NSI at Ulster Museum, 2017-2018

Never Such Innocence roadshow at the Ulster Museum a big success.

We were privileged to visit the Ulster Museum on Thursday 19th October as part of our roadshow events programme.  We were lucky enough to be there at the same time as the ‘Weeping Window’ sculpture, which has been touring major buildings since its launch at the Tower of London.

Local schools came together to learn more about the First World War and its impact and legacy on the local area and globally, and to commemorate the centenary through poetry, art, and song.  Children from Ballinderry Primary, Sullivan Upper School, Ashfield Boys’ School, Strathearn School, and Rathmore Grammar School all came along to commemorate the War and students from all five schools took to the stage.  We were also joined by former winner Maeve Loney, who won the poetry competition in 2016 with her incredible poem No Poppies in the Sand.  Maeve has now left St. Patrick’s College but very kindly came along to read her poem to the young people in attendance. 

The children were treated to a background on the First World War from Colleen Watters of the Ulster Museum, who showed everyone some incredible postcards from the period and explained how the Irish experience of the War was unique.  Flynn Ryan of Rathmore Grammar School then recited Tom Kettle’s 1916 poem To My Daughter Betty.  Kettle, along with a multitude of other poets, is featured in the Never Such Innocence resource pack, which is available free of charge to all schools. 

Lady Lucy French then introduced the Never Such Innocence poetry and art competition and Songs of the Centenary, and encouraged the children to use their creativity to engage with their shared history and heritage.

Zach, Rhys, Leon, Thomas, Matthew, Kyle, Michael, and Bradley from Ashfield Boys’ School then recited their First World War-inspired poetry with huge confidence.  Ellie, Andra, Hannah, Ellia, and Zara from Strathearn School then followed with their poetry, showing incredible confidence and understanding of the period.

We were then treated to The Green Fields of France, sung by Oisin O’Sullivan from Sullivan Upper School. Oisin played the guitar as well as singing the beautiful song reflecting on the grave of a young man who died in the First World War. 

Glenn Hearnden from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission then spoke about the Commission’s work all over the world, and the War Graves located nearby.  He showed us the examples of First World War graves in Belfast City, Miltown, Irvinestown Church of Ireland Churchyard, Drumachose, and Londonderry / Derry City.  Glenn also showed everyone how to use the CWGC database to look up individuals who died during the World Wars and War Graves near a local area.

Oisin’s classmates Lauren, Emily, Michael, Aimee, Corin, and Cory then read famous published poems from the First World War, including ‘The Send-Off’ by Wilfred Owen

To close the event, Ballinderry Primary School P7 sang their original song All Together, which they wrote in a workshop earlier in the week facilitated by Teacher and Artist in Residence Marty Longstaff as part of Songs of the Centenary.  The class wrote All Together with Marty after learning about the First World War and particularly the Battle of Messines, and all took part in the singing.  Everyone at the Ulster Museum was so impressed with how mature and musically advanced the children were.

Finally, there was an opportunity for everyone to have some squash and biscuits, and take away the Never Such Innocence educational resource to continue learning more about the First World War.

We would like to thank the Ulster Museum for a wonderful day, the teachers of Ballinderry Primary, Strathearn School, Ashfield Boys School, Sullivan Upper School, and Rathmore Grammar, and Maeve Loney and her wonderful family.  Most of all we would like to thank the children and young people who showed such enthusiasm and engagement and a high level of understanding and creativity that left us all amazed.  We can’t wait for everyone’s competition entries – the judges are going to have a difficult year!

Enter your work to the competition here.