Longford's Backstage Theatre celebrates the late Duchess of Abercorn

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Longford's Backstage Theatre celebrates the late Duchess of Abercorn

Sacha, Duchess of Abercorn who founded the Pushkin Trust

It was with deep sadness that we learned of the passing of Her Grace Sacha Abercorn last December. Many Longford teachers will fondly remember Her Grace, The Duchess of Abercorn who founded The Pushkin Trust in 1987. She did this in response to the traumatising effect the Troubles were having on her own children and she realised must be also happening in homes across Northern Ireland.

A special evening celebrating creativity in our schools at Backstage Theatre this evening (Wednesday) at 7pm will also remember this inspiring Lady for her generosity and hospitality at home and her inspirational work to ‘unite children in a common bond of creativity which transcends all the factors that might otherwise divide them’.

Taking inspiration from her ancestor Alexander Pushkin, she discovered she could bring children together through ‘the realm of the artist’ thus giving voice to them through creative writing, art, music and a love of nature. With help from the Education Board she brought together Catholic and Protestant voices, urban and rural, from North and South and the rest is history.

Kitty Hughes former Principal Aughnagarron national school said, “Here in Longford, the first schools involved were Glen NS and Killoe NS.

“Over the years we welcomed The Duchess, or Sacha, as she was fondly known, to many more schools including Ballymahon, Aughnagarron, Abbeylara, Stonepark, St Christophers, Ballinalee, Killasonna, Tashinny and St John’s Primary school.

“They explored themes with the aid of accomplished artists, writers and environmentalists all funded by Pushkin.”

The end result of these projects were exciting Celebration Days exhibiting folios of creative and imaginative work by the children.

In the process, pupils and teachers visited her home for Baronscourt Days and met children from Belfast and beyond.

Friendships were forged with children in the North from all sides and by teachers with their counterparts in the schools of Northern Ireland, urban and rural.

Inspired learning, the gift of an inspirational lady at a troubled time in our lives.

Sacha Abercorn, a direct descendant of the Russian Romanov tsars was born in Tucson, Arizona, USA and grew up in England.

After her marriage to the Duke of Abercorn in 1966, she lived at their ancestral home in Barons Court in the shadow of the Sperrin Mountains in Co Tyrone.

She founded The Pushkin Schools programme, and over the past thirsty years more than 50,000 children have taken part in almost every county in Ireland.

Sacha was a hands-on patron, visiting every participating school. She had a wonderful way of making every child feel proud of their work. At a memorial service held In St Anne Cathedral, Belfast, attended by creative people from every walk of life north and south she was described as ‘an icon of elegance and nobility, a tireless promoter of creativity, a catalyst for peace and reconciliation’.

May her gentle soul rest in peace and may her inspirational spirit live on in the lives of the children who experienced the Pushkin projects and continue in the work of The Pushkin Trust.

As she herself said “Everyone has a noble spirit in them and that’s what I’m searching for in Pushkin, the nobility of the human being in us all.”