JOHN CORBETT with a selection of memories of life in the Irish countryside during the month of July


Summer began for us children in July, because we were released from school around mid-month. Warm weather was expected, although I remember one occasion in the late seventies, when there was a sharp breeze and many people went around wearing overcoats.

This was different to the general pattern. Light wear, shirt sleeves and sunhats were the norm. I don’t know if sunblock was in circulation locally. Nobody in our family ever used it then and I think the same was true of our friends. In hindsight, I wonder how we escaped without serious scorching or sunstroke.

It must have been difficult for the teachers to contain us once the first of the month arrived. The sounds of singing birds and the croaking corncrake blended with the noise of carts and mowing machines, as our thoughts floated far away from the books and the blackboards that confronted us in the classroom.

Our attention spans were limited enough normally but they were close to zero at this time of year. Each day seemed like an eternity as we sat in our desks and tuned to music of Nature that seeped into the school from the surrounding fields and meadows. Fortunately from the teachers’ point of view, the windows sat high up in the walls of the building so this prevented us from actually seeing what was happening outside.

However, I’m sure the teachers themselves were not immune from the external distractions that were taking place nearby. One of the meadows where farmers were working was close to the school and this did nothing to help us concentrate on academic matters. We wished we had magic wands that could speed up the arrival of the summer break.

One could almost feel the tension dissipating when the day of the holidays finally arrived. It was a real thrill for us. Even pupils with poor attendance records nearly always showed up on the day of the holidays. After some short lessons early in the day, we were allowed out to play.

Then when Mrs Cogavin clapped her hands, we all gathered around her and waited our turn as she distributed quantities of sweets to everyone. School ended around lunch time and the noise of mowing machines, birds and everything else was temporarily eclipsed, as we raised our voices in exultation and raced onto the road, hardly able to believe that the school term was over.

We could now turn our backs on books and homework for the rest of the summer. We behaved like as if we had won the Sweepstakes and would never have to endure the ordeal of returning to school again.
But, of course, this was only true for those that were leaving off. The fact that the majority of us would be resuming our seats in the classroom, come September, was far removed from our thoughts, as we romped homewards on those glorious July afternoons.

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