McHugh's Miscellany: Nostalgic memories of the school days of yesteryear

McHugh's Miscellany:  Nostalgic memories  of the school days of yesteryear

The National school in Bundoran - St Macartan's

I am blessed to have my children attend the same school where I received my own primary school education.
St Macartan's National School in Bundoran, according to the school plaque, came into existence in 1953.

There was an old school out the West End and at Ardfarna, but they were before my time.
Master Joe Roarty from Church Road was the Principal, when I was there.
It was a much smaller school to that of today and we spent a year during the construction phase in St. Patrick's Hall, which to put it mildly, was a tight squeeze.

Ironically, I never got to attend the new school. Mina Doherty was my first teacher in junior or 'baby' infants.
She was a beautiful and loving teacher, whom I absolutely adored.
In all the decades that have passed since, she still remains one of my favourites. There was also Mrs McCosker from Ballyshannon, whom I later knew as Pauline, but even as an adult, you were compelled out of respect or habit, to address your former teachers in that old formal way.
We had a great mutual respect for each other, that continued as I became an adult and I am glad that such early influences in my educational path were positive.
Mrs King, also from Ballyshannon was the wife of the then Editor of the Donegal Democrat, Gervaise King, with whom I later worked as a young reporter.

The only difference is that back then, it was an exclusively boys primary school with the girls’ St Louis Convent up on Station Road, which my sisters attended. 
School-going children give life a great balance as they can deliver messages in ways that adults simply wouldn't - whether that is about your weight, hair loss, your clothing, car, your favourite television programmes, your cooking skills or just about  anything else they care to choose. 
But I will leave that one for another day!

There I was sitting in my car before Christmas,  until it was time to collect one of the wee urchins, the one who has been on a crutch as a result of thinking he was Superman on the football field and operating other mechanical peddling devices and scooters that could be propelled with football boots rather than a pair of firm shoes.
One of the parenting tips I have learned as a result is to never underestimate the ability of a child to leave the kitchen with his shoes on, but by the time they reach the front door, they have mysteriously morphed into a pair of football boots.

As I waited outside, I noticed just how many cars were jam packed on each side of the road, as we all waited for the children to come out from the school yard.
With Covid-19 safety measures, leaving times are staggered making the big rush a little less chaotic than normal.
But those car numbers simply did not exist when I was going to school.
Most of the residents along Sheil Avenue had their own driveways and only two or three teachers' cars were parked outside the school. 

Everybody walked to school without exception unless you were one of the lucky ones with a bicycle, but even then you usually walked. Rain, hail sleet or snow. 
The only weather warning you got was to wear your hat and gloves if it was a particular cold day.
And the snow warning you got was if it was falling from the sky above.
But at least you were wrapped up, unlike some of the students I've witnessed in recent years, particularly from secondary school, who are out in the same weather, with nothing more than their uniforms.   There was the old yellow style Bus Eireann school bus that collected the kids from adjoining areas like Ardfarna to go to school in Bundoran but that particular one was last seen bringing a bunch of children to see Pope John Paul II at Knock in 1979.
I wasn't on it that day, but apparently it broke down a few times on the way down and was later gracefully retired or was it?The other thing about the students 'from the country' is that they were well versed on what a good lunch was . . . 
Town mammies were cutting the crusts off sandwiches and putting tomatoes and eggs in them, which saw a sorry and soggy sight, by the time lunch arrived. 
The Ardfarna and Tullaghan lads had their thickly cut homemade bread, with wallops of nice butter and a slice of ham that did not become translucent, if a torch was shone on them.
Of course, they had to be wrapped in the waxed bread cover, a perfect example of recycling at its simplest and finest. 
In our cases, it was the local Hogan's bread from Bundoran or Grimes and O'Donnell's bread from nearby Ballyshannon. 
Indeed, I also recall the same bread wrappings being used to protect childrens' copybooks from damage.   The strong black tea came in a hardy flask, without the milk previously added and a firm cork stopper.
None of the aul plastic stoppers that replaced them. 
The milk itself was kept in a little bottle, usually a small naggin of old whiskey (minus the whiskey I hasten to add) and tea tasted so much better than the poor version, that we had.
People have mixed memories of their early days at school from my generation, not all good, but mine for the most part, evoke many happy thoughts . . . .  

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