McHugh looks back into the not so wonderful Leaving Cert that others now have to endure . . .

McHugh's Donegal Miscellany

Almost 1,000 Offaly students receive Leaving Cert results today

Almost 1,000 Offaly students receive Leaving Cert results today

Do you remember the good old fashioned Leaving Cert . . . .  

Growing up, next to the words of 'way til your father gets home;' was the other words of wisdom that reverberated in your head or more correctly, on the back of your neck -  'The Leaving Cert will decide everything else about where you go in life'.

It was written in stone, if you were smart. 
But if you were really smart, you learned to work with stone.
Then if you were smarter still, you had left before the Leaving Cert and started your apprenticeship or trade. 
The smartest of the lot got a job after the 'Leaving' in the public service and by now, many have taken early retirement and are getting a decent pension.

Thankfully that has changed greatly and opportunities that young men and women have in choosing their life's path in the 21st century have changed completely over recent decades. 
Indeed the choice and variety of courses are mesmerising in their expanse. 

And now we know that students this year will have to continue studying during the summer months of June and probably most of July before they get to sit their exams this year.
Already with 100% marks in their oral and aural examinations, they are in with a good chance of success this year, if they can hold it together and look at things in a cool and collected manner.
But we were all teenagers once . . . 

There was talk about other methods of marking as well as being postponed in response to the challenges that students are now facing. 
Anything other than a three-hour crammed exam, I would have said!
Where you have to regurgitate all that information that you had learned off by heart in the preceding year or, as most of us mortals did, in the few weeks before the exams.

I'm sure that things have changed since the time I sat the exams, but I hated every minute of the Leaving Certificate. 
Even then, I never considered it a reflection on anyone's ability, other than get a half decent round of applause after doing a two minute splat out with Magnus Magnusson (remember him!) and Mastermind on BBC.
I still get nightmares of having to go back and re-sit it! 
You got three chances; you got the marks you were looking for the first time around, you had to resit the Leaving Cert or there was a third alternative called a Matriculation examination which was a de facto University entrance exam.

There was the old joke of getting two honours - the honour of sitting it and the honour of failing it. 
There was also an expression called ‘a red honour’ if you managed to get an A or B grade in a pass paper. 
It reminds me of the story of one of our classmates who came out of the Leaving Certificate maths exam that was held in the Rock Hall, opposite the no-more De La Salle college.
 When asked how he got on by the lads after the examination, he revealed that he had taken the honours maths paper. 
Not a guy that liked the maths curriculum, it was a strange choice. 
He then revealed that it would look better that he had failed an honours maths paper than a pass maths paper. 
It’s a true story . . .  

De La Salle College in Ballyshannon was an amazing school. It was small but punched above its weight both academically and on the sporting fields.
And it has to be said, where you did get the odd punch as well, especially if were not a self annointed 'sham' in your first year there.
Looking back, there were many things that stood out, not least the school winning the All Ireland School football championship in 1980, after St Eunan's College had won it the year bef0re .
Many of that team later went on to represent Donegal in their first All Ireland under-21 football championship in 1982 and the county's first senior title All Ireland a decade later.

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