21 Sep

  • By Brian McDermott
  • In 18-19
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On Thursday 13th September, the children from Ms. McDonagh’s Fifth Class were treated to an afternoon of wonderful memories and an insight into the lives of people growing up in Charlestown in years gone by.

They are currently studying the theme of ‘My Local Area’ and thanks to kind sponsorship by Bank of Ireland, they got an opportunity to participate on a project led by intergenerational facilitators “Silver Thread”. Bank of Ireland is 100 years old in Charlestown this year, and this is the reason why we were selected to avail of the project.

The facilitators, Carmel and Cathy ran a workshop which explored the theme of local community history through the medium of interview, by our students, of “mature students” in our area.

The “mature students”, Eileen Vesey, Angie Casey, Mary O’Connell, Marty Horkan, Eamonn Walsh, Séamus Bermingham, Kitty Walsh and Fr. John Doherty had the children enthralled with tales of their childhood in Charlestown.

The children were regaled with stories of first days at school in the old school across the road, the school structure and the masters, bringing the turf to school, going home for dinner, the bonfire wars between the streets, businesses in the town, the history of the cemetery, the blizzard and games in the past. Fr. John told of his memories of his first day of school and playing with a bead frame, which we happened to have one to show for the children. It may just have been the very same one!

The children set the questions and acted as reporters over the following week, writing recounts of tales from the day, in preparation for Day 2 of the project in the Arts Centre yesterday.

A photo display was in place and presented to the group and they got the chance to further interview the “mature students” for more in-depth understanding of the changes that have occurred in our town over the past 100 years. We heard of emigration stories to America aboard the Queen Mary from Southampton, Poitín raids in the area, the manufacturing of Lemonade in McEntire’s soft drinks factory, dancehall tales and more school stories from the old school.

We were also very fortunate to have two visitors Kathy and Tom, a Welsh ex-forces employee and an Irish air force veteran to tell their stories from their lives in different areas. They told us of growing up the coalmine towns of Wales and serving time with the forces in Baldonnel and abroad. It gave another insight into how life and society has changed dramatically over the last 50 years.

Seeing the tales through the eyes of the visiting guests, accompanied by the fantastic displays of photos added greatly to the children’s understanding of life in their community, and elsewhere in times gone by. The children interviewed and recorded the stories for use back at school.

It is a very exciting and educational project which makes history real for our students. Míle buíochas to Silver Thread, Bank of Ireland and, of course, the wonderfully engaging mature students. We have learned so much from our visitor’s stories and thank them for passing on the memories.