This documentary is featured on RTÉ Learn as part of the Documentary on One's Education Resources

- Download the Junior Cycle Worksheet

Radio presenter Cathal never met his grandfather Patrick Monaghan because he disappeared in 1937. Last seen just before a storm at the lighthouse in Blackrock, Co. Cork where he used to work, Patrick Monaghan’s disappearance has always been a source of fascination to Cathal. Although he came close to visiting it as a child, he has never been out to the lighthouse. This short documentary enables students to listen to interviews and explore sound effects, which form an integral part of the documentary’s structure as the narrator tells the story of his grandfather’s life and finally makes the trip, via helicopter to the site of his grandfather’s last home.

The thematic unit of work uses the documentary as a primary text, as is recommended in the English Specification.

  • In studying the documentary, students engage with all four LITERACY skills, i.e. Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing.
  • The oral and written assignments support development of JUNIOR CYCLE KEY SKILLS as well as a selection of LEARNING OUTCOMES from the ENGLISH SPECIFICATION.
  • In a carefully staged, AFL process, the unit begins with pre-listening, challenging students to tap into their prior knowledge, their thoughts and feelings about the context in the text.
  • The documentary, for classroom purposes has been divided into short, relevant clips and the associated activities/ worksheets will develop a variety of comprehension skills, e.g. anticipation; active-listening; discussion; post-listening and reflective/ creative activities.
  • Methodologies used in the teaching and learning resources encourage the student to become a critical, autonomous, self-directed and reflective learner. This is facilitated through AFL tasks which include peer and self-reflection sheets.
  • By the end of this unit of work, students will be ready to complete a summative assessment task, suitable for the Oral Communication Task. An outline of the CBA can be found in the specification for Junior Cycle English (October 2015) which is available on the JCT website

Throughout the unit of work, students will be guided through activities which include:
- A think, pair, share discussion which explores possible themes in the documentary
- An active-listening exercise exploring sound effects and their impact
- A set of reordering and rewriting tasks (with differentiated worksheets) based on an a clip from the documentary, followed by a self-assessment reflection sheet.
- A cloze-test worksheet exploring the language used in the documentary
- Writing a functional/ creative letter using the documentary content a springboard

The unit builds up to the final, summative task; researching and narrating a historical event of the student’s choice.

The summative task is preceded by scaffolding activities, followed by AfL materials including self and peers assessment activities.

Note: This documentary makes brief mention of a death so teachers should be mindful of this if students may have experienced recent losses.

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Documentary description from the documentary makers:

Patrick Monaghan, was a lighthouse-keeper.

In September 1937, he was swept from the Blackrock lighthouse, 10 miles off the coast of Mayo, by a freak wave. His body was never discovered.

Seven months later, his wife gave birth to a girl, Mamie. She, in turn, had eight children, including radio presenter, Cathal.

For years, Mamie and her family had looked from the Mayo shore at the spec that is Blackrock Lighthouse - Patrick's final resting-place.

In June 2010, with the help of Irish Lights, Mamie and Cathal made the journey to Blackrock Lighthouse.

Thanks to:

Commissioners of Irish Lights


Especially John Gore Grimes and the lighthouse-keeper, John Ruane.

Also, Joe Beirne of Midwest Radio who made the recording of singer, Padraig Ó Maolruaidh available.

The Curious Ear is produced by Ronan Kelly

(A short Irish documentary from RTE Radio, Ireland)