As the countdown continues to next year’s 1916 Easter Rising centenary, one Derry born schoolteacher has come up with a novel way to mark the historic event.
Charles Harkin and his pupils at Tammela School in Tampere - located in southern Finland - recently took on the daunting task of translating the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic from English into Finnish.
Charles, who was brought up in the Shantallow and Foyle Road areas of the city, also used the unique opportunity to inform students about Ireland’s history and its path to independence.
So impressive was the project that the Irish Ambassador to Finland, Donal Denham, recently attended a special event at Tammela School to personally congratulate them on their efforts.
The event was attended by all 600 students at the school, as well as the principal, all members of staff and a number of invited guests.
Charles, a past pupil of Steelstown PS and St Columb’s College, acknowledges that the translation project was a “massive undertaking” but one which was richly rewarding - both for himself and his pupils.
“It was a difficult project,” he told the ‘Journal’ this week. “Kids these days are used to having everything ready at the flick of a button. The translation process was, at times, awkward and tiresome.
“To their credit, however, the kids never questioned the process. I think they wanted to be a part of making history - something that no-one else has done; something unique.”
Charles says the project also underlined the many similarities that exist between Ireland and Finland - not least the move to independence around the same time.
Charles says he’s delighted at the outcome of the project.
“I’m so proud of my students and their parents. The Irish Embassy was also excellent in their support.
“It probably took about six weeks out of our curriculum but, as I said to the parents, the project is something that will carry them out into the world.”
The Derry man, raised in the city by an Irish father and a Finnish mother, says that, after leaving school, he travelled to Finland to acquaint himself with his Finnish roots.
He soon found himself doing military training before heading to university where he qualified as an English teacher.
“I came to Finland for a summer job and made the same mistake as my father - I met a Finnish girl and that was it!” he says.
Married to Nina, Charles has two kids - son Lauri Mikael and daughter Roisin - and is the proud grandfather of seven month old Miko Kasper Harkin.
In all, there are now seven Harkins in Finland - including his mum and younger brother - so Charles’ clan is firmly settled in Scandinavia.
Charles says the Irish Ambassador has asked him if his students could “perform” in the future - so, as the Derry man says, “the story continues.”