Paddy O'Reilly: Going to School, 1950s

PADDY O’REILLY’S MEMORIES: Going to School in the 1950s.


I can well remember my first day at school, the infants school was then situated in part of the Patrician Primary School. After a period of time there I was part of the first classes to be moved across the road to the new St Conleth’s and Mary’s. A modern school with all the up to date facilities, there at lunch time during the winter you would get hot water for your cocoa or whatever you brought in your billy can for a drink.


In the schoolyard we would play the usual games – tig, football, chasing. When we went back across the road to the Brothers, we played football after school.


In both schools, the Drill Display was an important event each year on the school calendar. Plenty of practice was put into preparing the event. It was a huge occasion, and every parent would want to be at it. Mr Goddard was the drill master. We all had to wear white – white slipper shoes, shorts, socks and tops. He taught us to do handstands and basic gymnastics as well as formation drilling. The Brothers had a good sports day themselves in the field behind the school on Chapel Lane. They’d have running races, long jump and high jump competitions.


If we were playing football for the school, we’d play in St Conleth’s Park or in the Ropes Field in Ryston. In school, street leagues were organised with Roseberry, Pairc Muire, the Barracks, Moorefield Road and the Main St as the teams. Smaller areas would be accommodated by amalgamating with some of the larger areas. The final would be played in St Conleth’s Park with the smaller schoolboy goalposts being used. Brother Aidan was the main organiser.


Other activities in school were plays ‘as Gaeilge’. I was in one, ‘The Nativity’. I played the part of St Joseph. We were also entered in a Feis in Kildare, in the CYMS Hall. Another activity was carol singing at Christmas around the town, collecting for charity. All this type of activity was very much part of school.


During the school year a doctor and an optician would visit the school to check your tonsils, eyesight, etc. If you needed your tonsils taken out, your parents were notified and you went to Kildare Hospital to get the job done.


When in 6th Class, a Brother would come to the school to interview any boy who was interested in joining the Patrician Order.


Brother Aidan taught us for about three years. We also had Brothers Brendan, Dominic and Lazarian. A Mr Blanchfield also taught in the school.


One of the things we used to do on our way home from school was to visit Tommy McCarthy’s forge. Tommy and his brother had a forge off John St. He’d allow you to work the bellows. You could watch him making horseshoes. One of my favourite smells was that of the smoke from the hot shoe being put on the horse’s hoof. You would see all types of horses there, donkeys and ponies, etc.


When the Annual Mission was held in the Church, we also attended after school for a week. On a Friday, once a month after school, we would have Rosary and Benediction. When we made our Confirmation, which was a major event, all the boys were sponsored by one individual, unlike today when each child has his or her own individual sponsor. In our case I believe it was Paddy Mansfield of Barrettstown who sponsored us all.


Paddy O'Reilly (C) 2009.