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Ireland in Schools

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Two very different themes - myths & legends and the Famine - have inspired imaginative drama throughout the curriculum.
Finn & the fawn - physical drama
Perhaps the most inventive drama was devised by one of Sefton's Advanced Skills Teachers for Drama, Neil Williams of Maricourt High School.
Neil's physical drama used a narrative poem he had composed about one of the stories surrounding the legendary Finn MacCool.
This was Finn's marriage to, and subsequent loss of, Sadbh (pronounced Saive), who first apeared to him in the form of a fawn while he was out hunting with his faithful hounds, Bran and Sceolan (pronounced Skiu-lin).h
And when inside,
What a sight to see!
The fawn he’d brought home
Had changed mysteriously.
And in its place,
In the middle of the hall
Stood a beautiful young woman
Majestic and tall.
‘My name is Sadbh*’ she said,
And then explained how she
Had come under a spell, cleverly cast
By the Dark Druid of the men of Dea.
Because she had refused to marry the man
As a fawn she was forced to survive,
Hunted and chased and hounded,
Trying desperately to keep alive.
But now she was in the land of Finn
The spell had fallen apart,
And a beautiful woman had reappeared
And soon she captured Finn’s heart.
Please click on the following links for the poem and scheme of work; children's drama diaries; PowerPoint
Dramatic representations of the harrowing experience of the Irish Famine in the 1840s are provoking much thought and reflection at all levels.
In primary schools, plays are often based upon historical novels, such as Malachy Doyle's The Great Hunger. A Tale about the Famine in Ireland (Franklin Watts, 0-74963-447-2).
At St Hugh’s Catholic Primary School in Liverpool one such play provided the climax of Ann Brown's four-week cross-curricular unit, Famine in Ireland.
At secondary level, the drama is often inspired by particular historical events.
At Plessington Catholic High School on the Wirral, John Owen adopted a cross- curricular, multi-cultural approach to the Famine. He based his Year 9 five-act playscript, Doolough, set in a TV news desk, on the extraordinary act of generosity of the Choctaw Indians in raising money for famine relief in Ireland.
Drew Rowlands at Rockferry High School drew on the Famine to explore the role that Drama can play in the delivery of ‘the essential elements’ of education for citizenship.
His Drama, citizenship & the Irish famine 1845-1852 enabled GCSE students to explore the dramatic convention of ‘Documentary Drama’ and thus gain knowledge and understanding of Ireland and the Famine and develop their knowledge and understanding of citizenship.

We did not know what documentary drama was but now realise that it is a type of drama using facts in a performance and the way it is presented makes the audience think.


It helped me understand about the part I

play in a group and about group dynamics. (We learnt about rights and responsibilities of the Government). Also the process was aimed at understanding about democracy and how it works and the ability to analyse and research.

Beforehand I knew nothing about the famine. I found out about facts and analysed the famine. It had and impact on me in that I wanted to know more. It also had an impact on England and some people may not be here because the Irish would not have come over if it was not for the famine.

16 plus
Tim Kershaw's Irish inspirations: stimuli & structures for creating original drama is a workpack which encourages students to create original drama, while at the same time developing knowledge and understanding of the rich diversity of Irish literature.

It consists of warm up exercises, models of good practice and a wide range of stimulus material, drawing largely on Irish materials, ranging from ancient myths and legends to the poetry of Seamus Heaney and the recollections of children who grew up in the
present troubles in Northern Ireland.

The unit places this Irish material in a wider context and always provides ‘practitioner links’, particularly to the teachings of Bertolt Brecht and Konstantin Stanislavski.