An Irish cultural time capsule for Áras an Uachtaráin
Sculptor Rachel Joynt and poet Enda Wyley worked with young and old to make art of their memories and hopes which will be stored in a giant acorn for 100 years
An artist’s impression of the giant acorn sculpture which will serve as a time capsule for 100 years in the grounds of Áras an Uachtaráin
In September 2016 the sculptor Rachel Joynt and I met and hatched a plan. Rachel had won a commission to create a large acorn sculpture in a garden setting on the grounds of Áras an Uachtaráin and she was eager to collaborate with a writer on the project. I was excited to be asked to be involved.
We both decided we would connect with schools around Ireland and invite them to be involved in writing workshops with a difference. To have your writings saved in a time capsule within a wonderful giant acorn made by Rachel was thrilling enough – but that your memories, your dreams and wishes be also stored on the grounds of Áras an Uachtaráin for 100 years, and become an inspiration for future generations, both literally and symbolically, was an enormous bonus.
The response from principals and teachers throughout the country was hugely positive. Most importantly, they said, the children loved the idea. They wanted us to come to their schools. And so, in early November 2016, Rachel and I set off around the country, spurred on by the schools’ enthusiasm for Dearcán na nDaoine/The People’s Acorn.
We crossed the Corrib river in Galway to visit children in the Claddagh at St Nicholas’s National school. We travelled north to Belfast and to children in St Teresa’s Primary School. We traversed the city of Dublin and worked with children from Griffith Barracks MDS, South Circular Road, on Séan Mac Dermott Street with 4-year-olds in the Holy Child Pre-School and then with older children in Rutland Street National School. We delved deep into the heart of the country and enjoyed the writings of classes in Gaelscoil Eoghan Uí Thuairisc in Carlow and also St Mary’s National School in Bagenalstown. Each workshop was unique, energised by the imagination and aspirations of the different children that we were both privileged enough to work with. The results were always inspiring and unforgettable.
These were children who fluently expressed their ideas and dreams. Their writings were colourful and fun, full of lively details about their lives and interests – vibrant samples of which are produced in this book.
Once read, they reveal a young generation who are proud of Ireland, of their homes, their families and schools. But there is also an overpowering sense of justice to their words and their messages to a developing Ireland are serious and instructive. They embrace a multicultural Ireland and wish for a safe future with better healthcare, where the young and old are cared for, the environment protected and where everyone is treated fairly and with respect.
People's Acorn - Dearcán na nDaoine
If the children looked to the future, the older people Rachel and I worked with were revelatory in their remembrance of an Ireland long gone. The women and men in the Lourdes Day Care Centre, Lower Séan Mc Dermott St, were welcoming, interested and open to conversation as we sat in the warmth of their sitting room one November afternoon and talked of their memories and feelings about growing up years ago, in the inner city of Dublin. Times had been difficult - but for all the hardships, there had always been a powerful sense of community. “You wouldn’t be short of a cup of sugar,” Peggie Bradley said.
In Parnell Square, it was a pleasure too to witness the creation of powerful poems from the Bealtaine group of older writers as they took part in a poetry workshop that Rachel and I facilitated in Poetry Ireland. These poets ranged in age from their early sixties to their early nineties. They were enthused by the project, excited to have their writings included in Dearcán na ndDaoine/The People’s Acorn – and their poems of memory and longing, parents and childhood were lovingly captured.
Most poignant of all, perhaps, were the lines from Elizabeth O’Carroll’s poem, A Seed Sown, where she stands in her kitchen, cutting her grandson’s hair. “Sunshine glints in his blonde curls” and she silently weeps, knowing that she may not see him “grown into a man”.
That Elizabeth O’Carroll sadly passed away last September makes these lines and our session with the Bealtaine Writers’ Group all the more powerful.
A creative project is only as valuable as the people involved in it. Rachel and I feel honoured to have collected writings from children and older people throughout the country, in 2016. Their memories, dreams, wishes and aspirations for a better Ireland will be an inspiration to future generations when the time capsule in Dearcán na nDaoine/ The People’s Acorn will be opened again one hundred years from now.
Dearcán na nDaoine/ The People’s Acorn will be officially unveiled by President Michael D Higgins at a ceremony on December 14th
For Rachel Joynt
There’s a canister made of steel –
time capsule dug into the heart
of an acorn the sculptor has spent
her long months imagining,
then cast in bronze, balancing it
at last in these tree-filled grounds.
Oak nut where we preserve
our dreams with care and longing,
scribbling with pencils on paper
that no century of moisture can defeat.
Why should we worry
about spelling or punctuation?
Our desires have no rules, unloose
themselves within this vessel,
all of our words floating free.
To live in a double decker bus!
Go mbeidh gach duine sláintiúil...
And listen, Emmanuel walks with
his dad to Doughiska; We talk
and I feel like life is great.
So much history carried forward
to another time, when a gloved
hand reaches up, one hundred years
from now – cold November day
that we will never wake to –
and unlocks the sealed case.
Then, what will remain of us?
Love found in a canister
made of steel – our unearthed
wishes on paper wings soaring.
By Enda Wyley