As this will be my 500th blog post on this blog I am glad to have something positive to report.
The other evening (15/12/2014) I attended the final event in the Battle of Clontarf Millennium Celebrations. This was a book launch and the presentation of prizes in the millennium's creative writing competition for local primary schools.
Every finalist, and there were lots of them in the different class categories, got exactly the same prize. A copy of the book and a selection box. But what a book. The entries form the finalists themselves had been brought together in a book entitled "We Are Writers", published by the Clontarf Historical Society and the Raheny Heritage Society. So the creativity here extended beyond that of the competitors alone.
In addition the overall category winners also received vouchers for Easons - up to €600 worth of vouchers were presented.
MC for the evening was the ubiquitous organiser of everything, Collette Gill, Chairperson of the Clontarf 2014 Committee. You can see her here with her clipboard as she invites one of the judges, Barbara Tarrant, to address the audience of parents and children packed into the Indigo Lounge of the Clontarf Castle Hotel.
Before going any further, I have to declare an interest here. The photo shows Barbara presenting his book to Daragh Moran, who happens to be a first cousin twice removed. The removal bit just means he's way younger than I am. Given that I was concentrating on trying to photograph every winner in this fast moving pageant, I hadn't noticed Daragh until I saw his mother there at the end of the evening (and yes, she's only once removed).
Daragh's entry consisted of a brief account of the battle, in (almost) rhyming couplets.
The youngest judge is Robyn Gill, a transition year student, who has already had two short stories published in the Irish Times. She is seen here accepting a presentation from Kay Lonergan, Chairperson of the Clontarf Historical Society.
Of the entries published in the book just over 40% are from girls. Not a huge imbalance and it may not have any particular significance. I suppose these bloody battles may be more appealing to boys, though one of the entries was actually from a female warrior. Indeed, if you look at the 2014 re-enactment of the battle, you'll see there was no shortage of female warriors taking part.
The third of the four judges, Morgan O'Reilly, said he was very encouraged by the sense of community permeating the range of celebrations and was particularly happy with the standard of entries in this competition.
The range of styles, inventiveness and imagination in the entries was spectacular.
There was a lot of time travel, much magic, family correspondence, live tv reporting, and, as Collette remarked, even the rewriting of history - the licence of youth, no doubt. There was a variety of styles from prose (purple and otherwise) to poetry (including acrostics).
You have to remember that the children's ages were from 7 to 12 years, and you wouldn't always know from the entries alone which end of the spectrum you were dealing with. Some of the younger entries were really excellent.
The fourth judge, Louise Melinn, could not be present due to exams, so Douglas Appleyard, Chairperson of the Raheny Heritage Society, stood in and presented the final batch of books.
And as we're on the subject of competition, this photographer (me) had serious competition all evening from parents taking advantage of the miracles of modern technology to immortalise the achievements of their children .
I'll leave you with an enhanced glimpse of the picture on the cover of the book. This was the work of Aoife Tynan, from St. Brigid's Girls National School, Killester, who won first place in the third and fourth class category in the Battle of Clontarf Art Competition, held earlier in the year in this same venue.
If you are interested in some of the other events during the year's celebrations you can see a report on the 1014 Retrospective event, along with links to those individual events which I managed to attend, here.
Note: I will put the names of the other students in the photo titles when I get them and assuming there is no problem with that.