Were your ancestors Gaelic speakers when they came to Australia? If so, they probably
learned their English from the Cockneys who constituted the largest group of English
speakers amongst the early Australians (whether voluntary or involuntary migrants) - and
that’s why you can still occasionally find a seventh or eighth generation Australian whose
accent wouldn’t be out of place in London. This also raises the question as to how the
pronunciation of your name has travelled over the intervening century and a half in
As you live in Australia, you may have recently watched the “Shetland” police drama by the
BBC on the ABC which had a character whose surname was Isbister. You may also be familiar
with the SBS journalist Helen Isbister. Gregor Lamb’s “Orkney Family Fames” (Kirkwall
2003) gives the pronunciation of Isbister as EYES-peester” and this is the pronunciation
that was used in the television series. However the Australian journalist pronounces her
surname ISSS-bister, which suggests to me that either she is unaware of the heritage of
her name and its proper pronunciation, or else, she is tired and has given up on
correcting Aussies who mispronounce it.
Food for thought?
From: Eilish Gmail
Sent: Tuesday, September 12, 2017 7:05 PM
Subject: Re: FERMANAGH-GOLD Irish spelling and pronunciation of Elsey
All my Irish ancestors come from Fermanagh and Clare and Kerry. And they
all left just after the famine. So maybe in the more western areas it
was pronounced Eyelish?
As I'm in Australia, I can get a very broad Aussie IIIIIIIIIIIlish too!
Enjoy your lunch with Aylish/Eyelish.
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