Tales of family heroism echo a century later with Decade of Centenaries competition

Pupils from fourth, fifth, and sixth class at Model School, Dunmanway, Co Cork, show their delight after receiving their prize in the Decade of Centenaries competition.

Local connections to national and global events a century ago have been unearthed by winners of a schools’ history competition.

The impact of the First World War and the War of Independence were prevalent among the eight winners who received prizes from Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan at University College Cork, one of the competition sponsors. They were selected from 200 entries to the Decade of Centenaries all-island essay competition, organised to mark the centenary of important events between 1912 and 1922.

Pupils of fourth to sixth classes at Model School in Dunmanway, Co Cork, won a primary school category for their project which analysed the reasons why a Bandon family joined the British army and fought in the First World War, one of many family histories the school investigated.

Tales of family heroism echo a century later with Decade of Centenaries competition

Zara Stout, on behalf of Model School, Dunmanway, receives the prize from Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan at the Aula Maxima in University College Cork.

The story of Mark Furlong’s great-grandfather Robert Furlong, who fought in the same war with the US army, won the fifth class pupil at Dunboyne Senior Primary School, in Meath, the primary biography category.

The other winners included the third-class project at CBS Primary in Dundalk, Co Louth, on the impact of the First World War on their community. They found out that relatives of pupils were on board the SS Dundalk when it was torpedoed in October 1918 with the loss of 18 lives. Pupils of Gartan National School won for their telling of the importance of the Donegal railways to the local community in the 1900s.

At post-primary level, two of the four categories were won by transition-year classes at St Joseph’s Secondary School, in Rochfortbridge, Co Westmeath. One group examined the local impact of the Black and Tans in 1920 and 1921 and particularly on their convent school, while another won the local/regional section for telling the story of a former school for the deaf in their school building.

The War of Independence featured in two other prize-winning second-level entries, one by Sinéad Callanan from Castletroy College in Limerick about the role of Na Fianna, the Irish national boys scouts, in events of 1912-22. The other was an account of IRA officer Andrew Gallagher’s role in the War of Independence in Offaly, submitted by his great-grand-niece, Eimear Gallagher, a student of Sacred Heart School in Tullamore.

Tales of family heroism echo a century later with Decade of Centenaries competition

Sinead Callanan of Castletroy, Co Limerick, receives her prize from Jan O’Sullivan for her project on the role of Na Fianna in events of 1912-22.

Ms O’Sullivan congratulated the winners and said that their projects are a credit to themselves and their teachers.

“You have unearthed little-known and long-forgotten stories and presented them in clear and engaging ways, and added to our understanding of what happened in our country a century ago,” she said.

Lecturers from UCC’s School of History praised the projects for their use of historical sources and their ability to tell family stories dispassionately. Many said they learned about aspects of Irish history they did not previously know or fully appreciate until they had seen the winning projects.

Each winning entry received a trophy and selection of books from Mercier Press . All winners’ work will be published at www.scoilnet.ie

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