‘Scéaltaí: The 1930s Schools’ Manuscript Collection in County Donegal’, a unique booklet capturing an insight into the folk life, material culture, heritage and folklore of Donegal in the 1930s was successfully launched at a special event in Dooish National School recently.

“In 1937-1938, the Irish Folklore Commission, in collaboration with the Department of Education and the Irish National Teachers' Organisation, initiated a revolutionary scheme in which schoolchildren were encouraged to collect and document folklore, material culture, heritage and local history.

“Over a period of eighteen months, over 50,000 children in 5,000 primary schools in twenty-six counties were encouraged to collect folklore material in their home districts on themes such as local history and monuments, folktales and legends, riddles and proverbs, songs, customs and beliefs, games and pastimes, traditional work practices and crafts,” explains Joseph Gallagher, Heritage Officer with Donegal County Council.

“As part of the implementation of the County Donegal Heritage Plan, Dr. Eithne Ní Ghallchobhair was commissioned to research and write this free, A5-size, 56-page booklet which is the fourth in the 'Donegal Heritage Series' published by the County Donegal Heritage Office, Donegal County Council in association with The Heritage Council,” adds Joseph.

“The Schools’ Manuscript Collection is a national treasure, truly unique in its substance and in its execution,” said author Dr. Eithne Ní Ghallchobhair.

“On a national level, it’s fascinating to note that while this extraordinarily successful project was coordinated at the highest administrative level, the groundwork was completed by children.

“The Schools’ Manuscript Collection in its entirety is the ultimate tribute to them and to the teachers of the time who worked in circumstances far beyond the call of duty and whose commitment and enthusiasm was paramount to the success of the scheme.

“That this work was done by children in their own localities with nothing other than pen and paper enhances its merit and secures the Schools’ Manuscript Collection in the affections of everyone interested in the heritage and oral traditions of Ireland.”

The author of the booklet, Eithne Ní Ghallchobhair, is a native of Ardara and Eagarthóir Cúnta / Assistant Editor of the Foclóir Stairiúil na Nua-Ghaeilge / Historical Dictionary of Modern Irish with the Royal Irish Academy as well as a children’s author and storyteller.

Dr Críostóir Mac Cárthaigh, Director of the National Folklore Collection, University College Dublin will launch the booklet.

The National Folklore Collection in UCD is recognised as one of Europe’s largest archives of oral tradition and cultural history, and was inscribed in 2017 to the UNESCO Memory of the World Register.

The archive is committed to collecting and documenting the folklore and folk customs of all Irish communities.

The Schools’ Folklore Collection from the schools that participated in the scheme from County Donegal can now be consulted on-line at www.duchas.ie

Cllr Seamus Ó Domhnaill, Cathaoirleach of Donegal County Council was also be in attendance at the launch.

Copies of the free booklet will be made available to schools through the Donegal Education Centre.

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