Ghosts of the Faithful Departed

I recently saw a feature on the RTÉ programme Nationwide on the work of the photographer David Creedon, and especially about one of his latest projects, the photographing of images of a forgotten Ireland, culminating in the publication of his widely acclaimed book, Ghosts of the Faithful Departed. It’s a wonderful hardback book which I purchased just before Christmas and have continuously dipped into regularly since then. Emigration and its effect on the fabric of rural Ireland is at the core of the book as Creedon captures moments in time in the abandoned and unoccupied houses of the countryside. Scenes featuring old modes of transport, kitchen ranges, bedroom wardrobes and broken pianos evoke images and memories of a rural Ireland that has long since passed. Dominant in many of the photographs are the religious images that no house of the past would have been without – the Sacred Heart picture, statue of Our Lady, pictures of popes, the crucifix and the statue of the Child of Prague.

As I leafed through the book again during the week, I suddenly realised what a fantastic resource this would be for schools to have. Most primary and secondary pupils would never have seen anything like the images portrayed in this book. For a start, any image from the book would make a great stimulus for an oral language lesson. Placed under a visualiser and beamed onto a whiteboard, a great discussion could ensue from the contents of the image. Great learning could take place as a forgotten Ireland could be revealed to pupils. The book would also easily fit in with the SESE History curriculum. It would be well suited to various strand units: Change and continuity; Stories from the lives of people in the past; Life, society, work and culture in the past; Continuity and Change over time.

As teachers try to think of innovative ways to deal with the development of literacy in the classroom, this book would be a wonderfully creative challenge for senior pupils to imagine and create a story for some of the images: who lived here?; why did they leave?; what events took place in this room?; why were these items kept safely on the mantlepiece?; why had the owner of this trunk returned from America? Each image in the book poses so many questions that could occupy a full year in the classroom. Any image in the book could also serve as a stimulus to a piece of drama, creating still images of a scene of emigration or creating a drama about why someone was abandoning a house.

I think this book would be a great resource to have on the bookshelf of any teacher or to have in the school library. There are 172 pages full of rich imagery and explanations of the contents of the images. It is available online at Easons for €22.49. Some of the images can also be viewed online at the David Creedon Website.