‘Happy Days and Hard Times’ in
PEOPLE from Inishowen
are encouraged to record their memories of country
life. ‘Happy Days and Hard Times’, a superb
collection of visitor memories at the National
Museum of Ireland – Country Life, has just been
reissued for print due to its initial success. The
book is a series of stories contributed by the
general public during their visit to the museum and
draws on their experiences and memories of country
life. Included in the collection are memories from
an Inishowen visitor who remembers making straw
ropes with his grandfather on Inch Island.
This beautifully sentimental book, which evokes
strong memories such as collecting hay in the summer
or fetching water from the well, was compiled by the
Museums documentation officer, Joanne Hamilton. The
project was initiated in 2013 to encourage Museum
visitors to engage in the process of reminiscence
during their visit.
Using specially designed memory sheets, visitors
were invited to record their memories and stories of
country life. These individual memories were then
added to a growing archive of personalised accounts
which was organised by Hamilton for publication and
complemented by an array of archival images from the
Irish Folklife Collection.
‘Happy Days and Hard Times’ is a
superb collection of visitor memories at the
National Museum of Ireland – Country Life.
Talking about the
project, Ms. Hamilton says: “Having overheard
visitors regularly engaging in reminiscence whilst
talking together in the galleries, I saw the
potential to harness this by enabling visitors to
record these stories and memories in a simple way.
In doing this, the personal stories and memories
recorded can to contribute to the broader narrative
that the Museum represents.
What we’ve found is that visitors buy a book for
themselves, older relatives or those living abroad.
The thought provoking stories resonate with so many;
those visits to the bog with the flask of tea or
cycling the countryside. It brings people into a
simpler past, a past filled with colour and
conversation, a past where children ran through
fields till dusk and neighbours sat for hours
whiling away time.
Of course, as the book title suggests, not all of
the rich memories of country living are surrounded
with that wistful glow; the undercurrent of hard
times comes to the fore as people recount their
stories. Poverty, overcrowding and hunger all
quietly resonate in these simplistic tales of old.”
People in Inishowen can still contribute memories
and stories of country life to the memory book
project by downloading a
memory sheet from the
museum website at
www.museum.ie and returning it with your written
memory to Joanne Hamilton, The National Museum of
Ireland – Country Life, Turlough Park, Castlebar,