Ducks Down

Primary School children of today try out games recorded 80 years ago in the Schools’ Folklore Collection in UCD. First broadcast on RTÉjr as 20 short features in Early Birds with Ray Cuddihy, starting on 22 October 2018.


In a revolutionary scheme initiated by the Irish Folklore Commission in 1937, tens of thousands of children in over 4000 primary schools in the Irish Free State collected material which they wrote into copybooks, accumulating more than 500,000 manuscript pages, now known as the Schools’ Folklore Collection and held in UCD. Collecting material mainly from their parents, grandparents and other older members of the local community, the children researched local history and monuments, folktales and legends, riddles and proverbs, songs, customs and beliefs, games and pastimes, traditional work practices and crafts.

This series takes twenty of the games recorded in the Schools’ Folklore Collection, some of which may be familiar to children today (eg Conkers, Hopscotch) and others which will not (eg Mrs Healy come a Keily, Milk in Jars).

Pupils from these schools take part in the programmes: Scoil Naomh Mhuire, Staplestown, Co Kildare; Educate Together, Carlow, Co Carlow; St. Nicholas’ Parochial School, Galway, Co Galway; St Mary’s Convent Primary School, Trim, Co Meath; Oxmantown National School, Birr, Co Offaly; Scoil Éanna, Ballybay, Co Monaghan; Kilnaleck National School, Kilnaleck, Co Cavan; St Matthew’s National School, Ballymahon, Co Longford.

In each episode children of today try out one of the games recorded in the Schools’ Folklore Collection and give their verdict. Is there any chance that they might bin the batteries and switch off their screens in favour of playing ‘Draw, draw a bucket of water’?

The series was funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland with the television licence fee.