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Bronagh McAtasney with her 1981 Diary. Photograph: Columba O'HareWhen Thirteen year old Our Lady's Grammar School pupil Bronagh McAtasney got a present of a 1981 Diary she couldn't have imagined what was in store for the forthcoming year, never mind the interest generated over thirty years later.

It was to be her first diary and her only diary to date."I think I'm very lucky that the one diary for the one year that I kept was that year. I got a diary the next year and I think I filled in one month of it and I was done."

Living in Canal Street in Newry, Bronagh would meticulously add her daily entry to her little journal measuring four inches by three inches, writing hundreds of words in tiny writing and if she needed more space would write sideways in any available white space!

Sometimes it would be 2am before she finished but it always ended with "That's all Good Night. Time - Ten to One"

As Bronagh says "A 13 year old girl is the perfect candidate for a diary. You're very introverted and quite dramatic and want to record all your feelings."

"It Starts quite bland 'Watched Gone with the Wind' on New Years Day, then in February me and my friends are walking up and down Hill Street looking at all the boys we had our eye on 'Would he send me a Valentines card, would you get a card?'

Entries are a perfect mix of the normal goings on of a thirteen year old girl and the completely abnormal situation that girl found herself in, growing up in a troubled world and more importantly a troubled Newry. Looking back Bronagh acknowledges that "What was happening from day to day for me was just as important"

"We were so oblivious to the implications of what was going on. Just getting on with day to day life even though there had been a bomb down the street or a soldier shot dead somewhere." Child of the Troubles is certainly the correct term.

One daily entry points out that Egyptian President, Anwar Sadat was assassinated coincidentally the same day as Bronagh finished her skirt in Domestic Science.

John Lennon had just been killed a month earlier and in January young Bronagh was very perturbed that they were just exploiting him, they didn't really like him before, but now they all loved him! As her entry reads  '… girls in school say they're fans - they never were'

1981 was the year of the Hunger Strikes which impacted everything, with people finding it difficult to get in or out of school and classmates wearing black armbands.

As Bronagh admits "It wasn't intentionally ever political but I think you couldn't help live here at that time and not have that stuff touch you."

'Cool' girls had hunger strike badges - I got one of them and my mother nearly killed me."

Tiny writing in Bronagh's 1981 Diary. Photograph: Columba O'Hare

5th May 1981

'Bobby Sands Died at 1.17am this morning. It's very sad and the whole day has been filled with trouble and news about it. The people of Belfast were on the streets the moment they heard. There was fighting. Many girls from south Armagh didn't come to school today because the buses were off.'

'Made pasties in Domestic Science and they turned out gorgeous'

1981 was also the year of many crushes on boys plus a really exciting School trip to Rome to see the Pope!

Practical difficulties of keeping a diary included keeping it away from the prying eyes of her brother who tried to read it on multiple occasions as well as having to finish her musings early because her sister wanted the light put out!

As well as the diary Bronagh bought a Top 20 Chart book and for Six years meticulously recorded the music charts - Who was number what, with what song and a rating of what she thought of it. Madness was the best with House of Fun being off the scale for ratings.

Over the years Bronagh and her sister had taken the diary out and read it to themselves with great laughs resulting and not only her sister but other friends have encouraged her to do something with it.

Bronagh has launched a Twitter account adding an entry on the day it happened thirty something years later.

Bronagh aged 13.

Recently It has started to spiral and strike a chord with people with The Arts Council expressing an interest in the story.

Bronagh who works at the Southern Area Hospice doesn't know where all the interest will take her diary project but would love it to be something that encompassed all aspects of the story including the music of the time.

"I'm not too sure if it would work as a book but would love it to be something more dimensional than that, maybe a play, radio series." 

You can check out Bronagh's daily entries in her Twitter Account at @nrnirngirl1981

Top of the Pops. The Charts in January 1982.

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