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Tomás MacConmara

Children Urged to Remotely Capture Grandparents’ Memories During Covid Crisis

AN EAST Clare historian is urging children and families to make the most of the current break in our daily routines by documenting the memories and recollections of older generations.

While visiting grandparents is banned, as the over-70s cocoon themselves against the Coronavirus, Dr Tomás MacConmara has published an easy-to-use guideline so that children can record phone conversations and learn about life in a by-gone era.

The Tuamgraney native believes that now is an ideal time to enhance children’s understanding and appreciation of their grandparent’s lives, and for the older and younger generations to stay connected.

“This is an idea I’ve had for a long long time, well before Covid-19,” Dr MacConmara explained. “I’ve always felt there was a tremendous value for younger people to be connected to older generations and tremendous insights that could be achieved from that simple process of talking to and, more importantly, listening to our older people. It was part of our culture for centuries and maybe, in recent decades, that’s been slightly interrupted by the world we live in now. If children are idle, something they can do is to reach out to their grandparents, who unfortunately are now isolated. Actually, t’s ironic that the older generation, who would be more comfortable staying at home with their families are now disconnected from them. Young people can now reach out to them and ask them if they would mind, for ten or 15 minutes every day, that they phoned them up and recorded their life stories.”

An expert oral historian and author, Dr MacConmara has published a detailed work sheet for children and parents, explaining everything from the type of apps that can be used for recording to the kinds of questions that could be asked. Suggested areas for discussion include schooldays, pastimes, local characters and more besides.

“[Children] could start by going back [and asking about] their parents and their grandparents and then their early lives, their childhoods, their influences and try and build up a picture over the period of this crisis, over this isolation, of their grandparents lives. It will be a tremendous enrichment to the children. It will also be an enrichment to the grandparents.”

The guideline, which is available on Dr MacConmara’s Facebook page, also recommends asking grandparents to walk around their house and describe objects on their walls and mantelpieces, discussing why they are important to them. He also suggests drawing and writing activities, as well as designing a special presentation that children can make to their grandparents once the visiting restrictions are lifted.

While the idea is designed for children, Dr MacConmara noted that there are no age barriers: “People of all ages should think about reaching out and speaking to their own parents and if they’re fortunate enough, their grandparents. The situation we all face is that, at some time in our lives, there will be silence where answers should be. Irrespective of the Covid-19 crisis, now is the time to reach out and let people know that their live stories and their memories are important and have meaning and should be recorded. Life, in so many ways, was so different for our parents and grandparents generation and its so important to capture that. There’s also the local history value and local tradition as well as your own family heritage. They’ll be able to illuminate aspects of that, that you could never know in any other way. You’ll come out of this crisis in a much more knowledgeable and with a more understanding and enriched feeling. It’s one of the most beautiful things in live and you will never regret it, because it creates an archive of memories.”

Dr MacConmara is the author of Time of the Tans and can be contacted on  macconmaraheritage@gmail.com or Facebook for guidelines for collecting oral history.

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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