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Pupils from St Joseph’s Boys N.S. Co. Monaghan celebrate the launch of ‘Across an Open Field”

‘Across an Open Field’ was launched at St Joseph’s Boys National School, Carrickmacross Co. Monaghan on Thursday December 8th by Eugene O’Gorman, chairperson of the school’s Board of Management. Thirty-two children from 3rd to 6th class in St Joseph’s Boys N.S. contributed to the book, revealing unique accounts and personal insights into the events of 1912-1922.

Over 300 children from 10 primary schools across 8 counties in Ireland and Northern Ireland investigated global and national happenings, local events and family stories in the 1912-1922 era. The children became action researchers within their own communities during a two-year project led by Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership and funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs Reconciliation Fund.

Children from St Joseph’s Boys National School were supported in their research by teacher Linda O’Sullivan, writer Mary Branley and artist Ann Donnelly. They explored family histories, the role of blood relations during World War I and The War of Independence, and the Clones Shootings of 1922.

Kyle Cassidy (6th class) found out that his great granduncle PJ Cassidy won a medal for bravery for “carrying a machine gun forward under enemy fire” during the Battle of Verdun in 1918: ‘My granddad had a chest of stuff about him. I felt excited because someone in our family was in such a big event and I had real things from 100 years ago to show the boys in class.’

The class were excited to learn about the Belgian refugees who were brought to Monaghan during World War I by Leona Leslie of Castle Leslie: ‘The local people lined up to welcome the refugees with the Belgian flag on their chests. The De Neve family stayed longer than any other family of refugees. They taught the Irish women how to make lace, making a business called the Belbroid. They opened a company in Monaghan which employed 180 people and a store in Dublin, taking orders from all over the world. Leona Leslie was awarded the Medaille De la Reine from the Queen of Belgium for all her kindness to the refugees.’

Fíonán Carolan, age 12, said: ‘When the project started I asked my Dad if he had any relations in the war or anything to do with the Easter Rising. I didn’t expect to have any connection. It was very interesting to find out how they lived. I’ve become passionate about history, the Rising, the War, Michael Collins, the Titanic and the Lusitania.’

I feel that children have developed a wonderful sense of how history can leap off the page and come alive for them from this project.’ – Linda O’Sullivan, Teacher, St Joseph’s BNS, Carrickmacross

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