With Tom Nestor

October is generally pleasant, with a mixture of sunshine and showers, as is the case with most months in this country. Our sense of self-pity had vanished and we had settled into the school routine long before the first of October.

As the month advanced, lamps were lit earlier in the evening and paraffin oil was bought in greater quantities each week. Fires brightened the long evenings: visiting hours lengthened and less time was needed to finish farm work, which had been in progress since early autumn.

When we returned to school, we resumed our ball games and races. As noted previously, we had our own versions of rugby and football, the rules of which varied from day to day, depending largely on which seniors were playing. There were no referees or match officials required for our encounters and foul play generally went unpunished.

The girls played Ring-a-Roses and practised dancing. We saw little of them because we played in a separate section of the schoolyard. Boys that transgressed by invading the girls’ play area, received slaps from the teachers.
There was a small bit of ground at the front of the school that was shared by males and females. Normally playtime was unsupervised, yet when someone broke the rules it invariably came to the attention of the teachers.
Although our recreation area was very small, all pupils were expected to remain within its precincts. Occasionally we ignored this restriction and were happy to receive the appropriate punishment for our transgressions.

There was a large field beside the schoolyard and this was the main target of our lunchtime rambles. We were much more afraid of being caught by the owner than by any punishment that the teachers might administer.
The farmer was familiar with our lunch break so it was relatively easy for him to catch intruders. One had only to scale the school wall to access the field, whereas high hedges, wire and stakes, made it more difficult to trespass in the fields across the road. For that reason we generally settled for the patch nearest the school and didn’t bother with the rest.

In fine weather Mrs Cogavin used to place a blackboard outside the gable end window and this enabled us to enjoy a game of handball without breaking the glass. Vincent and Joe Connor were probably the two best players among us. They lived close to the handball alley in Gurteen and often played there.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own