How do folktales and history intertwine? Pick up a school reader from the 1940s, 50s, or 60s in Ireland and you’ll see. Every book from Reading Time, Fact and Fancy, The Educational Readers, The Emerald Readers to Young Ireland Readers presented folktales, and hundreds of these school books were donated to the Dublin City Library and Archives on Pearse Street.
Dublin’s Lord Mayor is called Carmencita,Whose favourite food is tomato pizza.So wrote Sarah Fallon from Malahide in 1988, in a poem included in an anthology called My Daddy likes the Dubs. It is one of a number of collections of poetry written by Dublin children which are held in the Special Collections of Dublin City Library and Archive. As this year’s One City, One Book selection highlights poetry based on the theme of Dublin and Dubliners, we took a look at some of these child’s eye views of the city.My Daddy Likes the Dubs is a collection of children’s verse compiled during the Dublin Millennium by Dublin Public Libraries. During 1988, the city celebrated its 1,000th birthday with a year-long programme of cultural events. At that time the Public Library Service encompassed all the Dublin regions, so the selection – chosen from over 3,500 submissions – includes the work of children from all over Dublin City and County. What is striking about the poems is the delight the children take in their city and their keen observations of their localities. It would be interesting to see if a collection like this, written today, would demonstrate this same knowledge of the geography of Dublin and the same pride in their local area.As the city was celebrating its Viking heritage during 1988, Vikings figure in many of the poems. This one by Eimer Lillis of Malahide credits the invention of Guinness to the ingenuity of our Scandinavian forebears:Said a crafty young Viking called Jack,By the Liffey he lived in a shack,From this water that is bubbling,In this place I’ll call Dubh Linn,I’ll create a fine stout that is black!Other writers noted that some Viking traditions remained alive (and kicking) in Dublin. Margaret Daly of Churchtown wrote a poem called True to Form, which ends: So now you see ViksDo wheelies on “Bikes”Forget their forefathers – no way,With muggings and murdersWarfare with their brothers,They relive the full past to this day.But the gem of the collection is surely the ballad of Molly Malone’s Date, by Lorna Patterson of Dundrum, in which those two iconic Dublin figures, Molly and Bono, head out on the 44 bus to see Burt Reynolds at the Savoy. The story ends with a tragic twist:Molly is getting married tomorrowBono’s the best man much to his sorrowFor she’s found someone more to her likingMolly is marrying Hagar the Viking.The poems present a vivid picture of a child’s life in Dublin in the 80s: the writers describe with evident pride their local entertainments - discos, swimming-pools, libraries and for the 'aul’ ones', the Bingo. The title poem, by 8 year old Lisa Williams of Ayrfield, begins with the sharply observant line:My daddy likes the DubsBecause then he can go to pubs …Shopping also played an important part of Dublin life, as Susan Rooney, from Ballyfermot, notes:Grafton Street’s a wonderland and Dublin can be heaven,And there’s not the like of Henry Street,And Moore street for the sellin’.A marathon trip to Dublin to buy a confirmation suit is recorded in A Day in Dublin by Edward Fay. After trying to find a suitable outfit in every shop from Thomas Street to Grafton Street, taking time out in Bewley’s along the way, the writer and his mother finally strike gold:Then we came upon a little shop,Up by Parnell SquareAnd we got my entire outfitFor next to nothing there.Some of the teenage writers, however, seem already disillusioned with consumer society. Alex Moffatt of Killiney gives a rather bleak description of the city, telling us that:Advertising hoardings scream voiceless slogans thatPrey upon the gullible.Teenage angst and social commentary are also evident in Millennium Dublin by Carol Keogh of Ballyfermot: - Communities, prized apartBy concrete borderlines, ralliedIn anger.Even in the more light-hearted poems social issues come through: and employment certainly was an issue in 1988. Peter Bennett of Inchicore noted that the “corpo” had done a clean-up of the Camac River, and that:With the Mackintosh factory working full-timeEveryone is singing a happy chime.Each poem has its own especial charm; the collection, like the others listed here, is available for reference in Dublin City Library and Archive Reading Room.A slightly later collection, Spring Song, edited by Pat Tierney and written by the children of the Ceannt Towers Rhymers Club, has a specifically local take on superheroes. In a poem by Alan Kinsella, Batman Visits Ballymun, the hero is almost foiled when he and Robin enter one of the Towers:They tried to get up in the liftBut found that it was broke,And when they started up the stairsThey smelled the Joker’s smoke.Other children’s poetry collections in the Special Collections include Millennium Bug, produced by the Northside Arts and Cultural Centre and written by Coolock children in 2000 and the Solidarity Between Generations Diary (informally known as Oldies not Boldies) published by Dublin Public Libraries in 1994.But let’s give the last word to Sheila Lynch in a poem from My Daddy Likes the Dubs:… It’s a long way to Tipperary,It’s further to Donegal,But why would you want to go thereWhen Dublin’s got it all.
