Monday 22 January 2018

Fearless four breeze through first day

Quadruplets Johnny, Robbie, Lillie and Jamie Maher from Ballon, Co Carlow at Ballon-Rathoe Community Childcare & Montessori
Quadruplets Johnny, Robbie, Lillie and Jamie Maher from Ballon, Co Carlow at Ballon-Rathoe Community Childcare & Montessori

Eimear Ni Bhraonain

Three-year-old quadruplets are learning their numbers and their ABCs after starting Montessori school yesterday.

Meanwhile, at a school in the same county, an 89-year-old nun returned to the classroom to begin her 61st year as a teacher.

Robbie, Jamie, Lillie and Johnny Maher make up the younger group and are Carlow's only set of quads since records began.

The foursome made parents Mary and John Maher from Kilnock, Ballon, very proud when they didn't even shed a tear on their first day at Montessori.

When the tiny tots arrived into the world on October 22, 2006 they weighed just over one pound each. Jamie is the smallest known surviving quad in Europe but he's also the "hardiest" of the four.

"Johnny and Jamie are identical and they have almost the same personalities. Johnny is a toughie but soft too. Lillie is the boss -- she delegates -- Jamie is hardy and Robbie is the most adventurous. He likes to know how everything works," said mum Mary.

The quads, who will start primary school next September, came as a "lovely surprise" to their parents.

"Thank God we're over all the nappies now. That was tough going and so were the teeth but we survived. We had very good help from the Health Service Executive," said Mary.

The toddlers have already "learned so much" from Ballon-Rathoe Childcare, where they attend Montessori. "They started in the creche there last year and I was reluctant to let them off," said Mary. "I was upset because they didn't like being separated from me. But this year, they're great."

The quads are separated into two classrooms, which Mary said is good for their independence. "We thought it might be better because Johnny and Jamie are very attached. They fight but they're good friends too," she said. Johnny and Lillie are in one class while Robbie and Jamie are in another.


In Bagenalstown, Sr Kathleen Corcoran has a little more experience of new classrooms.

She has taught more than 1,500 pupils in seven decades, and is still teaching after 61 years in the classroom.

The nun, who entered the Presentation Sisters order in 1940, first started teaching in Dublin nine years later.

The arrival of television had the greatest impact on learning, the nun believes. "In 1949, the children were marvellous. They hadn't the distractions that they have now. They'd go home, eat their dinner and as soon as they finished, they'd sit down and do their lessons."

Sr Kathleen is so passionate about the profession that when she retired at 65 she went to a secondary school to teach on a voluntary basis.

Yesterday, she was back in the Presentation De La Salle College after the summer break.

She teaches Irish to students who need extra help in the Co Carlow secondary school. She settled well in the community after moving to the Presentation convent on her retirement.

Despite the explosion of the internet, mobile phones, computer games and television and the "loss of innocence" of children, Sr Kathleen thinks young people are today more eager to learn, and have more ambition.

Irish Independent

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