New research project seeks drought stories and memories
A new research project is seeking personal stories and memories of droughts. The drought of summer 2018 reminded us of how vulnerable Irish society is to water shortages, from local farms to businesses, wells to water supplies and even biodiversity.
In a country renowned for rainfall we often forget that in the past Ireland has experienced some significant drought periods, particularly in the 1990s, 1970s and before.
Funded by the Irish Research Council, geographers from University College Dublin (UCD) and Maynooth University are looking to document local experiences and coping strategies that were implemented by individuals during past drought events and to identify lessons that can be learned from local experiences.
‘Personal voices and experiences’
“Our weather records and newspaper archives show a history of drought being more frequent in the past than in recent decades,” said Dr. Arlene Crampsie, project lead for ‘Drought Memories’ Irish Droughts: Environmental and Cultural Memories of a Neglected Hazard’ at UCD’s school of geography.
However, we are missing personal voices and experiences about the experience of drought. We are therefore concerned that the insights people have from past droughts are being forgotten and we are eager to learn from people about how they were impacted and what they did in response.
“We are hoping to identify people to interview from across the country who remember past drought periods and can tell us what they were like, how they impacted local communities and what people did to cope with water shortages.
“The idea is that in doing so, we will gain a better understanding of the ways droughts impacted different parts of Ireland in different ways and at different times,” Dr. Crampsie said.
If you have memories or stories of past droughts, the researchers would like to hear from you. They emphasise that having an archive of such experiences will help build a bank of knowledge that makes us, as a society, less prone to negative impacts and help people cope with the challenges droughts can bring.
As part of their project ‘Irish Droughts: Environmental and Cultural Memories of a Neglected Hazard’, the memories and stories that are collected will be made available through a publicly accessible archive to help share experiences and ideas and to illustrate the different impacts that droughts have had on different parts of the island.
The researchers are also interested to trace locally held weather records and diaries. These may have been recorded by a keen amateur weather observer or simply included as a daily or weekly aside in personal diaries.
No matter how brief the mention or for how short a period the records were kept, the project team would love to hear from anyone willing to share such records that date from the 1950s and earlier.
If you have stories of your experience of drought you would like to share, know of weather records or diaries that you think may be of interest, or would simply like to find out more, visit the project website on UCD.