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From Hedge Schools to HedgeRadio

The HedgeRadio Podcast

presented by Chris Hayes and Alan Boland

Sometimes the only good thing about school is that it makes you realise how much you don’t want to be there, especially on those warm, bright early days of summer. And you feel it so intensely that you go on the hop the next day, and you end up finding a sheltered spot where you lie in the sun and feel free. That’s the warmest sun. I remember being 16 when Nelson Mandela was set free and thinking that’s how he must feel now, like being on the hop from school.

It was in these sunny spots under hedges that Irish children used to go to learn when the Penal Laws made it illegal for many Irish kids to receive formal education in the 1700’s. The aim of these wide ranging laws was to make the Irish Catholics convert and accept the primacy of the Protestant religion, and the colonial overlords thought the best way to do this was to ban Catholics from owning land, voting or setting up a school.

The response of the natives was to establish hedge schools, where a teacher would set up under cover of a hedge and teach local children. Sometimes these teachers moved around, some worked as secret revolutionaries, and for a fee they taught Irish, reading and writing, Greek, Latin and religion- the Catholic one. I love the subversive nature of this movement, hiding under a hedge just out of view and getting on with doing the thing that the authorities have outlawed.

HedgeRadio takes its inspiration from such activities, we try to idle for a time when we hear the whisper of a story, make enquiries as to the origin of the story then make our way deeper into the hedge and find the quiet spots where the wind won’t whip the story off the end of the mic. Along the way we hear about other stories and make notes and file them away, all the time listening for a sound or a voice that will make the difference, that will cause the listener to stay with the story and wonder about it.

Of course if you ever listened to HedgeRadio you haven’t found it on the FM dial, or even on a crackly AM one. The digital space of the internet is where we broadcast from, and we are delighted to be moving over to the Headstuff podcast network. As a lone podcaster slinging our audio it is an unforgiving climate but to be part of a wider group is exciting and we are looking forward to being inspired by the other shows on the network. Although more than that, and here is the eternal optimist in HedgeRadio, we can’t wait to actually meet some of the other people involved in those shows once lockdown rules are lifted. While leaving the golden beaches of Wexico is always challenging it will be good to wander further afield and to meet other podcasters who are putting out such a great mix of content for the listening pleasure of the public.

Your hosts:

Chris Hayes is from the gold coast of Wexford and has picked strawberries that have fed the rest of the country, but we never export the best ones. He grew up in a busy house and his mother always told her four boys that they had two ears and one mouth and to use them in that proportion, she also had a strict ban on TV before the news at six.

Alan Boland left the big city behind for life in rural Ireland many years ago. The city never suited his soul and life in the open spaces of rural Wexford has given him the space to grow. He tried his hand at dairy farming before being drawn back to the creative life. In his house there was a strict ban on TV after six.