Mary Buckley/Patrick Sheahan1958-1963

Mary Buckley Madigan 1958-1963
Patrick Sheahan 1957-1963
Although it was a very different experience for both of us-those, we agree
were very happy years-at St Mary͛s (or Mrs. Hawkes͛s as it was called by us and our contempories. That may give you an idea of the importance and stature of Mrs. Hawkes at that time in our village. Actually more accurate comparison
may be that the priests came and went, the doctor was often away but Mrs.
Hawkes was always there, a force of nature to be depended on as we now
realise ͚she goes on forever͛.
The school may have existed before the young woman from Louisburg came
south (with her bike), to teach at what she imagined would be a quiet little
convent but it certainly wouldn͛t have thrived, grown and become what it is
today without Mrs Hawkes. Back then a co-ed school in a little Limerick village was indubitably a huge shock but overnight a transformation occurred and she obviously realized that she was needed here and threw herself into it with all
the enthusiasm and verve which is her trademark to this day!! She is to most of us who were her pupils – an example to strive for but rarely have any of us
matched her!!!
Sometime during the year 1958/9, there was a Redemptorist Mission and two priests came to the school. I well remember the ͚Fire and Brimstone͛ aspects of it and my lack of enthusiasm-I was 13. I watched Mrs. Hawkes as she stood in
the room, back to the window, wrapped in her black gown, nodding solemnly. Then the tirade moved onto boys/girls (NOT SEX, of course, it was 1958/9, so
we heard about the dangers of kissing and how girls must be the ones to stop this treacherous practice! I again take a covert glance at Mrs. Hawkes nodding like a Buddha, frown in place and not a sign of a twinkle. I͛ve often wondered
how she hid that smirk.
In the times, preceding September all likely students were given dire warnings about Mrs H- she was ͚awful cross͛, she got ͚really mad͛, wild stories about dire punishments were many and fearsome-. Finally the ultimate- she had a BIG
STICK- . During our time in the school those ͚big sticks͛ often disappeared
mysteriously. Now Patrick wants it stated here that despite rumours to the
contrary, he was responsible for only one such disappearance and others were implicated- he only took part under duress. It was all James Loftus fault!!Since said stick was dropped in the river at high tide, it was impossible to put it back to no avail of amnesty. Sadly, Mrs Hawkes knew where to find replacements!!! One of the worst banes in Mrs Hawkes͛s life- was Apple Harvest Time. Dr
Michael Fitzgibbon had a wonderful orchard and he got very upset when large quantities of his prized fruit disappeared just as they were ready for picking! As soon as the theft was made known to him, he was on the phone to the person who was responsible for the little thieves – Mrs H!!. Of course she did not
appreciate that and spread the displeasure as soon as she could-Tap, tap
tapping her way from room to room to find the culprits- even the daftest
among us could/would not succumb, didn͛t dare. Most people had at least one apple secreted in a schoolbag. As the world͛s worst liar, I was often quizzed by Mrs Hawkes. I usually had to lie by omission, or mention something else so
now aged 70- I must own up- I knew- I always knew- so did every pupil in the
Talking over the years to many people of similar age – we had a relatively
unscathed school life, at Mrs Hawkes͛s – sorry, St Mary͛s Secondary school,
Askeaton. There was an attitude of fairness adhered to by all the teaches – an
emphasis that filters from the top. I am sure that even sworn enemies would
vouch for that, which for me was wonderful after the earlier years in National
School where humour and attitude could change in minutes without any
naughtiness from pupils.
Most of us were fascinated by Mrs Hawkes͛s mobile facial expressions and all-
encompassing hand gestures – when she was in full flight I failed to keep a
straight face and many times was glared at and asked ͚what are you laughing
at Mary Buckley?͛ – only one answer even – You, Mrs Hawkes, which she most often ignored and carried on TG.
If I had the choice again of going to Limerick every day with my father to
attend Laurel Hill, I͛d make the same choice and attend St Mary͛s Secondary School every time!