Published 30.11.2016
by Kids’ Own

Kilkenny children help to create Ireland’s first history book written and illustrated by children

Across an Open Field is the first Irish history book written and illustrated by children. Twenty-six children from 3rd to 6th class in Lisnafunchin National School, Castlecomer, Co. Kilkenny contributed to the book, revealing local accounts and personal insights into the events of 1912-1922. Across an Open Field was officially launched by Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton, T.D. on Friday 25th November in Kilkenny Education Centre. This unique history book, created by children for children, is available from our online bookshop.

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.

Lisnafunchin National School engaged local historian Paddy Dowling to support them in their research and the children worked alongside their teacher Conor Doyle, writer Mary Branley and artist Ann Donnelly. We learn about Kilkenny-born Michael Byrne who survived the sinking of the Lusitania by the German Navy in 1915, and the fourth battalion of the Irish regiment from Kilkenny who volunteered to dig the graves for the dead passengers. The children were excited to research pioneer aviator, Denys Corbett Wilson, who flew on test runs over Kilkenny before becoming the first person to complete a flight between Great Britain and Ireland in 1912. Eva Lawless (4th class) and Amy Lawless (6th class) discovered that their great grandmother used to hide guns and bullets in her shop on Grafton Street during the Easter Rising. We hear about the Nolan brothers from Castlecomer who fought in World War I: ‘When their cousin John came home from the war, Jack and Micheal’s mother got really mad at him because he went on to the side that killed her sons.’

Paul Fields, Director of Kilkenny Education Centre, said: ‘This publication demonstrates the commonality, humanity and concerns of our nation, all written and drawn by children. It offers a platform for historical discussion about our nation, our people, and how our children understand its evolution, development, emergence and identity.