Lessons in storytelling
It’s been about a week since we released our most recent episode on The HedgeRadio Podcast, Fiddler on the Mountain. It’s done really well and people are enjoying it which of course is great. But what surprises me every time is the process of producing the podcast - finding the story, looking at it beside other ideas, evaluating it, doing some primary research and then comes the interviews and putting it all together.
In the case of Fiddler on the Mountain we thought we were gonna do a short story about the Furlong Homestead on Forth Mountain and the work being done by the volunteers and the Barntown Heritage Group. So Chris grabbed the recording gear one morning, Lydon his 11 year son in tow, and they headed up Forth Mountain to meet some of the people working away on the Furlong Homestead. As per usual Chris had his prep done and had a good idea who he wanted to interview. Some of these you will have heard in the Podcast. (you can listen here if you haven't heard it already). The interviews went well and the work being done is fantastic. Local volunteers all give their time to help preserve this wonderful old house on the mountain. The stone mason Pat Hickey had figured out a lot about the place from the building materials. Ronan and Michael told us what they knew about the place and the picture was fairly complete except, as is sometimes the case it just didn’t feel full. It was functional, good information, some nice colour from the volunteers but we look for stories.
To create a story that people will listen to you need more, someone who can add colour and move the story along because you want to know what happened to them- were they challenged or changed? Were they happy or sad? Chris knew this, he has been creating stories for a long time and he knew there was an ingredient missing.
During the interview with Ronan O'Flaherty, an archaeologist, Chris picked up on something Ronan alluded to, that there was a lady still alive in Dublin who might actually remember visiting the house and it’s occupant Jem Furlong. Now a trip to Dublin wasn’t in the original plan but his nose for a story led Chris to drive to Dublin the following week to meet and hopefully interview Mary Ellen McClure.
Chris said of meeting Mary Ellen “she was amazing, such a breath of fresh air”
Chris chatted with Mary Ellen and her husband Mick for hours. “The stories they have of Wexford and Forth Mountain and Jem furlong just blew me away” Chris said.The story for our podcast became very apparent. In studying storytelling you are told you need three things and one of those is a character, well for sure Chris found our character.
In the episode Mick tells us about how he cycled from Dublin to Wexford in the 1950’s to meet Mary Ellen -and she stood him up! Mary Ellen’s happy life on the mountain was shattered when her mother died and she had to go to Dublin to work, but her love of her home place stayed with her and would see her leading pikemen on the mountain again and heading to New York to honour those that had fought for Irish independence. Her memories of the Furlong homestead were full of warmth, details that evoke a beautiful house of music, chat and hard work that will inform the restoration of the house and motivate the volunteers in the work that they are doing.
Our story became all the richer for having what historians call a primary source, but what storytellers call a good character.