Opening Speeches
Marius Harkin and Desmond Kavanagh

3 of 5


We must tonight also celebrate the role of all the teachers of this parish in the precious way they guided the young students in collecting all this work, thus enabling future generations to peer into our past. Master Danny Doherty and Sarah Kathleen McLaughlin are here tonight and it is important that we acknowledge their presence. The teachers here, male and female, in the words of the poet Seamus Heaney " maintained the great tradition of the Irish country school masters who have helped to give voice to local cultures which they loved and served ". This tradition wonderfully continues today with the Pushkin awards and the ICA Essay awards.

At about the time the folklore material was being collected the poet W.B. Yeats wrote in an essay "Behind all Irish history hangs a great tapestry". For Yeats this was a tapestry of the imagination in which important figures of myth, legend and history moved. These teachers of Ireland moved across this tapestry in their lifetime and like the famous figures of the past have now stepped back into that tapestry themselves and have become part of it.

In my early childhood, growing up in the village of Clonmany, I clearly imagined that the world was flat and that Clonmany marked both the beginning and the end of that world. I had an idea that if you sailed far enough out into Binnion Bay out beyond Glasheedy Rock that in some mysterious way the world ended out there. I thought that the world then spread out from Clonmany onwards. And why not? This idea was underlined to me by the fact that Lough Swilly buses came down the village, turned and then went back up again, and the few cars that were around at the time did the same. You did not pass through Clonmany to get to any other place as it were, - how I envied towns like Carndonagh and Buncrana where the buses and cars could pass through and go on to another place! It was, I suppose, my child's mind trying to position my native place in some sort of context and giving it due importance there which was only right! I remember then the day when we were in 2nd Class at the school, the late master, Tom Haughey, introduced us to the Globe and the idea that the world was in fact round. We were badly taken aback for the idea that the world was flat seemed fairly prevalent at that age amongst us. When Tom showed us Ireland on the world globe, we were shocked at seeing how small it was. I remember the late Connie Doherty saying at the time that it must not be much of a globe when you could hardly see Malin Head on it, and you couldn't see Dunaff head at all! I think in a way that that point marked the beginning of the loss of a significant part of our innocence. The point from which we started to place Clonmany more accurately in the great World of which we were part, and of which we rapidly became in awe.

At about the same time, and like schoolchildren throughout Ireland, as we were getting going at writing, we used to like to put a very full and detailed address on our exercise books and on what text books we had. We would write Clonmany, Inishowen, Co. Donegal, Ulster , Ireland, Europe, The World, The Universe. I understand from my wife, Mary, that in Ahascragh, Co. Galway when she was growing up they did the same except they also added "Amen " which suggests that they were somewhat more religious that us! I think also, however, that the act of writing out that worldwide address reflects also the child's mind looking out, down Inishowen, down through Donegal, through the rest of the country and onwards to Europe, the World and the Universe. The early awareness that we were part of something vast, something awesome. It strikes me that what we are doing at the McGlinchey Summer School is that we are making that journey in reverse. The media, television in particular, has made us all citizens of the world, citizens of the Universe. We have seen a man on the moon, as opposed to a man in the moon of our childhood, so we have become citizens of that universe, that world, and we are now certainly citizens of Europe officially. So this is a reverse journey back in our minds from those experiences of far off places back through Ireland, through Donegal and Inishowen to refocus on our culture and past here in Clonmany



Comments, problems, feedback? Send email to: webmaster@clonmany.com

Copyright © Inishsoft Limited. All Rights Reserved.