1. Granny Ellen had never talked about Nan, and Mollie had never been allowed to ask about it (page 17). Now she guesses that her family background has been discussed by Nan and Alanna, and this irritates her (page 18). It is healthy for us all to develop an appreciation for our family background and a realisation of how it shapes identity, but it is sometimes difficult for us to talk about significant events in our lives.
With a friend, can you discuss how Mollie felt and how you might feel if you knew that others had been discussing your family background? Close your eyes for a moment and think about the things about your family that you don’t want to share with others. Now think about the things about your family that you are happy to share with others. Would you like to share some of the latter with your partner/group/class?
2. Click is the name of the dolphin living in the bay and Mollie is excited to see him as she has never seen a real-life dolphin before. Many people love to swim with dolphins - but dolphins are wild animals and there are safety implications that must be evaluated and assessed before we jump into the water with a dolphin! Discuss the risks/ possible dangers and the best way of dealing with a situation where your friend might want to get in and swim (with or without a dolphin) in an unsupervised area. What could you say or do to persuade your friend to make a good decision? What might you do if your friend made a decision that might lead them in to danger?
3. Nan has to tell Mollie something about St Brigid when she explains that the little straw dolls dressed in white cotton skirts and green cloaks are called Brideogs (page 24). Strangely, it was traditional for the man of the house to twist straw or rushes to form these little dolls! Can you think of a reason for this? The children of the house would have gathered the first buds or flowers of spring, pretty stones and green leaves to decorate the Brideogs. Can you find some other folk customs practised on the feast of Brigit/ Brigid? Which is your favourite? Try to write at least five interesting facts about Bríd and the ancient celebration of Imbolc. You might write these facts in the shape of a Brigid’s cross.
4. Have you ever heard anyone recite the first line or two of this poem on Lá ‘le Bríde? Generations of Irish people learned ‘Cill Aodáin’ when they were at school. It was written by Antoine Ó Raifteirí (Raifteiri).
‘Anois teacht an Earraigh beidh an lá ag dul chun síneadh
Is tar éis na Féile Bríde ardóidh mé mo sheol…’
(‘Now with the coming of Spring, the day will be lengthening /stretching
And after the feast of Brigid I'll rise up my sail…’)
Many believe he also wrote the well-known ‘Mise Raifteirí an File’, though others say Seán Ó Ceallaigh wrote it as a tribute to the blind poet. Here are the first few lines. What do you feel as you read?
Mise Raifteirí an file,
Lán dóchas is grá,
Le súile gan solas,
Le ciúnas gan chrá….’
(I am Raftery the poet,
Full of hope and of love,
With eyes that don’t see,
With peace without trouble.)
The first four lines of this poem appeared on the old Irish £5 note. Can you find an image of this note?
5. Do some research on the life of the poet. He had a sad life but his poems are still read and appreciated to this day. Imagine you can inform him of his continued relevance in the 21st century. Visualise his reaction. Can you write the dialogue you and he might have if you were to meet him/his ghost?
6. Granny Ellen was very superstitious, always saluting single magpies to ward off bad luck. She avoided walking under ladders and stepping on cracks in the pavement and picked up pins and “lucky pennies” all the time. She also made wishes on all kinds of things: shooting stars, rainbows, engagement rings. Many people make a wish as they stir a Christmas pudding, or when they eat the first new potato of the year though it is best not to expect too much from wishes as you might well be disappointed! Some religions frown on making wishes /practising superstitions - can you think why? Make a list of other occasions that might cause Granny Ellen to make a wish/ and/or make a list of other superstitions commonly practised by people today.
6. ‘If wishes were horses, beggars would ride’ is a saying or a proverb that may date back to the 16th century
Your wish: Take a day to think about something you really wish for. You might write it in your secret diary, or on a slip of paper that you could roll or fold and hide in a safe place. Or you might type and then print your wish in class, and when everyone has done this, you could create a collage of wishes, or hang them on a branch of a tree and create a wishing tree.