LOCAL children sent out an SOS and many other recognised Morse code signals at a workshop in the Museum at the Mill recently.
The workshop taught the children the internationally recognised code in a new fun and innovative method invented by storyteller Kathleen O’Sullivan.
She along with fellow storyteller Billy Tear tour the length and breadth of Ireland using traditional, modern and original stories, to demonstrate how to engage and stimulate children.
To mark the recent Titanic commemorations they decided to look into techniques used on board the fated liner.
Kathleen takes up the story: “We were looking at storytelling ideas for the Titanic and of course they used Morse code for communication and to send out their distress signals.
“I looked at learning and found that there were very complicated abstract and boring ways of learning it and I thought I would never get it. So I developed a series of drawing and illustrations centred around the alphabet.
“Basically if you know your ABCs you can learn our methods of teaching Morse code. It really is very simple.”
She went on: “People have been surprising themselves about how quickly they can pick it up.
“We started by telling the children that if they could pick up five signals in an hour they would be doing good, but they can pick them up in five minutes.
“Once they learn one, they want to learn another and another until they are very good at it after an hour.”
“It has very many different applications, the children learn it and do not realise it is testing a lot of other activities like reading and writing, vocabulary and grammar.
“And then often their parents would come and they too would get involved and learn as well, when they had no intention to get involved in the first place.
“Also people in their 70s have told us it is a good brain training exercise for them. So it has many applications.”
Fellow storyteller Billy added: “We have been very surprised about how well it has gone down.
“The artist Samuel Finley Breeze Morse, who invented the code, had roots from Co. Armagh, so there is a great story to it. Morse is still used very widely today especially in parts of China.
“I have studied other teaching methods for Morse and none appear to be as simple as the method Kathleen came up with. The kids love it, it is very simple and it is like learning a new language. Of course SOS is the most recognised and popular signal, but there is plenty to learn. It is essentially accelerated learning that we developed incidentally.
“Usually we finish up by doing a treasure hunt and all the clues are in Morse.
“And in the museum, different exhibits are written up in Morse and the children have to investigate. This excites them and they are also learning at the same time.
“And because Morse can be sent in various different forms, like pictures, signals or sound it can have some very modern day uses.
“You can actually send Morse code in text messages, which can be useful.
“But it’s the universal appeal that has surprised us, a lot of people interested. I suppose you have to try new things all the time.”