Kells Schools Folklore Collection 1937/38 


This unique collection is part of the School Folklore Scheme of 1937/38 which the Irish Folklore Commission, in collaboration with the Department of Education and the Irish National Teachers' Organisation, initiated a revolutionary scheme in which schoolchildren were encouraged to collect and document folklore and local history.
Over a period of eighteen months some 100,000 children in 5,000 primary schools in the twenty-six counties of the Irish Free State were encouraged to collect folklore material in their home districts. The topics about which the children were instructed to research and write included local history and monuments, folktales and legends, riddles and proverbs, songs, customs and beliefs, games and pastimes, traditional work practices and crafts, etc. The children collected this material mainly from their parents and grandparents and other older members of the local community or school district. Now known as the Schools' Manuscript Collection, the scheme resulted in more than half a million manuscript pages of valuable material.

Here in Kells, three schools participated, namely, Mercy Convent, Boys Primary and Kells Parochial School.

Over 60 children took part and collected a wide range of folklore and beliefs that were imbedded in the culture of the people, never written down before and which probably because of a slow cultural change would have been lost if not for their efforts. This fascinating collection, includes stories of the night of the big wind, legends of Kells, cures of all kinds, how to make rush lights, prophecies of St. Colmcille, old proverbs, Castles, wells, mansions, mass paths, monuments of all descriptions  in Kells, the priests shirt, the exploits of the Napper Tandy, the Mighty Ambrose Quinn, Cromwell, Headforts and the Big houses, Robbers Castle and Bishop Hugh de Lacy, Famine and the Workhouse, etc. there is so much more that the second Book of Kells will probably have to be written.

Now, 75 years later we are delighted to put on display this unique collection, and showcase their work for all to see during National Heritage Week in the Kells library, Maudlin St. Kells.

 The Launch of the Kells Schools Folklore Collection on Tuesday 20th August 2013, was a very successful event, with well over 100 people packed into the Kells Library to view the exhibit, which now has been extended until Saturday 31st because of phenomenal interest. The event was launched by Charherlaoch Oliver Sweeney, who was delighted that the collection had finally arrived back in Kells , and that the event has created a great buzz, and it was wonderful to see so many interested in viewing what their relatives had collected during the Schools Folklore Collection, all of which relates to the Town and district. County Librarian Ciarán Mangan went on to say that 500,000 manuscript pages of the Schools Folklore Collection (SFC) are in the UCD archives.Microfilm copies of the Meath material are available for reference at the Local Studies Dept in the County Library in Navan but on Tuesday night he congratulated Kells Archaeological & Historical Society (KAHS), on bringing the material back to the people of Kells. He remarked that seventy five years later we have people present on the night who can point out to pages on display and say “That’s the work I did at school ,when I was in 5th class in 1938.”How many of today’s children will be able to say that in 75 years time? Ciarán went on to say the SFC is one of the most valuable and valued collections in the LS Department and that the Library Service were delighted to work in partnership with KAHS in bringing this collection to the attention of as wide an audience as possible.

When collected, some of the stories were written by the children themselves, some were written for them, and others copied into manuscripts. In some cases, their has been some deterioration in ink quality, also when copied onto microfiche in 1976 further quality loss is evident. The microfiche operator’s well manicured finger is quiet evident in some pages, also with scanned images the quality is lower to minimise file size, but all in all the greater part is readable.


Mercy Convent V1

Mercy Convent V2

Mercy Convent V3

Mercy Convent V4

Kells Parochial NS

Kells Boys Primary V1

Kells Boys Primary V11

HERE for Launch night Photos