On Thursday 28th May, the 6th class from Rockfield N.S travelled to Jackson’s Hotel, Ballybofey for the ‘Donegal Historical Society Schools competition.
The four members of 6th class - David Doherty, Brídín Maguire, Eugene Doherty and Ciara Cassidy - were successful with their project being awarded the Fr. Jackie Fitzgerald Memorial Plaque.
Below the four pupils tell the story:
“The competition this year focused on a photographic history of our area. We discussed with each other what photographs we should take, and how would we find out information on them.
“We took photos of buildings that we felt would give a history of our area. We used the primary source of the photograph as a starting point. We then got information by using Griffith’s Valuation, which is a map that was made after the famine. It lists the name of the owner of the land and the tenants, and also the buildings.
“We also used secondary sources written about our area, such as Anthony Begley’s book ‘Ballyshannon and Surrounding Areas’. We also asked our parents and our teacher. We have listed below some information on the five buildings we chose, to give a history of our area.”
William Allingham - researched by Brídín Maguire
“I researched William Allingham’s life and times in Ballyshannon. William Allingham was born in a house located at ‘The Mall’, Ballyshannon in 1824. In those days ‘The Mall’ was a commercial area. There was a brewery, a post office and two newspaper offices there. William worked in the Provincial Bank which is where A.I.B is today.
“Allingham, later started working in customs at ‘The Mall’ Port not far from his home. William witnessed many Irish emigrating, which inspired him to write a poem we know as “Adieu to Ballyshannon”. This poem is about an emigrant leaving Ballyshannon and hoping one day that he will return. William left a memoir titled ‘A Diary’ which gives us a great source of information on 19th Century life.”
‘The Workhouse’ - researched by Ciara Cassidy
“I chose this building to represent the National tragedy of the famine. It represents those who died during the famine, those that had to go into the Workhouse due to poverty and those whose only choice was to emigrate.
“The Ballyshannon Poor Law Union came into effect in 1840, and the Union of Ballyshannon helped people from Ballyshannon, and the wider area, including parts of Leitrim, and Fermanagh. The Workhouse was built in 1843. It was designed by architect George Wilkinson. I learned that while in the Workhouse you had to do work to ‘contribute’ for being there. Stone breaking was the main job for men and women worked at the laundry and cleaning. Children from two to nine years of age were allowed a supper of 2oz stirabout which is like porridge.
‘The Sheil Hospital’ - researched by Ciara Cassidy
“This building was chosen as it represented the Sheil family and the good works they did for the town of Ballyshannon. The hospital was built in 1894, from money willed by Dr. Simon Sheil Junior. The family were also benefactors of St. Patrick’s Church in Ballyshannon.
“Dr. Simon Sheil Jr. and his brother Dr. John Barcley Sheil worked to help ease the sickness in Ballyshannon, particularly during the Great Famine. Dr. John Barcley Sheil worked in a Fever Hospital which helped take the pressure of the Workhouse. I read that he also was an attendant on a ship name ‘St. Louis’ which carried people from Liverpool to New York. He wrote a letter saying that the conditions were terrible for those travelling in the under carriage. This is what the Irish people who emigrated had to endure.
‘The Famine Village’ - researched by David Doherty
“I chose ‘The Famine Village’ because it is a part of our local rural history. It is also located near our school. There used to be six buildings but now only one remains fully intact. The building that is left has two bedrooms and two small windows.
“I learned, while researching this, that people chose to have few windows so that they paid less tax. People in Ireland had to pay a window tax, and it is said that the saying ‘daylight robbery’ came from this.
“In Griffiths Valuation it lists families living there, with one building being unoccupied. In the 1901 census fewer families were there and by the 1911 census only one family remained. People who emigrated from Ballyshannon left from ‘The Mall’ Port.”
‘Epworth House’ - researched by Eugene Doherty
“I chose this building as it is part of Ballyshannon’s social heritage. It continues to be a reminder of Ballyshannon’s religious diversity. It was originally built in 1903 as part of the manse for the Methodist Church. The minister lived here so to be close to the Church and its congregation. Methodism is recorded to be part of Ballyshannon’s history since the 1700s.
“While the house was built in the 20th century, I chose it also to be a reminder of the work that many religious people did during the famine, to help those that needed charity. It is recorded that at least 40 ministers died across Ireland from Typhus trying to help those that were affected by the famine. It is to be noted also that half of sixth class live in this house at present!”
The four pupils presented their photographs and information to the judges with a few questions afterwards about our research and they received the Fr. Jackie Fitzgerald Memorial Plaque for their efforts.