It's Us They're Talking About: Laurence Farren

Margaret Farren

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Last year's McGlinchey Summer School celebrated the work of Clonmany's children in compiling stories for the Irish Folklore Commission back in 1938. This year, after all the excitement had died down, it made perfect sense to make contact with some of the original scholars to find out what, if anything, they remembered about the exercise and about their school days in general.In so doing I was faced with a few practical considerations. Firstly, after a gap of sixty years, not all of them lived in the area, and even those who were twenty mile radius were not necessarily accessible to me, relying as I was on the lend of a bicycle or the kindness of relatives with cars. This, I hope, goes some way towards explaining why so few ofthe scholars were contacted this year. To those of you who escaped I can only say "Beware, there is always next year"

At this stage I couldn't help but be struck by the parallels between my own situation and that of the scholars of '37/'38. Having decided who was within my grasp, I next had to decide who, within the time constraints, would most readily talk to me. There's a certain poetic justice in it, I suppose. Sixty years after they had to do it themselves, the scholars, now in their 70's, were being sought out for their good story-telling.

Fortunately I had at least one prime subject who wouldn't take much tracking down.

Laurence Farren

Laurence Farren, my father, had submitted no less than 5 copy books, full of, cures, fairy tales and other oul' guff. Wouldn't such a prolific contributor as himself have advice on how to proceed with these interviews? Surely someone who had succeeded in picking the brains of local storytellers to the tune of 5 copy books would know how I could stay focused and enthusiastic about my work.

"It was all just part of the school day and you would have to present your topic to the teacher in the morning between the other lessons. The first thing you did in the morning was one boy would be detailed to light the fire. Another two would be sent down to Scradooey [?] to pick some sally rods, and God help you if you said you couldn't find any! Then you'd have your half an hour of different subjects. We had no Irish 'til Master Kavanagh came, then he took us for Irish and wee Master Danny used to take us for singing. We had a good choir in them days.




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