Staff and pupils take part in ‘novel’ act of remembrance

Author Paul Dowswell with English teacher Elizabeth McConnell and pupil Kaye-Ann Geronimo.
Author Paul Dowswell with English teacher Elizabeth McConnell and pupil Kaye-Ann Geronimo.

A ‘novel’ act of remembrance took place this week at Ballyclare High School.

Each of the 186 pupils in year 11 and 50 members of staff, members of the board of governors and ancillary staff, including “lollipop” man Billy McDonnell have been reading the novel ‘Eleven Eleven’, and at 11 o’clock on Armistice Day, Tuesday, November 11, author Paul Dowswell was in school to lead a series of creative workshops.

The book was chosen specifically by English teacher Elizabeth McConnell to mark the hundredth anniversary of the start of World War I.

Elizabeth said: “When every member of a community reads the same book at the same time, it provides a lovely opportunity to discuss the story (set on the last day of WW1) and the ideas it raises.

“Discussions in life skills have focused on issues such as trauma, remembrance, whether there is such a thing as a just war, and how to promote social and political healing in the aftermath of war.

“This was a community-based project. It is another way of making sure pupils really take on board the emotion of remembrance.”

Year 11 pupil, 14-year-old Kaye-Ann Geronimo, said the book project had made the annual period of remembrance “more memorable”.

She said that the book had been emotional, with a few surprises.

“I think it was a very good project. It got everyone involved.”

Billy McDonnell said that he had looked forward to reading the book which he completed in two nights.

“Once I got the book, I could not put it down. I really enjoyed it. It is written in a language that people can understand. It was easy to read and made me think about what happened. You could really picture it.

“I think it was a really good idea to get the youngsters involved. It lets us all understand what people went through.”

Author Paul Dowswell is the winner of the Historical Association of Young Quills Award for secondary school fiction in 2012 and 2013. He is a frequent visitor to schools to talk about his books and to take creative writing classes. History is his specialist subject.

‘Eleven Eleven’ tells the story of three young soldiers who were thrown together on the last day of World War I.

Paul has written more than 60 books for UK publishers.