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MY SCHOOL DAYS

 

 

 

By James Fahy. 1969 to 1977

I started school at the early age of five years .I remember for the first year we had to walk to school. From Knockoura that was almost 3 miles each way. Funnily enough, we were quicker getting home! In the summer time, (the summers always seemed to be longer and hotter than they seem now) we walked bare footed.It was nice to feel the hot,sticky tar on your toes!. However, I  remember very much liking school. It seems an unusual thing to say now but back then, there were few other places to learn about the big bad world. Books were a luxury . Travelling somewhere, to buy them was out of the question. Not too many had access to a car and I certainly hadn’t. I remember my first trip to the town of Gort; I was all of nine years old! Television didn’t arrive in the parish for some time either. I remember the first few sets, they were in the homes of the Parish Priest and Paddy Walsh of Farnane (A place where I spent most of my youth)
I remember my first day at school. Mrs. Gleeson, as I always refer to her, was my teacher. She made me feel welcome by giving me some boiled sweets .Back in 1969, that was a real treat. I recall sitting beside Patricia Connors as she then was, and I think we fought over turns at some picture book or other. I remember it had lots of colour pictures of animals. I didn’t have much grasp at that stage of what was expected of one in school so in somebody’s wisdom it was thought better for me that I stay back a year in high infants. This meant that all the lads that joined with me, went on a year ahead of me. Once you were a few years left school however and out in the big bad world, it didn’t really matter what class you had been in. I am happy to say that I have travelled a good bit in this world but no matter where I have wandered my best friends are those I spent my Primary school years with.
I remember when I progressed into Mrs Healy’s class. (She was the only woman I knew then or since who could cough, blow her nose, unwrap a Foxes Glacier mint, and pop it into her mouth, all at the same time, and with only a white hanky as a prop!) My only transgression in Mrs. Healy’s class was to be caught reading from a comic down at the back of the class supplied by J.J.Counihan.”Bonanza “, if I remember correctly and it was worth every slap!
We were now considered, “big boys” and the Masters class always tried to get us fighting, for their own entertainment. For that reason you could find yourself fighting your best friend, and being determined not to let the side down, doing a good job of giving a good trashing to which ever one it was on that occasion. That was the point really; whatever side you were on was the most important element of the scuffle.
Invariably, it was the side above versus the side below!

There were occasions when the factions joined forces, however it never seemed to benefit me. My fighting days began unknown to me at a very early age.  I recall “the big Lads” putting me fighting with all of my best friends, at some stage or other.
Other times the scuffles was just for our own entertainment.One such time stands out in my mind amongst the rest with clarityShort trousers were the order of the day, more often than not.
Hurling ,as ever ,was the sport, and sliothars were in short supply. Sponge, multi-coloured marble like designed liathróidí were the best alternative.
When a new one appeared the owner had to keep a sharp eye on it or it could get lost in someone’s pocket before the day was out!Vincent Collins,( now an eminent Member of An Garda  Síochana in Co. Carlow) was my ally. Dennis Farrell and Francis Larkin RIP were like peas in a pod, inseparable and equally cunning. Vincent produced the ball that morning but it had disappeared by lunchtime and suspicions fell on the pair. I was reigned in to lead the search party. The ball was not to be found after a thorough search of the suspects. So to ensure no area of concealment was overlooked, we rolled the pair barelegged through a nettle patch!
I don’t recall the exact words of Master McGarry but rest assured they didn’t encourage an encore; in fact it was one of those situations where one could say that actions spoke more loudly than words!
One of my favourite classes in the Masters room was the comhrá in the mornings as gaeilge ar an clar dubh. We had to make up a story using the stick on pictures supplied with each lesson. We got to use our imagination for the story and it was the best excitement of the day. It was no wonder that by the time we got to Secondary school, St Thomas pupils had a reputation as having a higher standard of Irish than any other National school in the South Galway area.
By the time we were in 5th and six class we were up to writing essays in English. I will never forget being singled out on one occasion for, no, something good this time, yes, for my essay. I couldn’t believe it when he read it out to the entire class. I’d say it was the start of my interest in writing as a pastime.

Another event that stands out in my memory was the time the Master would bring a few lads from 6th class to his orchard and bring back to the school boxes and boxes of delicious apples. I remember him dividing them amongst us. It was such a treat and of course they always tasted better than any other apple, because like any thing else it is the way it is presented that adds to the impression.

I remember one evening, Master had to leave early and we were given class work to do until the end of the school day. Some of the senior class girls were given the job to supervise. I do remember who it was but won’t embarrass her by naming her here!
My self and Vincent Collins got up to a bit of horseplay, knocking each other off the seat, much to her annoyance.
We went home thinking nothing of it.

The next day there was a heavy fall of snow on the ground and Vincent Hart’s’ bus was unable to travel. I didn’t want to stay at home that day, and didn’t want to miss school so I braved the elements and walked all the way on my own to school, getting there some time after 10am.The Master praised my efforts and I was well pleased with myself!
My self-congratulation didn’t last long however.  After lunch, when he received the report from the previous evening, Master found a different way to warm my hands!

One of my fondest memories must be of the endless summer holidays, the long sunshiny days in school when we were brought out side, books an all to get the best out of the fine days. This was a pioneering move for a teacher and it was something I brought with me to every stage of my education from then on. 
I can honestly recall bringing my books for the leaving cert to the riverside in Gort.  Mixing a dip between lessons. I can also recall, getting up early in the mornings (5 and 6 am) when stationed in Ardrahan, going off to my caravan in Cregclare to get a couple of hours of Study covered before my shift would start at 8 am and or the kids would be getting up for school and the tranquillity would be no more.
So, the best education, I conclude is the first, and everything you learn in life will be determined by the primary education one gets, if not determined, certainly influenced, in one way or another, … this is not just from my personal experience, but is evident from the example of those very successful parishioners who only had the benefit of a primary education and not much of that. But, then there is an argument to be made for the quality of the teaching also, for my money I was lucky to have what I would have considered, the crème de la crème of educations at primary Level. I think I speak for many if not all ,of the past pupils when I say we in Peterswell were lucky to have had a very high standard of education during our time there and I personally  I thank you one an all, Bernie, Mary and Tom, for making my school days , truly , the happiest days of my life.

 

22 march 2004   James T Fahy BL