Sir John Tenniel died just one hundred years ago, on 25 February 1914, aged 94 (see The Irish Times, Friday 27 February 1914, p.7). Tenniel was chief political cartoonist with Punch, the satirical weekly magazine, but he is best known to generations of children as the creator of the pale blonde Alice in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. He was born on 28 February 1820 in Bayswater in London. He was invited to join Punch by its founding editor, Mark Lemon, at Christmas 1850 and worked there until his retirement in 1901. He was knighted by Queen Victoria for artistic achievements in 1893. For over twenty years he earned his reputation as a gifted illustrator of books. His first success came in 1848, when he received acclaim for his illustration of Aesop's Fables. He illustrated R.H. Barnham, The Ingoldsby Legends (1864), and he contributed pictures to the Dalziel Brothers edition of The Arabian Nights (1863-5). Lalla Rookh by Thomas Moore is a series of oriental tales in verse connected by a prose narrative, first published in 1817. It became one of the most popular works of the century. Tenniel illustrated an edition of Lalla Rookh published in 1861. The Dublin City Library & Archive copy is signed by the illustrator, and dedicated to Mrs Lemon, wife of Mark Lemon, Tenniel's editor at Punch.Because the animal illustrations in Aesop's Fables appealed to him, Tenniel was commissioned by Lewis Carroll (Rev. Charles L. Dodgson) to illustrate the first edition of Alice's adventures in wonderland (1865) and Through the looking glass (1871). The initial print run of 2,000 copies of Alice's adventures was withdrawn as Tenniel was unhappy with the quality of the illustrations, Dodgson withdrew his presentation copies and gave them to Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital and the remaining copies were distributed in the United States, with a new title page tipped in. The illustrations in the republished edition were a great success and received as much critical notice as the text. Even though Alice has been illustrated by many well known artists, including Arthur Rackham, Tenniel's portrayal of Alice and the other characters, such as the White Rabbit and the Cheshire Cat, have an enduring appeal.Through the looking glass was his last illustrated book. His illustration for the two Alice books are among his very best work. His drawings were engraved by the Dalziel Brothers who did justice to his original drawings. Check out your local library for the Alice books.
We all have our favourite books from childhood: fairy tales, Alice in wonderland, Paddington bear, Where the wild things are, The railway children, Matilda, The secret garden, The wind in the willows, Gulliver’s travels and Robinson Crusoe. These books affected us profoundly and maybe even changed our lives. But suppose we grew up in the 18th century, what could we have read? We would have had Robinson Crusoe (1719) and Gulliver’s travels (1726), in versions specially geared towards children, with simplified language and pictures. Fairy tales excited and terrified children then as now, and created fantasy worlds that adults did not always approve of. The success of Gulliver’s travels led to other works aimed at children which built on its reputation, using Gulliver and Lilliput in their titles to create an association with the original text. An early example is The Lilliputian Magazine, launched by John Newbery in London in 1751. Another example is The Lilliputian library, or Gulliver’s museum in ten small format volumes, published in Dublin in the 1780s. This work was marketed particularly to children, and the cost was calculated so that children could afford it. The overall cost of the 10 volumes was 5 British shillings (5s.5d. Irish), but single volumes could be purchased for sixpence halfpenny each, and the cost spread out over weeks or months. This was still expensive and beyond the reach of very many children and their families. Only children from middle and higher income families could afford these books, and would have had the literacy skills to read them. Chapbooks, or simple cheaply produced books of popular literature, were available to the less well off. They consisted of children’s stories, histories, travels, natural history, songs, prayer books, and sensational stories of outlaws, robbers and murderers. The volumes were cheap and cheerful, badly printed on inferior paper with poorly executed woodcuts, and unbound. They were printed in tens of thousands and sold for a penny or two. Chapmen were itinerant pedlars who carried them in their packs, along with a range of trinkets and novelties, for sale at fairs and from door to door in rural areas. The reading of chapbooks, like