NINETY-SIX year-old Catherine Talty from Clounlaheen, Mullagh has won a Golden IT Award for mastering digital technology that helped to preserve the past. Local history group Cuimhneamh an Chláir (CAC) visited Catherine to record her stories of times past. However, she decided to learn to use the digital recorder herself in order to document her tales for the CAC archive, contributing 83 files on folklore and tradition from the mid-19th century all the way up to the 1970s.
“Not so much into computers as taping music recordings,” was Catherine’s explanation behind her award. “I was used to the ordinary little tape recorder going to sessions over the years, recording songs and recitations. Then Tomás Mac Conmara, who works for Cuimhneamh an Chláir, was paying frequent visits as was Carol Gleeson. They both made recordings of my recollections of bygone days. Then I was given a present of one of these little digital tape recorders by the family at Christmas time,” Catherine told The Clare Champion this week.
“I said to Tomás that I’d do the recording in my own time. It was no hassle. My daughter, Moira, showed me how to press a button and that was it. I did it because I think it was very worthwhile work,” Catherine added.
She feels people nowadays are not in touch with what life was like when she was growing up.
“People haven’t the vaguest idea what life was like. We didn’t get electricity in this area until 1962. There was no such thing as washing machines, although we had a milking machine that was worked by a petrol engine. Nowadays, everything is at the touch of a button. I think it has removed them from reality. They really don’t understand where it all begins. Technology won’t put food on the table will it?” Catherine laughed.
She was born and raised on a farm in West Clare and still loves the rural life. In fact, there was a bit of drama on the morning that Catherine was due to head for Dublin to collect her award.
“We have a calving camera and last Tuesday morning, my daughter called me at a quarter to five to tell me that there was a cow calving. So there was panic stations until the cow had calved at quarter to seven. We were due to leave at 7am to catch the train from Ennis to Dublin. It was a day of excitement,” Catherine, who was born on April 4, 1916, said.
Cuimhneamh an Chláir (Memories of Clare) was formed by a group of volunteers in February 2009. They are an independent and voluntary group that digitally record, archive and share the memories, folklore, traditions and oral history of County Clare, through interviews with the county’s oldest citizens. Members have trained and mobilised 30 volunteers, referred to as cuairteoirí, from across Clare to help in this process.
From January 2010 to June 2012, the group has documented the life stories, memories and folklore of almost 300 of Clare’s oldest citizens, amounting to over 375 recordings and over 700 hours of audio with people aged 65 to 106. Fourteen of their interviewees were over the age of 100. In total, 49 of those recorded have since passed away.