Jack Johnston, an independent historian, author and publisher, has lived for most of his life at Ratory, outside Clogher in Co. Tyrone. He recalls his study for a history degree in Trinity College, Dublin, followed by his Masters in Local History at the same college. He worked as a teacher in Dublin for a short time before continuing his teaching career in Fivemiletown in Co. Tyrone. He retired in 1985 to devote his time and energies to cross-Border and community history projects. He served as Secretary with the Clogher Diocesan Historical Society for 18 years and is also involved in farming on a small scale. He recalls an incident during the early days of the Troubles when attacks occurred on a military base close to his home, and also when bullets hit the house. His involvement from 1997 until 2003 in attempting to gain the trust of the Nationalist and Unionist communities through with the Border Counties History Collective is recalled. Common ground among the history groups in the region was established as a result. Jack worked on editing two books produced by two history groups which worked together: The Riverstown Story – County Sligo and The Brookeborough Story, Co. Fermanagh. He discusses the recent history of Northern Ireland and the results of vast discrimination and sectarianism, much of it by the Unionist Executive which existed over the years. Two distinct communities exist side by side, he says. In contrast, he describes Coronation Sports Day in 1953 in his local area, when children of both communities came together to embrace the occasion. The rise and influence of Sinn Féin were to bring this most positive interaction, and others similar endeavours, to an end. He explains that the local people have a strong sense of place and a pride in their townland name, and that the Protestant community values their Irish placename, leading him to believe that something positive could emerge if further exploration of this positive situation could be carried out.
This collection, carried out by Irish Life and Lore on behalf of Cavan County Library Service, is funded by the EU Special EU Programmes Body Peace IV fund under the objective to build positive relations with people from different backgrounds and communities to support peace and reconciliation.
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