Over the Road to School
These memoirs date from 1942-1949 (inclusive). Any names, that are not mentioned is not intentional. To remember in detail what happened over 40 years ago is quite a challenge.
1942 was the year I began my education at Curraghs National School. Thaig, my half twin, and I didn’t have far to walk on that first day. We both seemed dwarfed by the high two-storey stoned structured school. Mrs.Looney was the Principal and she was no stranger to us, as she walked past our house daily, going to and from school. To mark the occasion of our first day, Mrs.Looney gave us a new penny - such extravagance made us feel like a million dollars.
The teachers at the period were the above mentioned Mrs.Looney, the Principal. She was a wise and experienced woman and usually wore a navy blue. suit with her white hair rolled softly round her head. She taught 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th downstairs. Upstairs were infants, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. Mrs.Twomey towered over these little people. She boarded in Curraheen and cycled to school each day. When Mrs.Twomey was transferred, we welcomed Mrs.Murphy. We all loved Mrs.Murphy and were too young, then, to appreciate fully her kindness and understanding. Our mourning treat was to push her bike up the school hill. Mrs.Murphy lodged in Kanturk and cycled the five mile journey to Curraghs daily.
Our education process was based on repetition. We repeated everything so often, it had to penetrate our brains, irrespective of whether we understood the content or not.
At some stage, the numbers in Curraghs were very low. The arrival of two Ahern families plus the Noonan family swelled the number in Curraghs. It was a big thing when new-comers came to school. The arrival of the Conways was a big event, as four of the children joined the classes. They were all endowed with a beautiful singing voice, so the quality of the Curraghs choir greatly improved.
The families, as far as I can remember, who were at school between 1942-1949 are as follows:-
From Garrison, the Buckley family, Chrissy, Jimmy and Willy.
Lynes Family — Bernadette Lynes and Mary Reid.
The Vaughans - Bridie and Dan (Bridie brought an armful of kindling for the fire).
The Fitzpatricks -two families of this name attended Curraghs. I remember Patrick, Anthony and Mattie.
The Buckley family from Cloughboola; they were Eily, Timmy and Connie - older members of the Buckley family had left school at this stage.
Up the hill, called Guinea’s Hill, we had Lizzy and Tom Barry.
The Hannigans, Sheila, David, Denis and Mary, (Maurice owned a mule, the only one in the district). From Knockalohert we had Danny, Maggie and Nora Aherne. Jim had left school then.
The Ballybane Heffernans - Mary B, Benny, Kathleen, Jerry, John, Patrick, Willy and Joan had completed their primary education. The Noonans, Johnny, Billy, Maggie, Maura, and Denis - these were the youngest of the Nunan Family. Maggie, John, Mary and Bridgie Conway. Later there were Theresa, Nora, Julia Kate and Hannah.
Kitty and Michael O’Brien, Nora Mary Sheahan and her brothers, Michael and John. From Dromineen, there were Ted, Nora and Biddy Dennehy.
There were Margaret, Marie, Kathleen, Hannah and Mary Murphy (lived in the house where J. Galvin now resides). The Galvins moved into Dan Murphy’s farm, which they purchased - there were Mary Jo, Lou, Kitty, Anthony and John.
The two Heffernans across the road Tommy and Dony.
Mrs. Bridget Heffernan did the school cleaning and prepared the sanctuary for Mass. The O’Leary’s at the Murphys, now O’Regans` residence, attended the school for some years. I cannot recall the names of the children. Closer to the school were the O’Briens, John, Eamonn and Timmy. At the foot of the hill were the Cliffords all of whom attended the local academy - Donie and Mary had left then. There were Margaret, Julia, Annie, Thaig and Kathleen.
The Looneys - Jo, Anna and Teddy (Mary, John, Pat and Noreen had left). The Martin Briens - there were John, Pat and Nora.
From the Bill Thady’s, there was Rita Hichey. Then further towards Curraheen were Vera, Teddy, Jo and Mary Dunne — on wet days their grandfather drove them to school. The Ballybahallow group consisted of the Madigans - Mary, Christy, Georgie. Mary often stood in for an absent teacher, as did Chrissy Buckley and Julia Clifford. The Cronins- Teddy, Mary, Kate and Tom (they had lovely singing voices). Then there were the Jerry Murphys — Patsy, Sheila, Mary-Ita and Liam.
Connie Connors from the top of the hill. There was Nora O’Brien who lived for a while with her grandmother, Mrs.Coleman. From Coolageela came the Flahertys, Patsy and Eileen and later, a step brother, Sean T. Kelly who always received his full title.
