`Aon Sceal Eile' lights up the past

 

"When electricity came in first people used to switch on the light for to find the candles, and when they found the candles they would light them and switch the light off again."

This intriguing reminiscence by Anna Lambert is just one of a host of stories gathered in a Co Wexford folklore project featuring in the Castle Museum in Enniscorthy until the end of October.

"Aon Sceal Eile" is an exhibition of some of the material collected as part of a three-year project funded by the Wexford Organisation for Rural Development (WORD) and Wexford County Council.

It aims to preserve the folklore of the county and develop awareness of the richness of that folklore. The so-called Reminiscence Programme has been running for two years now, involving students and teachers from four secondary schools.

Under the guidance of Jacqueline Sidney, project co-ordinator, oral and visual material is being collected and preserved for future generations.

A 90-page booklet of the stories has been produced. In a foreword the county arts officer, Lorraine Comer, points out that the participation of students from Colaiste Bride Enniscorthy, CBS Wexford, Loreto Secondary Wexford and Bridgetown Vocational College is an essential part of the project.

"Such work helps young people to develop an awareness of the important role of folklore in understanding ourselves and the community we live in, and deepens respect for and interest in the older members of our community," she says.

Visitors will also be surprised by the variety and range of the permanent exhibition in the Enniscorthy museum, which is housed in a well-preserved Norman castle in the centre of the town. The collection is certainly eclectic, admits the curator, David Carberry: "I think that's part of its charm. You don't know what you're going to find."

Visitors can inspect, for example, a jaunting car, a portable threshing machine, a hand-operated washing machine, and pennyfarthing and three-seater bicycles. There is a maritime room, a 1798 room and a 1916 room.

The telephone from the gunboat, Helga, from which the British shelled Liberty Hall in 1916, is here. There is an ornate wooden bellows, handcarved by the Countess Markievicz.

The museum has been open for the past 36 years and has attracted up to 14,000 visitors a year. This year visitor numbers have been up by 50 per cent.

A fortunate quirk of history preserved this fine setting for its eventual use as a museum. In 1922 the Irregulars gave orders for it to be blown up, but the order was delayed and the castle was recaptured by Free State forces before it could be destroyed.