a fluent Gaelic speaker, passed away while in hospice care in the early hours of October 21.
His death, following a long battle with cancer, was confirmed at the launch of the Liverpool Irish Festival, which took place last night, of which he was a long-standing board member.
A Festival spokesperson said: "He will be greatly missed by Conragh na Gaeilge, numerous walking clubs and indeed our Festival. Our condolences to those who knew him."
Mr Birtill, who was a regular contributor to The Irish Post for many decades, was born in Walton Hospital, Liverpool in 1954.
He was one of six children.
His mother came over to Britain from Ireland before the Second World War, to train as a nurse, and his father was from Lancashire.
In 2020 he published a revised and updated edition of his 2013 book Hidden History - The Irish Language in Liverpool/An Ghaeilge i Learpholl.
In it he claimed Liverpool's ‘Scouse’ dialect was influenced by the fact that the Irish language was spoken by thousands of people in the city until the beginning of the last century.
He explained: “‘Ter ar wack’ is usually regarded as a rather old-fashioned Liverpool-slang farewell. But when written ‘tabhair aire, a mhac’ it makes perfect sense to an Irish speaker, and is pronounced in a very similar way to the Scouse.
"It means ‘take care, son.’ The language of poorer, marginalised sections of the community is often viewed with distain by people who are better-off.”
Tributes have been paid to the popular writer, who was also a committed campaigner for the rights of the Irish community in Britain.
The St Patrick’s Day Parade Liverpool organisers tweeted: “A very sad day today as we have just heard the news that Tony Birtill died this morning.
“Tony was a huge supporter of our St Patrick's Day Parade attending our fundraisers and spreading the word on Radio Eireann about it every year. May he RIP.”
A very sad day today as we have just heard the news that Tony Birtill died this morning. Tony was a huge supporter of our St Patrick's Day Parade attending our fundraisers and spreading the word on Radio Eireann about it every year. May he RIP. pic.twitter.com/bioU7Xi0k1
— St Patricks Day Parade Liverpool (@stpatsparadeliv) October 21, 2021
The Belfast-based news outlet Anderson News tweeted: “Tony Birtill was exemplary Irish patriot, Gaeilgeoir & dear friend of Belfast.”
Tony Birtill was exemplary Irish patriot, Gaeilgeoir & dear friend of Belfast. He passed away this morning after long illness. He wrote the book on the Liverpool Irish.😥'BOOKS: A revelatory and enriching exploration of Liverpool's Irish language history' https://t.co/D1gHwGJuCG
— Andersonstown News (@ATownNews) October 21, 2021
The Institute of Irish Studies at the University of Liverpool also paid their respects, tweeting: “Saddened to hear of the death of Tony Birtill, historian of the Irish in Liverpool and especially the Irish language in Liverpool. Our sympathy to his friends and family.”
Saddened to hear of the death of Tony Birtill, historian of the Irish in Liverpool and especially the Irish language in Liverpool.
Our sympathy to his friends and family.
Earlier this year Tony discussed his work on @RTEHistoryShow, you can still listen athttps://t.co/CvIF9apHJh https://t.co/CRKQUesOCH