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The Power of Stories

Do you tell stories about your childhood or growing up in Ireland that was much different to today? We all love to hear stories and yes, the ability to tell a story is one trait that Irish people are famous for – whether we have the abilities of a seanchaí or just liked telling stories to young children. With the increased reliance on television and social media for entertainment, are we losing the ability to engage with stories or is the pull as powerful as ever?
Stories for children don’t have to be fanciful or complicated; they certainly don’t need to be a literary masterpiece. I can recall loving when a great aunt used to visit from England, I much preferred her to any of my other great aunts. Why? Because she used to tell me stories about when my dad was young – stories of how he got up to mischief and got into trouble alongside his elder brother. My own father has started telling my children stories about how they used to farm years ago and they are intrigued by stories of ploughing with a Clydesdale mare and buying the first Massey Ferguson tractor in 1956. They will remember those stories for years.
A book entitled ‘Wisdom of Elders’ has been published by Footprints Press and recounts stories from 71 older people in Kenya, stories from those who were freedom fighters, stories by ordinary people, stories of how Kenya’s history has shaped its people. It is recognising the importance of the tales and experiences of all sectors of society.
The ‘Vanishing Ireland’ series by James Fennell and Turtle Bunbury has remained hugely popular as it recounts stories about older people in our society, many of whom lived in rural locations eking out a living from the land and living a way of life that is slowly disappearing.  The series of four books tell stories of living without electricity, milking cows by hand, seeing siblings emigrate, being harassed by the Black and Tans, that happiness is not about having gold in your pocket but family community and health – all stories of personal histories that are captured before they disappear, each one fascinating in its own right. As individuals, we seem to value personal stories more now, perhaps we have become so saturated by reality television and soap operas that we now celebrate the ordinariness and yet the interest of our own past.
Do you tell stories? Who do you tell them to and what are they about?

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