A new collection of poetry written by local children and inspired by the heritage of Mid Ulster is now available in local Visitor Information Centres. "Heartland" is a project for Mid Ulster primary schools in which pupils are given the opportunity to visit heritage sites which are geographically close to their schools, discover the history associated with these special places and then write about their experiences.
It was devised by the Education Officers at Hill of The O’Neill & Ranfurly House and Seamus Heaney HomePlace almost two years ago after they had examined the then newly published Tourism Strategy for Mid Ulster, which highlighted the fact that our Council area is extremely rich in heritage:
Arguably, Mid Ulster contains the richest seam of archeological, historic and heritage sites and facilities within the North of Ireland, stretching from Mesolithic, Neolithic, pre-Christian, early Christian and Medieval times to the Plantation era and up to the Second World War. A lot of these sites are well known, such as Tullaghoge Fort and Beaghmore Stone Circle, but many are not.
The Education Officers drew up a shortlist, featuring Bellaghy Bawn; Knockmany Passage Tomb; Lissan House; and Tirkane Sweathouse. They contacted primary schools close to these sites and all agreed to participate.
These schools were: Augher Central Primary School; Bellaghy Primary School; Carntall Primary School, Clogher; Churchtown Primary School, Cookstown; Lissan Primary School, Cookstown; St Brigid’s Primary School, Tirkane; St John Bosco Primary School, Ballynease; St Macartan’s Primary School, Clogher. Pupil visits began in September 2018 and continued until mid-November.
Since then, one more very special person joined the pupils, the Children’s Writing Fellow for Northern Ireland, Myra Zepf. When Myra was approached about taking part in this project she immediately said “Yes”! She had said yes to exploring a dark dungeon, climbing a mountain to discover Queen Anya’s tomb, walking down a long flight of outdoor steps to a glen and a sweathouse, and meeting the Barefoot Baronet in a room with poisonous wallpaper!
Following each visit, Myra led writing workshops in each of the participating schools, and the poetry that emerged from the eight classes can now be found in the new, recently published book, “Heartland”. In it you will find poems written with enthusiasm and vigour, poems which connect with history and nature, poems in which children express a deep sense of connection with the past.
You, too, can read the children’s writing, and find out more about Mid Ulster’s heritage by picking up a free copy of “Heartland” at any Visitor Information Centre in the Mid Ulster District Council area. You may be inspired to visit all four sites – and, perhaps, many, many more!