An important and very valuable archive of local stories, many of them previously unrecorded, has been compiled as a result of a schools’ history project organised by Skibbereen Heritage Centre as part of Cork County Council’s Centenary programme.
As part of the ‘Stories of the Revolution’ project, children from 12 primary schools were asked to collect stories relating to the 1916-1923 period from their own area. The project was based on the highly successful Irish Folklore Commission which gathered so much important local history and folklore from schoolchildren in 1937.
The aim of the project was to raise awareness of the 1916-23 years among primary school students. Pupils were encouraged to gather stories from this period from their own families and their local communities.
Some 235 individual students contributed to the project, many of whom recorded a number of stories. The outcome was an outstanding success – greatly exceeding the organisers’ expectations. From the quality and quantity of the stories submitted it is obvious that the young students engaged fully with the project and enjoyed it thoroughly. The importance and value of the collected stories cannot be over-stated. Many of these stories have been written down for the first time, and so have been saved for posterity.
A presentation for all participating students was held at Skibbereen Community School on Tuesday, June 6, with over 200 girls and boys attending. Each pupil was presented with a certificate of participation and each school was also presented with a certificate.
Skibbereen and Bandon Credit Union, which backed the project fully, sponsored two prizes of €400 each – one for the Best Individual Project and one for the Best Overall School.
Terri Kearney, manager of Skibbereen Heritage Centre and co-ordinator of the project, thanked all those who submitted stories and thanked the students for their outstanding endeavours.
Conor Nelligan, Cork County Council Heritage Officer, praised the students for the quality of their projects. Mr Nelligan said that Cork County Council was proud to support this schools’ project as part of its centenary programme.
Gavin Kiely, Business Development and Lending Manager at Muintir Skibbereen and Bandon Credit Union, also addressed the students and said how much he enjoyed reading their stories.
Katie Scannell, a pupil of St Joseph’s Girls NS, Skibbereen, was the overall winner. Katie’s project appealed greatly to the judges and her entry really epitomised what the project was all about.
The winner of the Best Overall School was Leap NS. The pupils here went to a great deal of trouble, individually and collectively, and the whole school and community seemed to embrace the project – the result being a really outstanding submission.
The Black and Tans
One of the many stories collected by Leap NS referred to a ‘Safe House’ in the area.
“During these years came another rule. Every family had to have a list of names of the people in the house, which they had to keep inside the front door. If the Black and Tans found another person in the house, whose name was not on the list, they would have been shot.
“A man named Con was on the run. He stayed at ‘a safe house’ in Carrigfadda for the night. The family didn’t put his name on the list. The man slept in one of the son’s beds. The woman of the house heard a lorry, she called Con and he escaped through a small back window of the house. When the Black and Tans came they questioned the son who had been sleeping in the same bed as Con. The Black and Tans knew because the bed had been too warm for just one body. The son said he had been sleeping with his sister. The Black and Tans laughed at the thought of a middle aged man sleeping with his sister. Fortunately he got away with it.”
Another story from Leap showed how the Black and Tans were regarded by the people of the village: “The local people didn’t like the Black and Tans. They would quickly go into their homes if they were in the village shopping, they would go home quickly. The Black and Tans would go into the pub and demand whiskey. They wouldn’t pay for it. They’d roll hand grenades around the floor of the pub to frighten people.”
All the stories collected have been digitised and each school was given a digital copy of its students’ work. A database of entries will be created over time and will be available on Skibbereen Heritage Centre’s website.
The students’ work will be deposited at Cork Archives where it will be preserved for posterity. It is envisaged that this archive will be added to over time with submissions from other local schools and will be referenced into the future as the 1937 Schools’ Folklore Commission stories are today.