Over the last five years I have been researching the Life of Emily M. Weddall 1867-1952. I heard about her first from an elderly neighbour, Mary McNamara back in 1999, when I was collecting Achill folklore from her. Mary used to work for Emily when she lived on Achill back in the 1940’s and it was clear Emily had meant a lot to her.
When I listened to the recording I made of my conversation with Mary, Emily’s name was mentioned on quite a few occasions, linking her with some of the folklore of Achill Island. It turned out that Emily Weddall had led an extraordinary life. She set up Scoil Acla (a Irish language and cultural summer school, which is still going strong today) in 1910, helped put Achill on the tourist map and played her part in the fight for Irish freedom. Emily had certainly captured my imagination, I just had to find out more about her.
Sadly Mary McNamara passed away shortly after my recording her. She had planted a seed within me, one that lay dormant for the next ten years. On St Patrick’s day 2010, I visited Glasnevin Cemetery with a friend, where Emily is buried, and found her unmarked grave. While laying flowers on it I thought It had to be the loneliest sight I ever seen. I put an advert seeking information of Emily in the Irish times and was contacted by the present committee of Scoil Acla. At the time it was coming up to the centenary of the summer school and they were in the process of erecting a headstone of her grave. In November 2012 60 years to day of her death the headstone was unveiled and we all celebrated this amazing woman’s life.But it did not end there I continued to research her life story, and decided to put my findings online by writing the blog; The Life and Times of Emily M. Weddall. Earlier this I teamed up with independent film maker Marcus Howard, whose YouTube channel Easter Rising Stories honours the lesser known people who took part such as Emily. I have also been contacted by one of her relatives from Canada. I couldn’t have imagined back in 1999 when I first heard about her from Mary McNamara, the outcome. I have certainly had some amazing adventures over the course of my research and I am sure there are many more to come!