In 1937 the Department of Folklore – in conjunction with the Department of Education and the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation – initiated a programme to preserve the folklore, tales, superstitions, and customs of the 26 counties.
Each Principal teacher of the country’s 5,000 schools was requested to ask his sixth and seventh class pupils to discuss suitable topics with their parents, grandparents, and elderly neighbours and prepare essays based on the information given.
This has resulted in about 750,000 pages of local history and folklore being now preserved in the National Folklore Department of University College Dublin.
In the parish of Lackagh, the four National Schools were invited to join the project and all readily agreed to participate. The School Principals were Liam Ó Mainnín (Bawnmore NS), An tSuir Fionnbarr NicChártaigh (Coolarne NS) Cathal Ó Murchada (Cregmore NS), and Seosamh Ó hAinlighe in Lackagh NS.
Some of the children entered wholeheartedly into the project and we see Chris Ní Choncarra (Concar) of Coolarne NS who contributed at least fifteen works and Nóra Seoige (Joyce), also of Coolarne NS with fourteen. It is interesting to see the divide between the sexes, the girls’ essays, outnumberig the boys’ by around five to one.
Many family names recorded are names which are still identified as being of the parish, for example Concar, Joyce, Holland, Hession, Golding, Shaughnessy, Hanley, Burke, McGrath, Hughes, Culkeen, McTigue, O’Brien, Delaney, and Dunleavy.
Originally the essays were written in the child’s home exercise copybook and then transferred into specially provided large notebooks which were bound, labelled, numbered, and filed in order of province, county, barony, and parish.
One of the most striking things about the essarys is the wonderful penmanship, especially in the Irish language essays written in the old Gaelic script.
The local writings give us fascinating insight of the countryside in 1937-1938. The topics about which they were instructed to research and write ranged from local history and monuments, folktales and legends, riddles and proverbs to songs, customs and beliefs. They were also encouraged to write about topics such as games and pastimes as well as traditional work practices and crafts. We can read of superstitions, holy wells, cures, weathlore, and of course in the days before electric light banished them from the darkest corners of our homes, ghosts, fairies and banshees.
The simplicity of many of the stories would pale when compared to the stories of science fictionand adventure read by today’s children.
Did they ever think that ninety years later their essays would be the subject of Lackagh parish book? And that is where they are now to be found.
The Lackagh Museum and Community Development Association is now publishing a book to commemorate our pupils of 1938 and they hope that readers will enjoy this look back at the beliefs, stories, and customs of our people of almost one hundred years ago.
Michael Hurley has taken a comprehensive selection of the essays by local children and translated some and transcribed others into an attractive 124 page volume.
The book, simply entitled Schools’ Essays, Lackagh Parish 1938, will be on sale in local shops in the areas of Lackagh and Turloughmore more at a price of €10, and all profits will be used for the upkeep of the Museum and Heritage Centre.
The publishers acknowledge with grateful thanks the financial assistance from Galway County Council’s Community Support Scheme 2022, which helped in no small measure to make this publication a reality.
The book will be launched at the Lackagh contribution to National Heritage Week on Saturday week (August 11th), in the Lackagh Parish Centre (Carnoneenn) (betweem Flynn’s of Lackagh and the Church) at 8pm following evening Mass in Lackagh. The launch will be performed by Noel Grealish TD. further details may be had by sending an email to [email protected].