A project that began as a small research exercise, during the 2021 COVID lockdown has led to an award winning, nationally acclaimed book. The book titled, ‘Little People, Big Pasts’ is a collection of intriguing and thrilling stories, written by students aged 12 to 13. This anthology sees Ramsgrange youngsters, dig deep into their family history.
We are all aware of the negatives and downsides brought about by the pandemic but we cannot deny that there were also many positives that came out of it as we all adapted to our new normal and this project is the very epitome of that. Back in 2021, while these students were in first year and engaging in online learning, their history teacher, Ms. Dee O’Donohoe, challenged the class to investigate their own family histories by speaking with their parents, grandparents and relatives in order to come back with a story from the past, no matter how big or small, which they could then share with the rest of the class.
Serving as a small task in order to get the students interested in history and their own personal pasts, their teacher, Ms. O’Donohoe, stated that she could never have anticipated the stories that the students, in just one year group and in a small rural school, came back with. She was blown away by the contributions and it was then that she decided that these stories needed to be put down on paper and shared with others. A project reminiscent of The Schools’ Folklore Collection which was rolled out in the 1930s in which primary school children across the country collected and recorded stories of local history and oral tradition, ‘Little People, Big Pasts’ aims to preserve these local historic stories as well as getting them out there for others to learn from and enjoy.
The book contains stories from all corners of the world, over various periods in history from tales of local bombings to the Titanic, the battlefields of France to the deserts of Africa. Stories of the Irish diaspora, witnesses of modern-day genocide, World War One and Two soldiers and paratroopers, executed leaders of the Rising, spies, Volunteers, growing up during the Troubles and so many other inspirational and influential men and women who, without a doubt, shaped our future by being the heroes of our pasts. The book has had numerous contributions from over 30 students and one amazing factor, which came out of the collation of the stories and the research for the book as a whole, was the amount of connections and co-incidences that were discovered without the students even realising.
The first edition of the book reached the market in December 2021 and since then, its success has grown and grown. The students themselves have been extremely busy selling the publication both locally as well as nationally at events such as the Gifted Fair in the RDS, Dublin. The book and team have also achieved success and recognition at a variety of enterprise competitions both locally and nationally winning the Wexford Student Enterprise Programme (SEP) – Intermediate Category and then going on to take 2nd prize in the Student Enterprise Programme National Final.
And all that even before the book has been officially launched! Ms. O’Donohoe and the gang are planning an official book launch, with the second edition, in the new school year. They have invited Minister for Heritage, Malcolm Noonan, T.D, to the event (date TBC). They also plan to get these, and the other stories that did not make this edition, down in podcasts.
Recognition is thoroughly deserved for these students and their teacher and the phenomenal work they have put in, over the past year and a half. A special mention must go to the five students who represented the team at the Enterprise competitions: Louise Byrne, Ben Cassidy, Aoibhínn Doyle, Ellie Byrne-Donnelly, Matthew Haskins. A big mention must also go to the rest of the team; Jake Harris, Maeve Burke, Alesha Keogh, Rachel Hayes, Josh Sheridan, Eoin Noel, Úna Dwyer and Kate Swan all of whom worked extremely hard to research, check and cross check all the stories to finally get the publication together and promote it so vigorously giving it the platform it deserves.