Friday 20 October 2017

Yvonne Keating remembers thrill of escaping from boarding school to go clubbing as a 'fun loving' teen

Yvonne Keating
Yvonne Keating

Yvonne Keating

"Wait till I tell you about the time that I made a great escape from boarding school to dance the night away."

I read every Enid Blyton book going as a child, so when the prospect of boarding school came up, I couldn't wait to go. I thought it was going to be one unending adventure, full of midnight feasts and the like. How wrong I was.

It was even better than I ever thought it would be - but in a different way. I loved the lifestyle there and that feeling of independence. I felt pretty bad on my first day because my mother was crying, but I was so happy and couldn't wait to get stuck in. Sure, I missed my parents, but I really grew as a person there. I was supremely confident because of it.

'Boarding school' sounds really posh, but mine (Loreto Abbey in Rathfarnham, Co. Dublin) was a really down-to-earth place. There were only about 160 girls in the school, mostly from down the country. Some girls really struggled with homesickness, but not me. I might have been homesick once.

Yvonne Keating
Yvonne Keating

I was fun loving, but never much of a tear-away. I never gave my parents that many problems. But in the summer between 5th and 6th year, I'd gone to a couple of discos and had heard a lot about a place called Leeson Street.

One day during term, we decided we would sneak off the school and try a club there. We chickened out once or twice, but eventually we hatched a plan that involved calling a taxi from the school and arranging a pick-up from outside the Yellow House pub down the road.

There were a few parts to the adventure: first was not getting caught getting out of the school, the second was getting into the actual club on Leeson Street. The third challenge was getting back into the school.

Getting out of the school turned out to be the easy part. We got dressed before bed and when the nuns came to check on us, we kept the duvet covers up over our glitzy outfits. I think I'd bought this little black sequinned dress from Mirror Mirror for a tenner.

Yvonne Keating and daughter Missy Keating
Yvonne Keating and daughter Missy Keating

My room was next to where the nuns slept, so you can only imagine the adrenaline. The taxi picked us up around 12.30am.

Once we got into town, we ended up in a club called Leggs; we weren't big drinkers or anything but we just wanted the buzz of being in there. We ended up getting back to the school at about 5am or 6am.

We knew we couldn't get in the front door, but I had a plan. I was extremely fit and it wouldn't have been out of the ordinary for me to be training very early before school. Our plan was to go through the back and change into our gym gear and make it look like we were all training. We'd thrown our gym gear over the convent wall the day beforehand. It meant we got back into the school easily enough, and we had about 20 minutes in bed before we were called to get up.

I was so tired that I pulled a sickie, stayed in bed and got tea and toast brought to me by the nuns. I felt only a tiny bit bad about it at the time. So successful was our great escape that we ended up doing it a few times in that final year.

Missy and Yvonne Keating
Missy and Yvonne Keating

I went back to the school a few years later and told the head nun what we did. She laughed and said, "would you ever stop? I totally knew what you were up to".

Earlier this year, we had our school reunion and ended up in House - just two doors down from Leggs on Leeson Street - of all places. If anything, we worried that we were too old to be in there now.

At one point I did think about sending my own kids to boarding school. I suggested it to them, but would never try to persuade them to go. Besides, the older two are well settled in their schools. The thing is, I'd miss my kids dreadfully if they did go. I'm not sure I could do it as a parent.

My eldest daughter, Missy, is quite like me; she has a great sense of fun but sensible too. I trust her to make good choices.

I've no doubt that she'll get up to things when she gets to that age, but we've a very open relationship, so she tends to tell me she's about to do something that she thinks might be wrong. Or, in some rare cases, she tells me all about it afterwards because she's developed a guilty conscience!

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