Saturday 7 December 2019

Folklore collected by 1930s pupils published

Three pupils attend launch of Cumann Staire folklore book

Concubhar Ó Liatháin

As the first part of its ambtious five-year plan, a Múscraí Gaeltacht historical society has launched a book containing the stories, folklore and images collected by the pupils of their local school during a nationwide scheme in the 1930s.

Casadh na Spride/The Turning of the Spirit is a compilation of the stories collected by the children attending the Béal Átha'n Ghaorthaidh boys and girls national schools more than 80 years ago - and three of those children were in attendance as the book was launched in the Gaeltacht village at the weekend. 

Seán Toibín, Péigí Sheehan and Máire Ní Loingsigh were in attendance at Saturday evening's event to launch Casadh na Spride, which was the outcome of the plan in 1937 by the An Choimisiún Bhéal Oideasa/The Folklore Commission to task primary school pupils throughout the country with collecting material from their parents, grandparents and elderly neighbours.   

Over the next two years, thousands of children wrote essays in Irish and English based on the stories they had collected. At the end of the scheme, a significant portion of the stories from each school were selected and written into a large ledger and deposited in the Folklore Commission headquarters in UCD.  

They are an acknowledged treasure trove of material for current and future researchers into Irish folklore, and the source material for several books. Casadh na Spride, published by Cumann Staire Bhéal Átha'n Ghaorthaidh,  was compiled as part of a Masters thesis by local scholar Pádraig Ó Céilleachair, and work is already underway to get his doctoral thesis on the local place-names and associated folklore into print.  

This work is based on original research carried out by folklore collector Eamon Lankford during the 1980s and 1990s. In his introduction to the book, emeritus Professor of Irish  in UCC Dr Seán Ó Coileáin described the volume of work carried out by the children in the local boys and girls national schools as akin to the work of 'small factories'.

"This work, I believe, increased the respect the younger people of that time had for their elders when they understood the wealth and the value of the folklore they had collected from them, and for which they had received great praise and respect from the authorities," said Dr Ó Coileáin.

He described as an 'epic work' the original collection by the schoolchildren and no less of an epic work the editing of the material to create the new book. 

"We also have plans for a book on the folklore collected in the area by Seán Ó Cróinín in the 1940s and roll books from the boys and girls schools in the village," explained Cumann Staire chairman Seán Ó Suilleabháin.

Following its initial launch in Béal Átha'n Ghaorthaidh CLG on Saturday, Casadh na Spride will receive a city launch in An Seomra Caidrimh, Aras Uí Rathaille in UCC this evening  (Thursday, 28th) at 4pm. 

Copies of the book are selling locally at the Centra supermarket in Béal  Atha'n Ghaorthaidh and Macroom bookshop, and are also selling online at BéalÁtha'n Ghaorthaidh based