newspapers, transcended literacy: one reader allowed an entire group to understand and enjoy. These ephemeral materials have not survived well, and sometimes we know only the titles. By the 18th century books specifically aimed at delighting children were produced. Many were imported from England, but large numbers were printed in Ireland. Small sized formats appealed to children, and they were cheaper to produce. Children began to be targeted in the marketing of books, and advertising was aimed specifically at them. The child became a consumer and was in a position to influence what was purchased. Advertisements recommended children’s books as presents for Christmas, New Year and Easter. Story books written to entertain children, but often with a strong moral message, were published in London from the 1740s. John Newbery, founder of the famous London publishing house, specialised in the publication of books for the amusement of children. A little pretty pocket book was advertised for sale in 1744, and was the first of about 400 titles published for children by Newbery and his successors, up to 1815. Newbery books were widely available in Ireland, and were advertised in the newspapers as presents ‘for all good little masters and misses’. Oliver Goldsmith was one of the anonymous writers employed by Newbery to write books for children. He is thought to have written at least part of their best seller, Goody-two-shoes, first published in 1765, and reprinted throughout the 18th century. From memoirs and autobiographies we can get glimpses of the wonderful world of childhood reading remembered well into adulthood. In these accounts the wonder and delight provided by books is what remains in the memory. Jonah Barrington, judge and historian, recalled his early reading in the library of his grandfather: ‘Gulliver’s Travels, Robinson Crusoe, Fairy Tales, and The History of the Bible were my favourite authors. I believed every word except the fairies, and was not entirely sceptical as to those good people’. William Carleton, the novelist, tells of his reading Le Sage’s Gil Blas, a picaresque novel: ‘I did not then even know that it was fiction, but took it for granted that all the adventures were true. The effect it had on me in my unsettled and uncertain position in life – to fill my imagination with such a romantic love of adventure, as made me wish myself a thousand times the hero of some that might resemble those. I got the perusal of the book from a pedlar, who carried books about for sale, with a variety of other goods.’ When children enjoyed a story they played it out afterwards. In the 1780s Dorothea Herbert from Co. Tipperary remembered the adventure books that delighted herself and her siblings: ‘We were all book mad - Dido and Aeneas, Hector and Paris fired our brains, a sixpenny voyage of Lord Anson, and old Robinson Cruseoes tale completed our mania ... one time we fancied ourselves thrown on a desart island till a fight who should be Crusoe and who Fryday ended our play. Another time we were a set of sailors thrown on the delightful island of Juan Fernandez.’ Maria Edgeworth recalls her father’s storytelling: ‘he has related, with various embellishments suited to the occasion, the story of Fortunatus, to the great delight of young and old, especially of Sneyd, whose eyes and cheeks expressed strong approbation, and who repeated it afterwards in a style of dramatic oratory!’ Books that children enjoyed 250 years ago can now be seen in our reference libraries. Trinity College has the Pollard Collection of children’s books, lovingly collected throughout her life by Mary (Paul) Pollard, former keeper of Early Printed Books. The Church of Ireland College of Education in Rathmines has a wonderful collection of school books, including the extensive collection issued by the Kildare Place Society from the early 1800s. The National Library of Ireland has a fine historic collection, and as a legal deposit library, receives all books published in Ireland. Dublin City Library and Archive, Pearse Street, has a major collection of children’s books including early editions collected by John Gilbert and E.R. McClintock Dix. St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra, Trinity College and UCD all run courses in children’s literature, either at undergraduate or postgraduate level. Children’s Books Ireland (CBI) promotes children’s literature in all its forms, especially through its magazine, Inis, and by the CBI Children’s Book of the Year awards. The Irish Society for the Study of Children’s Literature (ISSCL) promotes academic research into children’s literature, through publication and conferences. The love of children’s literature, past and present, is alive and well in modern Ireland.