Northern Ireland Deaf Heritage Community Archive
Unique Deaf Heritage DVD made Available
Many of you know of the wealth of Deaf heritage and Culture we have in Northern Ireland with people like Francis Maginn, who set up the BDDA all those years ago, and here at DANI we were very proud to celebrate that heritage with the launch of our DVD ‘Signs of our times’.
We had a fabulous day at Jordanstown Schools for the Deaf on the 7th November and we were fortunate to be joined by George Best’s younger sister Barbara McNurry who chaired our launch and shared some lovely memories about George. John Hay and Rachel Pollard were our guest speakers and we were very excited to hear about their research and work into Deaf heritage. And of course one of our very own from Northern Ireland, Hugh Darragh, our most important Deaf heritage researcher, gave a lovely speech. Hugh has been invaluable and has committed many years to this research and was awarded by Simon Wilkinson-Blake as a small token of our appreciation. We can thank Hugh for finding Francis Maginn’s grave and raising money for the headstone and up keep of the grave.
Simon gave a great speech and told us about his vision for the future of BDA. He really wants to focus on the Deaf Community and make sure the values and real sense of community goes from strength to strength. He informed us that one of the BDA’s priorities is to relaunch and restructure the membership system and relaunch campaigns.
Overall the launch was a huge success and the 150 Deaf people who attended thoroughly enjoyed themselves. For many it was strange being back in their old school, meeting old faces and teachers and many emotions and stories were shared of the days gone by! It really brought out the true spirit of the Deaf Community.
Not only can we celebrate the DVD and all the fascinating stories but also that this project and making of the DVD has really brought people together as one in community. The week of filming brought people from all ages together and we had great times reminiscing our way through the years.
We gathered stories about deaf people’s experiences of education and boarding school, sport, the troubles, jobs and general lifestyle. One sad incident we learned about was of Eamon McDevitt who was shot dead during the troubles while watching an internment march. Although he wasn’t involved he couldn’t hear the soldier who was shouting at him and was shot for not responding. Many people turned out for his funeral but the deaf people had to stay in his house the night before the funeral and couldn’t risk going home.
Many people told stories of Francis Maginn and how he broke down the barriers to let deaf people work in Harland and Wolff. Other stories were captured about lifestyle changes. One deaf man told us how he used to have string tied to his toe which ran right through to his neighbour’s house. And each morning, to wake him up the neighbour tugged on the string! We have many many more lovely tales on the DVD – it’s well worth a watch! Our thanks must go to the Heritage Lottery Fund for allowing this priceless project to happen for the last 2 years.
You can get your free DVD by contacting us here in DANI. If you have any heritage information that may be valuable for example old videotapes, film or photos, please contact Paula Clarke or Evelyn McFarland in DANI office, (with address and tel., etc)
Wrote by Paula Clarke Photography by Lisa Beattie..