Thursday 16 August 2018

Roddy Doyle: ‘A teacher attacked a boy with a set square’

Roddy Doyle: an unpredictability of punishment. Photo: Mark Condren
Roddy Doyle: an unpredictability of punishment. Photo: Mark Condren

Roddy Doyle says his time at St Fintan’s Christian Brothers School in the 1970s was tough, but at times hilarious.

“If you weren’t isolated and had friendship at the back of the room, you could survive. You’d wonder about the loners and how they got on.

“It was a strange place to be dropped into at the age of 13. At my national school, there was corporal punishment, but it was never meted out with any savagery.

“At Fintan’s there was an unpredictability about it. Justice or fair play did not come into it. There could be a sudden explosion.

“There was a lay teacher who used to wander the corridors, looking for excuses to hit people.

“There were three or four of us messing around, but doing nothing that merited any punishment, other than maybe a growl.

“I was 15, and I was given three slaps on each hand with a leather strap. It was absolute agony.

“His sweat landed on me as he did it — and I have no doubt there was some sort of sexual gratification.

“I once saw a teacher, a Brother, assaulting a boy with a set square. The boy was on the ground and the Brother was hitting him with it.

“Some of the teachers were quite good. Others were shiftless and lazy.

“There was a Brother who would try to be cool. He wore sandals and he used to bring in records to play, and he would tell us the evidence of God in the lyrics.

“One Brother kept his left hand in the pocket of his soutane. He said he was left-handed, and he was afraid of what he would do if he hit anybody with it.

“There was a certain fear, but he was a good English teacher. The Complete Works of Shakespeare could come out of the pocket of the soutane.”

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