BY HELEN RIDDELL
A GROUP on Bere Island have come together to record the island’s oral history with the support of a renowned oral historian, Dr Angela Maye-Banbury, who is also working on a project on the Irish in Hell’s Kitchen, New York.
Earlier this year Bere Island Projects Group were one of a small number of community groups who were successfully accepted onto the Heritage Keepers programme, a new initiative set up by the Burren Beo Trust and facilitated by The Heritage Council.
Heritage Keepers supports communities to explore their built, natural and cultural heritage and then initiative action plans to enhance their area. A number of islanders signed up to take part in a five-week online training programme, which also included community groups from Westport, Co Mayo and Labasheeda, Co Clare.
The training programme guided the groups through a process of researching their local area and formulating an action plan, with the Bere Island group deciding to work towards recording an oral history of the island.
Funding from the Heritage Keepers programme enabled the group to bring Dr Angela Maye-Banbury to the island to facilitate a weekend of workshops and a public meeting.
Dr Maye-Banbury, a native of Tyrone, is a senior lecturer in oral history at Sheffield Hallam University, England and has had extensive experience in recording oral histories throughout the world. As well as her work on Achill Island, she is also working on an oral history of the Irish in Hell’s Kitchen, New York City.
Angela stressed the importance of a community recording their oral history for future generations.
‘You are preserving the stories of the past for the future. I think that a really important part of heritage management is for people and communities to take ownership of things and here on Bere Island we really want as many people as possible to participate in this project. Anyone can do oral history and it brings the generations together in terms of understanding empathy, and here on the island they already have the resources and technology in place to record stories with their community radio station facility, so the project is ready to go.
‘Bere Island could easily produce a sizeable collection of oral history interviews, which could place the island on the world stage. As I’ve discovered from my visit the history of the island is just extraordinary.’
Anyone who would like to participate in the Bere Island oral history project can contact [email protected] or call 027 75099.