Cumann Seandalaiochta agus Staire Phort Lairge

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

A Young Historian's Notebook : 1. Why Do You Like History?

Over a few articles, Cian Manning shares with us his thoughts on his love of History,  
and gives some advice to budding historians. 

1. Why Do You Like History?

     Over the course of several years from volunteering with the Deerpark CBS Homework Club in Cork to working on a local history program with Ms. Laura O’Brien in Mount Sion Primary School, the most common question I’m asked is why do you like History? The first time I was asked this was also the first time that I had to give thought to why I loved a subject that a lot of people find dusty, stuffy and boring (and not necessarily in that order). If anything it could say a lot about my personality! 

The Bull Post on the Hill of Ballybricken, Waterford City

     Firstly, I was always encouraged by my parents to learn about the history of Waterford and Ireland. My dad Ollie is the proudest Waterfordian I know and whenever we went away on holidays to sunnier climes he promoted Ireland’s oldest city. If anything the Tourist Board owe my father a fortune in his public relations endeavours. Once in Lisbon we met a Canadian businessman who appeared to be a real highflyer, who travelled to London and Tokyo, but my father simply put it that this man hadn’t experienced anything till he visited Ballybricken. Tis a state of mind you know. My brother Olin and I would joke about it but since we were in college in Cork we’ve morphed into mini versions of our dad. Tipperary and Kerry students had Lar Corbett and Gooch Cooper with oodles of All-Irelands, we had Mount Sion, Edmund Rice’s first school and Paddy Coad, the greatest Irish soccer player to never play for an English team. Ye can keep yer Celtic crosses lads! 

Blue Plaque to Paddy Coad,
Doyle Street, Waterford City

     These interests were nurtured by trips to Wexford to learn about 1798 which led me to telling my senior infant class teacher Sharon O’Connor that I dreamed of becoming a ‘Pikeman’ (everyone else said a footballer or millionaire). She was the first teacher to encourage my interest in history at such a young age printing off reams of papers of Egyptian hieroglyphs and statutes to colour in. There were great visits to the Dunbrody where a re-enactor/guide set us the challenge of each question we asked would get her an item of food to feed her starving family. Safe to say I asked enough questions that it would have fed the whole of the ship for months. But it was the encouragement and cultivating the interest that has always stayed with me.

Statue of a Pikeman, Wexford

     Whenever I’m asked the question now of why do I like History? I simply quote one of my mam Miriam’s favourite wordsmiths, Marti Pellow of Wet, Wet, Wet, “it’s all around me” (okay maybe a slight paraphrasing there). History is there in the stories of our parents; it’s in the names of our streets, our schools and sports clubs. Since the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising there’s an insatiable appetite in young students to learn more and more about the past.

A few years later now I’m  asked how do I learn more? To quote another poet, W.B. Yeats, ‘Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire’, may students be encouraged to learn more about their history for years to come. 

To be continued

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