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Desperate donkey, placid pooch and a bird-napped budgie

When I was a schoolboy, animals played a vital and unique role in the entertainment of my alma mater. Where I work, this year the closest to an animal we got to see roaming the classrooms was a bluebottle.

I counted 21 dead ones on the window sill in a corridor, with just one live one hopping around the corpses, presumably in a state of dismay.

Last week my third years told me that they have to go all the way back to first class when someone brought in a lamb in a cage for all the kids to pet. Then today I'm delighted when the sixth years release a donkey into the PE hall as part of their hilarious valedictory prank. Cue amused teachers and sniggering pupils as the lone caretaker struggles to shift the beast.

The show only becomes more hilarious as the PE teacher arrives, looking for his first year group, and proceeds to awkwardly tug at the poor old donkey's head.

The third years start singing 'I.S.P.C.A.' to the tune of 'Y.M.C.A.' until the principal, Mr Eldritch, storms in.

Nobody has seen this fully paid-up member of the undead since Christmas and even the donkey is clearly freaked and bolts out the emergency doors once the terrifying hiss of authority is uttered.

Back in my day in the Ireland of corporal punishment, I enjoyed what was probably the single best day of my school life when a dog followed my friend Sean into the cafeteria where on rainy mornings we would all wait for the bell to summon us to the first class of the day. "That your dog?" someone asked. "No," replied Sean.

OK, not our problem then. With the bell still ringing, the amicable mutt followed us up the stairs and into our classroom where he obligingly lay down for a rest under someone's desk. The first teacher of the day was one of those strict guys with not a scintilla of humour, but it was worth the risk, and so we let the creature rest as we got on with our work without so much as a giggle.

After that we were free to take advantage of this wonderful comic opportunity, sent by some celestial power.

We put the dog in the cupboard where it proceeded to snore until one of us was ordered to escort it off the school grounds.

Naturally, we had already agreed amongst us to hide the placid pooch in the empty classroom next door until next period, whereupon the jolly jape would commence once more.

Eventually, the dog's owner spotted him coming out of maths class that afternoon and brought him home. Spoilsport.

Another day my friend Liam caught a budgie belonging to Mark, another friend. The budgie, implausibly enough, had followed Mark to school.

Liam imprisoned the birdie in a bag and ransomed it for the price of a bottle of Jack Daniel's. Nice piece of business.

Kids just don't have the same level of sophistication these days.

E Grade

Irish Independent