Paddy O'Grady: Going to School in the 1950s

Paddy O’Grady grew up on the family farm at Liffey View, Roseberry.

On many days I got a lift to school on the farm’s horse and cart. We would walk home in the evenings. Sometimes you would get a lift from someone cycling home from work in the Irish Ropes factory. Now, that was a noticeable phenomenon in Newbridge – so many people going to and from work on bicycles.

It was common enough in those days to get lifts on the crossbar or the carrier of a bike, and workers like Joe Farrington, Tom White and Ted Cullen among others would regularly give lifts to those coming home from school.

When I started school, we were only a few weeks in the Brother’s red-brick building when we transferred across the road to the new school. I remember being brought across with the class to attend Mass in the Assembly Hall, and we were probably let home for the rest of the day after that.

Bob Duggan was a larger than life figure for most school-going children in the 1950s. He was the caretaker in St.Conleth’s and Mary’s, and he had also a great interest in hurling and football, and in Sarsfield GAA in particular.  I remember the nuns saying we should ‘say a prayer for Bob Duggan’, such was his importance to the school as caretaker. Then, after 1st Class we went back across the road to the boys’ school.

The Drill Display was another important event on the school calendar in May and June. This was a gymnastic performance put on by the school children. I remember it when we were in Infant School. Over in the Boys’ school it was sports, but it was the drill display in the girls’ school. I remember Mr Goddard; he used to drive a Hillman car. All the parents came along to watch the display of pupils performing on the gymnastic equipment and doing co-ordinated exercises all drawn up in strict formation. Jimmy Dunny provided the music, his famous electric organ producing its distinctive sound.


Brother David taught us in 5th Class, and he was big into football, even though he was a very cross man. Brother Damian was another teacher, along with Brother Brendan and Brother Aidan. Brother Aidan was fanatical about football and Sarsfield.

Paddy remembers one incident in a football match that highlighted Br. Aidan’s fanaticism. Denis Dunning was acting as an umpire for a match between Pairc Muire and the Barracks. Many of the Pairc Muire players also played for Sarsfield, so Brother Aidan was rooting for them. The ball went over the bar and Denis called a point. Brother Aidan asked, What was that, Dunning? Denis replied, a point. Brother Aidan looked at him more sternly. What was that, Dunning? Denis quickly replied a goal, Brother.

School leagues were common enough and involved the different areas of the town; the Barracks, Pairc Muire, the Commons (Roseberry), Moore Park and the Crescent. Sometimes Moore Park and the Crescent would amalgamate with the Commons if the latter had smaller numbers.


Confirmation was another big event, when three years of pupils would be confirmed together. I remember my confirmation, at the very beginning of May. Brother Brendan was preparing us for the big day. I remember one hot day beforehand, a gorgeous day, and we were out in the sun, lying about kicking football, and I got badly burned by the sun. Dr Dan O’Connell came down to me on the Saturday and the Sunday. The confirmation was on the following Tuesday and he thought initially I wouldn’t be able to make it. Then, the next day, he said I could. But he kept me confined to the bed for most of the time.

All pupils were sponsored by Paddy Mansfield, the local landowner and landlord.


Paddy O’Grady (C) 2009.