Schools’ Folklore Scheme (1937-38)

old-ladyIn 1937 the Irish Folklore Commission, in collaboration with the Department of Education and the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation, initiated a revolutionary scheme in which schoolchildren were encouraged to collect and document folklore and local history.

Over a period of eighteen months some 100,000 children in 5,000 primary schools in the twenty-six counties of the Irish Free State were encouraged to collect folklore material in their home districts. The topics about which the children were instructed to research and write included local history and monuments, folktales and legends, riddles and proverbs, songs, customs and beliefs, games and pastimes, traditional work practices and crafts, etc. The children collected this material mainly from their parents and grandparents and other older members of the local community or school district. Now known as the Schools’ Manuscript Collection, the scheme resulted in more than half a million manuscript pages of valuable material.

Sean Ó Súilleabháin Archivist to the Irish Folklore Commission sums up the worth of the Schools’ Scheme


“The Schools’ Scheme was beneficial in many ways: it covered all areas in the Republic, which the full-time or part-time collectors could never hope to do, it brought the parents and neighbour clsoe to the school-work; it gave the children an interest in their own districts and the lore to be found in them; and it provided future research-workers with a large body of lore (varying, naturally, in quality) which could not have amassed in any other way.”


Digital recollections


No national study has been undertaken since. The idea for the digital recollections project was borne from the 1937 National Schools Folklore Study. The project assumed a more modern feel and instead of a pencil, students would be allocated digital recording devices to conduct the interview process, and on completion of this process, the narratives would be uploaded on to a website. The objectives of this project were twofold. Firstly, both the young and old participating in the project will learn how to use digital recording devices and also the social aspect of the interview process, secondly it educated national school children about the cultures and traditions which reside in their communities, thereby preserving them for future generations.

The study encompassed national schools in South Tipperary, given budget constraints the number of schools was confined to 12. The funding for the Digital Recollections Project was awarded by South Tipperary Development Company through the Rural Development Programme. Hundreds of hours of recordings were submitted by the 12 national schools and this website showcases the wonderful work by these national school children and their teachers and hopefully will preserve the culture and traditions of their native communities.

Click on Digital Recollections 2013 to redirect to the Digital Recollections channel.