Across an Open Field was launched in Galway at Northampton National School by Ciaran Cannon TD on Monday 5th December. Sixty children from 3rd to 6th class in Northampton National School, Kinvara, Co. Galway, 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 in association with Kilkenny Education Centre (representing the Association of Teacher Education Centres in Ireland) and the Education Authority, Northern Ireland.
Children from Northampton National 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 Easter Rising and The War of Independence. We learn about Lady May Pollington, the great grandmother of May Sheehan (6th class), whose father Charles wrote letters to her from the HMS Fortitude during World War I. She later married a man called John Hosty who played a big role in the Galway Rising and wanted a memorial to be built in Galway. It never was.
Father John O’Meehan, the great granduncle of Clodagh Leech (6th 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. Father Meehan was out playing cards, so Father Griffin went instead. His body was later found in a bog by Father Meehan: ‘It’s scary to know what they went through at that time. I’m glad we live in a peaceful time, and things like that don’t happen any more in Kinvara or Galway.’
Grace Bermingham (6th class), discovered that 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 and he was released as part of a general amnesty.
‘It’s strange the way things haven’t changed in my family in a hundred years. My granny uses the same language as Charles wrote in his letters home: “My Darling May.”’ – May Sheehan, 6th class, Northampton National School, Kinvara