Harnessing Leitrim's Oral History
Did you know that your Granny's was the first family in the village to own a TV? That your elderly neighbour used to spend time going to house dances for fun? Or that your former teacher was brought up on a farm, dining out on their own bacon supply? Maybe you just haven't asked!
Everyone has a story to tell and passing these stories on through generations is what makes our culture and traditions so rich.
Leitrim County Council's Heritage Office, with funding from the Heritage Council, is launching an Oral History Project to harness our local stories and memories. Oral history is evidence of the past told directly by those who actually experienced it; it is living history and part of our everyday lives.
Send some highlights from your interview, between 200 words to 800 words, and including an overview of the person, their memories and stories, to the Leitrim Heritage Officer (firstname.lastname@example.org).
We'll consider these and get back to you to let you know if we want to add these to our Oral History Project.
Closing date for submissions June 1st 2020.
We want to hear firsthand stories about what life was like across Leitrim decades ago, and gather experiences, attitudes and practices directly from those who know best. We want to connect our modern community with the cultures and traditions which have shaped today's Leitrim. And we need your help to do it! We are looking for people to go find those stories and bring them to us.
Our elderly family members, neighbours and friends may be in self-isolation at the moment but we can still connect with them about their past recollections. You can ask your grandparent over a Skype, shout across to a neighbour or write to someone you know. And let us know what you've gathered. We'll consider the stories as a platform for our Connecting Through Heritage project later this year and pick our favourites. We'll then help you interview and record your subject so that these conversations and stories can be preserved for the future and will form part Leitrim County Library’s Local Studies collection where generations to come will be able to access and enjoy them.
Things to consider before picking up the phone
You could plan your interviews so that questions are focused on certain subjects, such as:
- Family life
- Local traditions in Leitrim
- The school day and how it has changed
- Games and pastimes and how they have changed
- Going to the dances
- Industries, trades or ways of work that have changed in Leitrim
- Changing practices in farming
- Changing modes of transport and communications
- Life in Leitrim during World War II or 'The Emergency'
- The coming of electricity to Leitrim
- Old folklore tales and stories from Leitrim
- Stories connected to local archaeological sites, old houses or graveyards
- Changes in the environment
Preparing for interviews
Have a clear idea about what you want to find out and a list of questions on the theme you want to talk about. Prepare your questions in advance and group the topics you want to cover in a logical way. Before you start the interview, have paper and pen ready to write down the date, your name and age and the name and age of the person you are going to interview. You can also include details of what the relationship is between you and the person you are going to interview e.g. grandparent, neighbour etc.
Encourage questions that are brief and open-ended. For example say "tell me what a school day was like for you?" as opposed to "Did you attend school?". Please see the list of themes above to help you when writing your questions. Examples of other questions relating to pastimes and schools days include: What games, toys and pastimes did you have? What books or magazines did they read and was there a local library to visit? What pets did you have? How did you entertain yourself on long winter evenings or on Sunday afternoons? How did you spend your school holidays? What subjects did you do at school and what methods were they taught? How far did you live from the school and how did you get there? What was typically in your lunch box? How did you celebrate different feasts and festivals: St Brigid Day, Easter, Halloween, Christmas. Did you go out with the Wren Boys on St Stephen's Day? What currency was used? How much would a bar of chocolate cost and where would you have to go to buy items like this?
Questions are a framework to guide the interview and need not be stuck to too rigidly. Often a chronological (life story) structure is best to help jog the memory. The best interviews ﬂow naturally and some of the most interesting things you discover will be unprompted.
Conducting your interviews
Few of us are good at remembering dates and we sometimes merge similar events into a single memory. We also tend to add things we have been told by other people or have read about. So when we interview people it is important to get them to tell us about direct personal experiences (eye‑witness' testimony) rather than things that might have been heard second hand. Limit your interview to half an hour maximum, listening carefully and taking notes if you need to.
Let us know how you got on!
We would love to hear how you get on interviewing or being interviewed. Send your interview highlights to the Heritage Officer (email@example.com) and we'll consider the stories as a platform for our Connecting Through Heritage project later this year and pick our favourites. We'll then help you interview and record your subject so that these conversations and stories can be preserved for the future.
'Connecting Through Heritage' is a Leitrim County Council Heritage Project which is funded by the Heritage Council. This Oral History Project has been run in partnership with Leitrim County Council Heritage Office, Leitrim County Council Library Service and One Little Studio.
If you would like to be kept up to date on Heritage News and Events taking place across the County please email firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the Heritage Email list.