John Corbett shares a selection of memories of life in the Irish countryside

July was the high point of summer for us. We waited impatiently to escape from the precincts of the school and we set about exploring our new-found freedom, unburdened by lessons or home-work.

The day of the holidays was special. Lessons were shorter than usual and like ourselves, the teachers seemed happier too. Our teachers, Mrs. Cogavin, and Sheila Cloonan, were pleasant individuals. They made the day of the holidays extra special for everyone by distributing large quantities of sweets and other goodies and we took full advantage of their generosity. None of my pals received pocket money so a free supply of goodies was not to be spurned.

One of our group, we’ll call him Pat, had a habit of disappearing from class, having asked permission to go to the toilet, during the ordinary school term. Search parties despatched by teachers never managed to find him. Of course collusion between searchers and the fugitive may have accounted for the lack of success in locating him.
Pat would return shortly before school ended. Slaps and a dressing down from Mrs. Cogavin didn’t deter him and he was ready to repeat the performance when the opportunity arose.

It was different on the day of the holidays. Pat would arrive early that morning, complete with books and satchel, and, if he were to be observed by an outsider, he would pass for one of the most assiduous pupils in the school!

Speaking of misdemeanours, John Joe Ward often spoke of a boy in his class who used to put the clock forward when the teacher left the room. This meant of course that the students in that room got off much earlier than the others.

According to John Joe, such incidents were a source of friction between the teachers and he describes the futile attempts of the Principal to get the escapees back to the classroom again. Watches or synchronised time keeping were unknown at that time.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own