The Withers - Eily May, Kathleen and Benny. The Bill Johnny Connors - Liam, Tom, Mary, Liz and Richard. When Richard was asked by Mrs.Looney what his name was, he anwered Dicky Conny Hardy Boy (all of five years). The children who came for a short period were Sean Fitz and Maria Kelleher.
The days that added excitement to our school days were the Duhallow Hounds. The horse riders were considered to be the gentry. Mr.Freeman Jackson was the Master of the hunt. The call of the bugle assembled the dogs and horses, then the hunt began. As the horses cleared the ditches and raced through the fields, the dogs scented their prey. The Ballyheen Races was another big day. The preparation for such an occasion was similar to Millstreet preparing for the Eurovision. Every house was whitewashed and the windows shone in the sunlight for the occasion. The next day at school, we were invited to express our ability or inability by way of a composition on the Ballyheen Races.
Funerals that passed the school were treated with great respect. The doors were closed and a silence descended upon the classrooms as we granted eternal rest to the deceased person. The day the turf was delivered provided another distraction. Its arrival warmed our hearts as we anticipated the warmth the turf would provide. A daily ritual was to stand the bottles of milk and coca around the turf fire.
The arrival of the Library van was an annual event. The day prior to its arrival saw us all skirting the country in the hope that the missing books would be returned. This kind of service, the lending library, was a great service to the rural areas. People were very kind to us as we knocked on their doors asking for the books. This was usually rewarded by a biscuit and the long overdue book was eventually found. The occasion of Chrissy Buckley being nominated to attend the Gaeltacht in Ballingeary added tone to our school. Chrissy spent a month in a totally Irish speaking environment.
Father O’Callaghan was in Kilbrin for many years and honoured us with frequent visits to the school. He also opened the presbytery to the first Communicants, who after receiving their First Communion enjoyed a beautiful breakfast. The long table with a snow white cloth was laden with sandwiches, cakes and lemonade.
A catastrophe struck one Monday morning - the key to the school couldn’t be found. A gleam of hope raced through our minds as we mentally entertained a long play. Mrs.Looney, however, entertained other thoughts. She lined us up around the yard to learn our tables. A crow from his lofty height in the tall pine trees disapproved strongly when we gave an incorrect answer. His coarse caw brought a giggle from the class. This behaviour was punished by having to learn 13 times table (I’ll never forget these). This penance lasted until the key was returned.
Usually, the days were bleak and the freezing cold wind whipped in through the door and rattled through the windows. Above the fireplace was a photo frame - these photos represented the stalwart Irishmen and their part in the fight for freedom.
At the crossroads near Guinea’s Hill was our favourite port of call. The warm glow through the door of the Forge building, with its thatched roof mellowed by time and weather, greeted us. John O’Mullane always welcomed the children. We were fascinated by the infinite variety of iron pieces hanging around the wall. The glow of the flames warmed our cold hands. Many a hairy hoofed horse clamped into John’s forge to have their shoes replaced. Testimony to John’s craftsmanship could be seen in the gates, which he welded, and the splendid repair jobs he did with the farm machinery.
Our visitors to the school were mainly the guards who checked our school attendance. The Religion Inspector was Father Murnane. A few days before his visit we spent revising the Sacraments and what they signify, the Ten Commandments - what is commanded and forbidden by each and a scrupulous examination of conscience based on the Commandments. Our very best clothes were worn for that occasion.
The school doctor paid her annual visit to check the health of the children. School holidays were always looked forward to. The characters who were well known to us going to school were Jack Tade and his donkey and Annie Fitz who used to sing like a blackbird. As Christmas approached, many people fattened turkeys, and geese in preparation for the Christmas dinner and the bottle of lemonade was always a treat.
In conclusion, to these memoirs I would like to pay tribute to all the teachers of Curraghs, We owe a debt of gratitude to these committed women and men who worked with very limited resources. They possessed a deep spirit of dedication and gave us an opportunity to do something with ourselves by laying the groundwork to our education. May those, who have passed on, enjoy the reward they so richly deserved. To all the parents living and deceased, to the deceased students, we salute you and lovingly remember you.
In 1950, I left Curraghs school to further my education in Newmarket Convent. I sailed to Australia in December 1953 to enter the order of the Sisters of St.Joseph. I am very proud and happy to be part of this re-union, forty years later. My sister Annie sends her apologies and best wishes for the re-union.
Kathleen Clifford R.S.J
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