Memories of St Marys
I was born in 1963…. so was St Mary’……….. End of story……..!
There was no competition……., I was beaten before I even started the race😳. I interfered with this great institution from a very early time by causing Mrs Hawkes to have to take an unheard of 1 week sick leave😳😳 following my birth on 18th April 1963!
St Marys was our life. At home we listened to stories of daily school life, constant battles with the Dept. of Education, inspectors coming, new teachers being appointed, sub teachers needed, the problems with plumbing, lighting, holes in floors. Every school holiday involved patching floors, repairing the myriad of broken window panes, painting classrooms……will I ever forget those colours upstairs -Spring yellow and Georgian green!! Walpamur paint purchased at Mrs Moran’s shop….endless supplies of putty for window replacements, splicing pieces into the floors of the ‘temporary’ prefabs’, patching the walls of the same prefabs where an over exuberant pupil may have gone through.
Every summer came, holidays for about a month……then August hits and it’s back to organised panic of repairs and painting. The mammoth task of planning a timetable with ever increasing numbers of subjects, pupils and teachers and all manually done……rulers, pencils, numerous white sheets of paper stuck together onto a cardboard background. Draft 1,2,3,4 and just when you think it’s sorted you realise you’ve forgotten some teachers half day and have to re-jig all over again😩😩.
Having an intimate knowledge of the space, didn’t make it any less daunting, when I progressed to that great institution in September 1980. I had not enjoyed my time in education up to now and St Marys proved no improvement!. You were now the daughter of the much feared and revered Mrs Hawkes, so life could not be normal!. Add to this the fact that I was very much an outdoor girl and much more interested in horses, cattle and farming. I was a lazy student who in the words of Mrs Hawkes as she hurled my Irish essay back to me with ‘síne fada’s thrown at the page like confetti’. I tried my best to fit in, even getting into trouble just to be one of the crew but it never happened!.
My first maths teacher was Mr Curran and he may as well have been teaching Greek. He was an A-Z man, no step’s in between. We then got Mrs Fitzgerald who was constantly covered in chalk dust from writing up all the in between steps on the board. We had Mr Egan for biology for LC. Luckily, if you sat in the front bench you couldn’t be seen from his high bench. This saved us many times as we erupted into laughter as he went on to give us the ‘sex is not a dirty word’ pep talk!. Geography was with Mrs Dooley who was far too genteel for our unruly class. Miss Mc Donnell not only taught us English but prevented us from getting hypothermia in the Pre fabs on wintry mornings by starting class with some warm up exercises! Mrs Scanlon taught us Home Ec and had to conduct her classes in the science hall in the early days which led to great confusion. By the time you’d have the sewing machines out and altered the tension after the First years, the class would be over. This was my excuse for going straight from pinning to sewing machine in one swoop. However Mrs Scanlon was not impressed and so I had to write 100 lines ‘tacking is a temporary stitch used to hold hems and seams in place while the permanent stitching is being done’…… it just shows, lines are effective as I can remember it by heart 40 years later! We had a few German teachers over our 5 year term. I remember Ms Flanagan, Ms Owens and Ms Mc Keown who went on to marry Mr Long, the woodwork teacher. The ever faithful Ms Fitzgibbon, later Meade led us through the intricacies of French. Mrs Hawkes was our Irish teacher and instilled a deep love for the language and it’s poetry, although I never did get a grasp of all those grammar rules!! We had Ms Wallace for geography for a short time, Mrs Blodeau and several others for art and poor Fr Mc Entyre for religion …….boy, did we give that poor man a hard time as he wrestled with trying to teach us, in the old timber prefab, having trundled up on his faithful Honda 50 from Pallaskenry.
I survived my 5 years in St Marys and then was informed that I was expected to endure further education at university!. Not having a clue what I might do, I applied for the tried and trusted Arts degree. In the few months prior to the LC, we had the first ever career guidance session, carried out by an outside group who visited the school. Following a questionnaire about what jobs I’d LIKE to do (all outdoor and involving horses and farming), they advised me to re apply to Thomond College (now UL), to do a General and rural science TEACHING degree. The only part I latched onto was that 30% of the course was practical and involved horticulture and agriculture!!!.
Much to my amazement, I got one of the 12 coveted places on the course and 4 years later became a qualified teacher…….ironic or what….and ended up teaching……….right back where it all began, in St Mary’s. A strange twist of fate indeed.
I lasted about 10 years in total. To say I was not a natural disciplinarian was putting it mildly! My one claim to fame during my years there was that I got much needed sports for girls established, in the form of volleyball. I threw myself heart in soul into this project and with much cajoling and persuasion, hard work and graft from a lot of people who got drafted in, St Marys opened its first ever basketball and volleyball court in 1988?. No grants were got, just old fashioned fundraising. We had a first ever fund raising school disco which was a great success.
All local businesses contributed(whether they wanted to or not!). I spent my Easter holidays together with Teresa Griffin (later Mulqueen), with our tractors and trailers getting the site ready with Seany Sheehy and his JCB conscripted in as well and many many more….
Opening day came at last and all local dignitaries were invited to our makeshift stage, in a horse box of course. I remember the local rector, Pat Towers arriving on his horse!!. Past pupil Mull Mulcaire officially opened the court and we had some demonstration matches arranged by coach, Carmel Plant.
I recently took my older brother Noel, on a trip down Askeaton’s memory lane and it just hit us so forcibly how amazing and shocking it is that there’s no trace of the fine old edifice, that was St Mary’s which stood proudly since 1830. If those walls could have spoken, what tales they could have recounted. Generations of pupils, many long gone to their eternal reward passed through those doors, all silenced now……..
It just underlines the importance of not taking anything for granted, I feel. If you are aware of old buildings, be sure to photograph them. We were very lucky to have just two photo’s of St Mary’s!. I’d also encourage everyone, to question and record the older generation’s memories, as they are a priceless resource.