Carnaun: A Sense of the Past

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An article in “National Geographic” magazine a couple of years ago on the subject of olfaction, or the sense of smell, dealt with the very interesting theory that our powers of recollection are linked directly to our sense of smell.

The article went about proving this theory and concluded that a tiny section near the centre of the brain—its most primitive area—is concerned only with deciphering different smells which in turn can trigger recollections of people and events from our distant past. After reading the article it became clear why after all these years the smell of a school bag, a piece of chalk, or even a ripe banana sandwich should jolt my memory back to my childhood days spent in Carnaun.

Many adults do not have happy memories of their days spent at school but I can count myself among the lucky ones. There were only six pupils in my class: Margaret Cahalan and Angela Hynes from Castle Ellen, Margaret Killeen from Carnaun, Mary Higgins from Castle Lambert, Patrick Fahy, the only man among us, from Moanbawn; and myself.

Our family and the Gills next door were the farthest away from Carnaun in the Athenry direction. In fact, Athenry school was marginally nearer and if it weren’t for my parents personal preference for Carnaun there was no geographic reason why we shouldn’t have been sent “up to the nuns”.

There was great rivalry whenever the country kids met with the townies. This usually occurred only on sports days and at the yearly show, held in the Mart. I always felt on these occasions that the country kids were greatly outnumbered and this was compounded by the fact that their teachers were always on hand to ensure they got a fair deal. Undaunted, the country bumkins were not adverse to fighting their own corner to prove a point and as a result they never came away emptyhanded, so to speak!

The school yard offered the best education when it came to learning about life and getting on with people. From an early age each child learned his or her place as a very effective pecking order was in operation. We smaller ones could not wait to get to sixth class when we would then be “top of the heap”.

By the time  did reach sixth class I had taken the pecking order for granted and there were other things to occupy my time such as a trip to the shop for Finbarr—cigarettes, oranges, and something for myself. On one occasion I forgot to get something for myself and he sent me off again! I looked forward to my daily trip on my little bike but there was a venomous little terrier to contend with on the way and although I’m against animal cruelty of any kind I have to admit there were times when that little terrier regretted attacking me. I’m now glad to know Finbarr has long since given up the Woodbines and I wonder if I had known then what they were would I have been as willing to comply with the order. My earlier years spent in Mrs. Byrne’s class and later in Mrs. O’Regan’s were more disciplined.

Since my own days there, Carnaun school has deteriorated structurally. Although steps are being taken to remedy this I still find the rooms small and stuffy. I’m sure though that the quality of teaching is as good as ever and the addition of Frances Kelly, Edel Linnane and Anita Coffey to the staff can bear this out. Edel and I were in the same class in secondary school and I was acquainted with Frances in UCG. Both were excellent students who always wanted to teach and Carnaun will benefit from their presence.

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About this record

Written by Ann Healy

Published here 05 Feb 2021

Page 215 of the The Carnaun Centenary Book archive.

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