South Tyneside pupils learn about ancestors’ role in war

Saints Peter and Paul RC Primary School pupil Lexi Cairns with her Great Great Great Grandfather Private John Legg's Military Medal, at South Shields Museum and Art Gallery.
Saints Peter and Paul RC Primary School pupil Lexi Cairns with her Great Great Great Grandfather Private John Legg's Military Medal, at South Shields Museum and Art Gallery.

Pupils went back in time as part of a museum takeover day at South Shields Museum & Art Gallery.

As part of the national Kids in Museums Takeover Day, students from St Peter and Pauls RC Primary

took inspiration from the new WWI exhibition and their own family stories from that time.

Our Hopes Profound: How WWI changed people’s lives in South Tyneside, marking 100 years since the Armistice, explores the aftermath of the war and the social change which came about, as well as the personal stories of people from the area.

The Year 5 students, aged eight to nine years, created a commemorative artwork and poems to honour 24 people from the South Shields area – their own family members, both male and female, who participated in the war effort. One of the pupil’s great, great, great grandfather was awarded a bravery medal which will go on display at the museum.

It belonged to Private John Legg from South Shields for his great courage, in which he carried messages through heavy artillery, and his great, great, great granddaughter Lexi Cairns was among pupils visiting the museum.

Lesley Palanker-Jermyn, assistant learning officer at South Shields Museum & Art Gallery, said: “The children have been working with us in different ways to really get a feel for the WWI era and why people chose to do the things they did, how society changed and how hard it was, and they have been researching their own family histories.

“They are taking a lot of pride in honouring their ancestors. Visitors will be able to see the pupils’ finished artwork on display on the first floor of the museum, just outside the Our Hopes Profound exhibition.”

In preparation students took part in an immersive theatrical performance with the Heritage Lottery funded Canny Craic Theatre Company at the museum, inspired by real letters from people during WWI. The performances were about two serving soldiers and a woman left at home. After each scene the students were invited to ask the actors questions while they were in character about their life, service and living conditions.

*Our Hopes Profound: How WWI changed people’s lives in South Tyneside - the title taken from the powerful Laurence Binyon poem For the Fallen - runs until June 1 2019.

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