An Cló Gaelach: An Iconic Irish Script

Discover the beautiful Cló Gaelach – a Gaelic script typical of the old Irish writing style.   

What is the Cló Gaelach?

You may not realise it, but chances are that you are already familiar with the Cló Gaelach (pronounced “kloh gway-luck”).  An Cló Gaelach (Gaelic type) is another name for the old Irish alphabet used specifically for texts in the Irish language. This beautiful ancient script can be found adorning oad signs, street names and shop signs across Ireland.

 

The History of the Cló Gaelach

The Cló Gaelach was widely used across Ireland from the 16th until the mid-20th centuries. The Cló Gaelach offered a useful vernacular alternative to the Latin alphabet – also known as the cló Rómhánach.

The Cló Gaelach first emerged in the 16th century as a typeface intended for to be used for the brand new technology of block printing.  In fact, the first Gaelic typeface was designed in 1571 for a religious work commissioned by Elizabeth I to help convert the Irish Roman Catholic population to Anglicanism.

God Bless Our Home 8 Inch Plate | Blarney.com
An example of English text written in the Cló Gaelach style. God Bless Our Home 8 Inch Plate.

The Decline of the Cló Gaelach

Cló Gaelach Alphabet
Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Cló Gaelach remained the primary style of Irish writing until the 1950s. As part of efforts to standardise the Irish language, the Irish government began to phase out the Cló Gaelach and

replace them with the Cló Rómhánach. In addition to this, schoolchildren were no longer taught how to write in the old Irish style and were instead taught Irish through the Latin alphabet.

You can still see evidence of the iconic Cló Gaelach script throughout the country, however these days it is used primarily for decorative purposes.

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