In Search of Stories, Jokes and Rhymes
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In search of stories, jokes and rhymes
AS Aliza Shenhar, one-time Professor of Folklore
at the University of Haifa, has pointed out in her book, Jewish
and Israeli Folklore, areas of conflict tend to generate stories
based on the various events and figures connected with them. Such
stories have important and complex functions, and are often used
to help people to come to terms with tragedy. While there was,
over 10 years ago, some collection and analysis of similar stories
here, much more remains to be done. It is hoped that such research
will throw some light on society's reactions and attitudes.
After almost three decades of violence and attempts
at peacemaking, which people and events are reflected in the lore?
Ultimately, such stories, which are transmitted orally, will constitute
a view of this period which will be absorbed and inherited by
Stories about the 'Troubles' turn up in a range of
guises, from jokes and anecdotes about places like Drumcree and
politicians such as Gerry Fitt and Ian Paisley - not to mention
Secretaries of State - to ghost legends like the one commemorating
the mass death of 18 soldiers near Warrenpoint in 1979. Accounts
of this latter example describe motorists being stopped at a checkpoint
on that stretch of road, looking down to get a driving licence
or open the boot and then, seconds later, realising that the patrol
has vanished into thin air.
Other violent incidents, for example in Armagh and
Belfast, are recalled aurally, rather than visually, when people
describe hearing rather than seeing Troubles-related phenomena
such as tanks. Even children's rhymes are affected by the 'Troubles'
- the names of politicians and other aspects being incorporated
into traditional lore.
Over the next few months I hope to collect as much material as possible about
this period of our history. Any information, no matter how slight
or familiar it may seem to you, would be of the utmost interest
and importance in helping to construct a picture of people's hopes
If you have any jokes, rhymes or stories, please
contact me at:
[The above first appeared in Causeway Winter 1997 p7]
CAIN contains information and source material on the conflict and politics in Northern Ireland.
CAIN is based within Ulster University.
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