The Schools’ Collection

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.


“Meat was very seldom used. Bacon was also little used”
 Long ago people ate three meals every day – breakfast, dinner and tea.
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.
“People scarcely eat any meat long ago”
“Meat was very seldom used”
“Meat in those days was a luxury, and was rarely used.”
“Meat was not eaten often.”
“The people did not eat meat very often”
“Butchers meat was unknown.”
“Meat was not often used at the meals.”
“The people used eat hardly any meat atall.”
“Seldom meat was used”
“Meat was not eaten in those days.”
“Meat was also used sometimes salt and sometimes fresh”
“Meat was not used often in those days.
“Meat was seldom eaten.”
“Then they used to start lamenting because they wouldn’t have tea or meat for the rest of the year and they used to say :- An dha lá deag is mó creach ceat Nodlag.”
“Meat was seldom eaten.”
“Meat was seldom eaten any time the had meat, bacon they had.”
“They did not eat much meat.”
“Most of the people did not know the taste of meat.”
“They would get no eggs only at Easter and they hardly ever had meat.”
“Meat was very seldom used.”
“Meat only was eaten by the rich people.”
“Meat was eaten only at Christmas”
“Meat was not eaten so often as it is eaten now.”
“Very little meat was eaten and it was not until American bacon was introduced to the country that people ever knew the taste of flesh meat.”
“Meat was very scarce”
“There was very little meat eaten.”
“people would not get meat from one end of the year to the other”
“Meat was very seldom used”
“Meat was very seldom used”
“Meat was not eaten often,”
“This was a rare treat as seldom or ever they had meat”
“Meat was very seldom used”
“Meat was rarely eaten”
“It was on very rare occasions that meat was eaten”
“Meat was almost unknown there except in the house of one farmer named Power who used to cook meat once in a while for himself only.”
“Meat was not eaten often.”