Sixty pupils from third to sixth class in Northampton National School, Kinvara, have contributed to Across An Open Field, the first Irish history book written and illustrated by children.
Children from the school were supported in their research by teachers Shane McDonagh, Róisín Forde, and Orla McHale, writer Mary Branley, and artist Ann Donnelly. They explored family histories and the role of blood relations during World War I, the 1916 Rising, and the War of Independence. The book was launched in Northampton National School by Fine Gael Galway East TD Ciaran Cannon this week.
The book tells the story of Lady May Pollington, the great-grandmother of Northampton sixth class pupil May Sheehan, whose father Charles wrote letters to her from the HMS Fortitude during WWI. "It’s strange the way things haven’t changed in my family in a hundred years," May [pictured below] has noted. "My granny uses the same language as Charles wrote in his letters home: 'My Darling May'."
Grace Bermingham (sixth class ), discovered her great grandfather, Sean O’Neill, fought in the War of Independence and ended up in Dartmoor Prison where he wrote to his parents that he was "toddling along". He also wrote to his sweetheart, Annie Nolan, from prison and they married when the war ended in 1922 when he was released as part of a general amnesty.
Fr John O’Meehan, the great granduncle of Clodagh Leech (sixth class ), was a curate in Salthill with Father Griffin and a member of the Irish Volunteers. One night the Black and Tans were looking for him and pretended that there was an urgent sick call. Fr Meehan was out playing cards, so Fr Griffin went instead. His body was later found in a bog by Fr Meehan: ‘It’s scary to know what they went through at that time," said Clodagh. "I’m glad we live in a peaceful time, and things like that don’t happen any more in Kinvara or Galway.’
Across An Open Field (Kids’ Own Publishing ) features contributions from more than 300 children from 10 primary schools across eight counties in the Republic and Northern Ireland. It is available from kidsown.ie for €12.