Approximately 740,000 pages (288,000 pages in the pupils’ original exercise books; 451,000 pages in bound volumes) of folklore and local tradition were compiled by pupils from 5,000 primary schools in the Irish Free State between 1937 and 1939.
This collecting scheme was initiated by the Irish Folklore Commission, under the direction of Séamus Ó Duilearga and Séan Ó Súilleabháin, Honorary Director and Registrar of the Commission respectively, and was heavily dependent on the cooperation of the Department of Education and the Irish National Teachers’ Organization. It was originally to run from 1937 to 1938 but was extended to 1939 in specific cases. For the duration of the project, more than 50,000 schoolchildren from 5,000 schools in the 26 counties of the Irish Free State were enlisted to collect folklore in their home districts. This included oral history, topographical information, folktales and legends, riddles and proverbs, games and pastimes, trades and crafts. The children recorded this material from their parents, grandparents, and neighbours.
The scheme resulted in the creation of over half a million manuscript pages, generally referred to as ‘Bailiúchán na Scol’ or ‘The Schools’ Collection’.
There are 1,128 volumes, numbered and bound, in the Collection. A title page prefaces each school, giving the name of the school, the parish, the barony, the county and the teacher. A further collection of approximately 40,000 of the children’s original copybooks are stored at the NFC.
They usually had their breakfast about eight (and) o’clock, their dinner around twelve o’clock and their tea at [?]
These meals consisted of milk and oat cake for their breakfast and for tea in the evening, and fish and potatoes for their dinner. Buttermilk and sweet milk was drunk. The people sat round a basket full of potatoes and fish in the centre of the floor and ate their dinner. Oaten bread was eaten, it was made on a griddle placed in front of the fire.
Meat was very seldom used. Bacon was also little used. They had a great feast on Easter Sunday.
Some people did not get any eggs until Easter came and then they had a great feast that day.