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My Teaching Days

Ardmore Memory and Story - Life and Work

1. My Teaching Days
In June 1939, I finished my course in Teacher Training in Carysfort (Blackrock, Dublin).

In July, the late Mrs Waide asked me to do duty for her for three weeks in her one-teacher school in Tinnock, high above the mouth of the Blackwater, so I cycled there every day and quite enjoyed the experience. I can't have looked too impressive (at the age of 20) as one day when the parish priest paid a visit he asked me where was the teacher.

At that period, it was difficult to get permanent and pensionable teaching appointments. In September, I was appointed supernumerary teacher at Presentation Convent, Youghal. This was a well-known teaching category at that time. It meant one was under the same rules and regulations and inspections as anybody else, but the appointment was not pensionable (the Irish National Teachers Organisation sorted out that general problem later) and as long as one remained in that position, one received the basic salary from the school authorities, not the department, so I got my cheque for £11.4.0 every month.

While there, I was in charge of over 50 small boys in Senior Infants from 10am to 2pm. But my day began at 9.20am when I went up each morning to take the Intermediate students for Geography and on Wednesday evenings took 3 Leaving Certificate pupils also for Geography from 2-3.30pm. On the other four evenings I had 4th and 6th classes for Needlework.

I lodged in town from Monday to Friday, but in the summer I preferred to cycle in and out every day, frequently using the ferry-boat which operated every half-hour and one paid 2d for oneself and 2d for the bike. If one arrived late at the ferry point and the boat was already on the move, Moss Geary the ferry man always turned back to pick one up.

Then in January 1943, I was appointed to the one-teacher school at Ballycurrane and was there for over 2½ years, cycling to and from each day in all kinds of weather, a journey of roughly 1 hour.

Incidentally I don't think there can be anyone else in Ardmore who has cycled as much as I have, between regular trips to Youghal, up and down to Ballycurrane as well as cycling holidays in Donegal, Sligo, Achill, Connemara, down to the ends of Kerry from Dublin and various other trips I cannot now recall.

In winter, the first duty in Ballycurrane was to light the fire; the girls and boys were accustomed to bringing in bundles of sticks which would have been drying beside it since the previous day. There were two deep hobs at either side and the children placed their bottles of milk there to heat them. Need I say they ate bread and butter; the age of crisps had not yet arrived. There were 16 boys and girls. Sanitary conditions were of course the same as at all national schools of the period i.e. a dry closet in a building apart from the school. Ballycurrane School is now a far different place; it is a newly built 2 teacher school with all mod cons.

For 2½ years, I officiated happily in the old establishment. That was until my retirement before my pending marriage. A rule had been introduced, I think in the 30's, which compelled all female teachers to retire on marriage. So when I left Ballycurrane in 1945, I certainly never expected to stand in front of a class again. There was no women's lib. movement then and we just accepted these things meekly.

Then in 1958, the marriage ban was lifted. A vacancy arose in Clashmore School (i.e the old school near the church), and I applied and was appointed. One of the conditions was officiating at the choir. I forget now how often it was necessary to go to Clashmore for this. By this time we had acquired a family car, so I was driving not cycling.

Three weeks after my appointment in Clashmore after my thirteen years absence from teaching, my husband died suddenly beside me in bed one night. That need, I say, altered life considerably for me.

It was strange going back to school after such a long absence, but I soon got used to it. Michael Moroney from Dungarvan was the principal in Clashmore. There were two rooms and the usual conditions, with the fire having to be lighted every morning in the winter. The playground was above the church, that is apart from the school, and I remember vividly the school porch being full of children's sandals in summer, as they threw them off at lunch time, in order to feel free at play.

A few years later, in 1964 a vacancy occurred in Ardmore and there I remained for twenty years until I had reached retirement age in 1984.

From 1964-1984 I taught in Ardmore school and among the many memories I have is the summer of 1981 when the parents rallied around and did a splendid job in painting and decorating the interior of the school during the holidays. I was of course, in the thick of the chaos which lasted all summer. The colour scheme was by Mary my daughter-in-law and was regarded as a trifle unconventional. However, a visiting Kindergarten inspector later on remarked that it was the only school she knew where the colour scheme seemed to be devised for the children themselves.

In 1983, the Year of the Tree was celebrated appropriately when an elevated waste part of the school grounds was planted with trees, each parent bringing a tree, and extra ones were also presented. It was a festive occasion with the then minister for Agriculture, Austin Deasy (whose family had strong Ardmore connections) partaking and everyone having a buffet tea later in the school.

When I retired in June of 1984, I was absolutely overwhelmed by the farewell party in the local hall and particularly by the extraordinarily generous presentation given to me of a ticket to Hong Kong. It is a wonderful memory.

Author: Siobhan Lincoln

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