School in the 1940s and 50s
The 5th, 6th and 7th classes were taught together in one very crowded room. Half the children stood while to others sat at the desks for writing and maths and every half hour they changed places. Most of the curriculum was taught through Irish with the senior pupils monitoring the younger childreen.
As there was no secondary school in Athenry many pupils stayed on in 7th class, to be prepared for scholarships to the residential colleges or until they reached the age of 14 when they stayed home to help on the farm, got employment locally or went to relatives in England, the USA or further afield.
Our Teacher, Tim O’Regan, left us with a great love of reading. Among the books he chose for us were: Blackcock’s Feather by Maurice Walsh.
Tim became friends with Maurice, who spent time in Athenry when he was researching this book in 1932. Kidnapped by R. L. Stevenson. Lally of the Brigade by L. McManus. The Knights of Knockagar by Seamus McManus. The Lights of Leaca Bán by Alice M Cashel who was a friend of both Tim and Babs from their Gaelic League Days. Wind from the North by Joseph O’Neill. Lost on Du Corrig by Standish O’Grady. Glenanar by Cannon Sheehan.
Most of the subjects were taught through Irish and many of these pupils still count, add, multiply and divide in Irish. Mathematics – Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry.
Those who understood Euclid’s 5th Theorim (Teóragán 5 in Irish) continued on to learn as far as they wished.
Religion: Every year we had visits from priests and nuns looking for pupils who wished to join the Catholic missions at home and abroad. If selected they would receive their secondary education in the various seminaries of their respective orders. At the time Ireland was famous for the education of children in the 3rd world. Occasionally children were encouraged to go down this road to education but “miraculously lost their vocation” after the Leaving certificate exam.
It was the era of the Latin Mass and boys who were proficient in Latin were allowed to serve Mass in Athenry.
Nelllie Regan, Chapel Lane, was the Church Sacristian and the Boy’s School lads were normally awarded the best jobs on the alter – Bell ringing, Holding the Communion Plate under the peoples’ chins, Water and Wine and Swinging the Thurible. Disputes about these, and other jobs, were settled with fisticuffs outside the back door so, as well as learning the Latin responses, the Carnaun boys had to learn the art of fighting also.
Link to Religious Instruction for Primary Schools 1938
Gaeilge: Our favourite book was M’Asal Beag Dubh by Pádraig Ó Conaire another on of Tim’s aquaintances. Neidín. Ó Pheann an Phiarsaí and Íosagán by Pádraic Mac Piarais (Patrick Pearse). Extracts of these and many other books were committed to memory, never to be forgotten. An Béal Beo and Bun Cúrsa Gramadaí was always on Tim’s desk as was O’Dinneen’s Irish dictionary. Seanfhocla were a way to learn the language!
In her article, “Twas a Merry Chance” Rheda O’Regan remembers poetry in Carnaun School – “Poems, stories and songs remain vividly with me from my days in Carnaun with my father, Tim O’Regan”.
What will we do without timber,
The end of the forests in nigh,
no word about Cill Cais or it’s family,
We will never hear it’s bell again.
Daniel O’Connell, born in Kerry and educated in France had seen the atrocities of the Revolution and because of this it is said that, thereafter, he was against the “letting of blood” as a way of gaining freedom for the Irish Catholics. He worked his entire life for Catholic Emancipation and while government was against him he was too clever for it and was supposed to have stated that “He could drive a coach and four (horses) throught any Act of Parliament (against Catholic Emancipation)
A story: Daniel was at dinner in London and his host had a plan to poison him but the girl who was senving him warned him!
“A Dhónaill Ó’Chonaill, a’ dtuigenn to Gaeilge”
Tuigim go maith a chailín ó Éirinn
“Tá nimh i do ghloinne, a leagfadh na céadta”
Más fíor sinn a chailín is mór é do spré-sa
Múcfidh mise na soillse is cuir chuige fhéin é
“Daniel O’Connell, do you understand Irish
I understand it well girl from Ireland
There is poison in your glass that would kill hundreds
If that’s true your dowry will be big (I will give you big money for your dowry)
I will quinch the light and put it over to himself (the host).
Geography of County Galway – Galway, Tuam, Ballinasloe and Tuam are mentioned but there is no word about Athenry!
Sport: Football was the official game in the school. A size 5 football cost 5 pounds usually sponsored by the pastpupils who visited the school every summer to give an account of their travells. On occasions camánógs were brought for a game of hurling which often ended into a “faction fight” between “Cussaun and Cashael (Castle Lambert)”. Sometime when the Parish Priest or the Schools’ Inspector came, and Tim and Babs spent an hour discussing affairs of Church and State, Rabbitt’s orchard was raided or blackberries were picked in the surrounding fields. When the Blazers hunt arrived the bigger children were allowed, to join their fathers and friends to follow it into the Scottswood but “to be sure to be back early tomorrow”.
Written by Finbarr O'Regan
Published here 30 Sep 2022 and originally published 1991
Page 109 of The Carnaun Centenary Book