By Gaby Roughneen
It was an odd thing, but our school, built in 1902, had an external personality which seemed to change little over the years. Its high windows glinted in the sun, and wept in the rain, and the same green doors slammed year in and year out.
The inside, however, even though the murmur of lessons and the smell of chalk seemed built into the walls, went through intriguing changes of personality as assorted groups came through at different times.
The cleaning woman was a constant in these changes and, at the end of the day, whether it was lessons, or after a special event, she went through with her brush and and a small bucket of wet tea-leaves, which she scattered over the wooden floor to keep the dust down before sweeping. Then the school rested until the action started again.
One change of activity in the classroom was dreaded by us all and that was when the school doctor and nurse, people we didn’t know, came to give us ‘the needle’. We lived in fear of our names being called to join the queue.
A classroom became a clinic, with strange things spread out on the teacher’s desk and a different smell in the air. The doctor and nurse were brisk – lots of children to get through in a morning – and offered little comfort to the fearful.
Depending on how traumatic it had been, we skipped back to class glad it was over, or, as in the case of the nasty jab for TB, we tried to stop the tears before we reached our classroom.
What a change in atmosphere in the school with the arrival of the travelling shows during lesson hours or in-school concerts! As always, two partitions of three classrooms were pushed back to create a kind of hall for the crowd and we were swept away into worlds of laughter, intrigue and drama.
The school also became the gathering place for adults on some evenings. It might have been for the Children of Mary, strolling in for their monthly Sodality meeting, or the Mission Society, to sort through stamps or plan the selling of missionary magazine.