Irish authors share their ‘Back to School’ memories: ‘If such were to happen today we would need a tribunal to explain the emotional trauma’
September is just a weekend away, but already thousands of Irish children pulled on their jumpers and headed back to school this week.
Our school days are often the making of us and the foundation of many of our most valued memories and friendships.
Remembering their school days fondly are some of Eason’s best selling Irish authors who share some funny stories from their childhoods.
St Anne's Milltown,National School.
We were well looked after by the nuns in St Anne's. I do recall being excited on return after holidays as we used to get a Sticky Bun and mini bottle of milk once a week. I think the reason was to help those disadvantaged children to have at least some food in them going home. We were far from being disadvantaged but the nuns were able to get everyone a Sticky Bun in, I suppose, a "Loaves & Fishes" sort of way. Our teacher Miss Wright went even further with the TLC by putting the mini bottles of milk, which came off the back of a milkcart, into her bosom to take the chill off the bottle. God help us today if such were to happen it would need a tribunal to explain the emotional trauma on the young ......etc,etc,etc but we lived for the once a week treat.
Francis is the author of Count Your Blessings
Back to school always happened for me as soon as my mum brought me to Greene’s bookshop in Clare Street to buy that year’s schoolbooks. Greene’s was an institution for most of the schoolchildren of my era as just about everyone bought their books there. We would try to get in early to beat the queues, but everyone else usually had the same idea and you’d quite often be waiting for over an hour before you reached the counter and handed over your list of books. There was always a worry that they wouldn’t have one - I was quite panicky about making sure I had them all in time.Once I got the books home the next task was to cover them, either in brown paper or old cuts of wallpaper. I always put my favourite paper on my English books and the boring brown paper on the maths!
Sheila Flanagan is the author of My Mother’s Secret
On long summer nights when we were boys, we hadn’t a care in the world. I never needed to know what time it was or to glance at my watch. We played football, hurling and soccer until darkness fell. Going to bed when it was still bright outside was the first sign that it was back-to-school time. The next morning brought with it a real sense of excitement but that was quickly tempered by the lead weight on my back, also known as a schoolbag. I would place my thumbs on my shoulders, trying to ease the pain as the straps dug into my shoulders. It felt more like a pilgrimage then as I trudged to the school gates. And they said these would be the happiest days of my life! But it wasn’t long before the 12 o’clock bell rang. This was the reason I came to school - soccer in the yard, defending the school gate. We were back, and life felt good again.
Brendan Cummins is the author of Standing My Ground
I was one of those weird kids who absolutely loved and adored school, while hating with a passion the miserable and ultimately wasted years I spent in college. See? I told you. Weird.
I went to Loreto on the Green, from primary right the way through to Leaving Cert and I can honestly say I never had an unhappy day there. My core group of pals from school are still my closest pals now…something that I value all the more as I get older. But then it’s important to have people around you who can still remind you that you once thought a bubble perm with blue eyeliner and a chunky jumper was a good look. I’m an only girl sandwiched between two brothers, so my schoolpals became almost like surrogate sisters to me. And my abiding back to school memory? Seeing the ads on telly in August, advertising all the paraphernalia kids needed for the year ahead. My brothers would groan and throw things at the telly, but me? I’d nearly have the days counted.
After graduation I even went back to my old school and taught…but that’s a whole other story for another day!
Claudia Carroll is the author of Meet Me In Manhattan
Immediately, I recall the long summers of my childhood on sun-drenched West Cork beaches, happy amongst a cacophony of cousins, rock fishing for crabs through the day and kicking a ball between jumpers long past dusk. Naturally, after such bliss, it was trying to return to the gaunt horror of double Physics, to the endless clanging of school bells, to the dead-eyed war veteran pallor of exhausted teachers, with only the prospect of the long winter ahead, wandering dark corridors weighed down by schoolbooks and T-squares like some sad, pubescent packhorse. However, I’m probably blocking out the many wet summers I spent trailing raindrops down the insides of windscreens, the feeling of swimming pool chlorine working its way through my eyeballs and the emotional scars left after weeks spent fighting my own sister for crisps in the back of a Cortina. So, in reality, going back to school probably wasn’t all that bad…
Colm Tobin is the author of Surviving Ireland
In September 1989 I started second year in Nenagh CBS. Here’s something I learned on the first day back: You should never start following a band during the summer holidays unless you’re sure they’re cool. I can still see the sick realisation in the eyes of the guy who came back to school sporting a Bros badge and those four terrible letters indelibly markered across his new schoolbag. I have a recurring dream where it’s first day back and I have no timetable or books and everyone else knows where they’re going and what they’re doing and I keep asking the lads where I’m meant to be and what class I’m in but everyone laughs at me and I meet a teacher I have a crush on and she’s being really kind to me even though I’m a smartarse and then I realise I’m 39 and I finished school 22 years ago and I wake up feeling hugely relieved and a small bit disappointed.
Donal Ryan is the author of A Slanting of the Sun
When I was younger,I spent a lot of my summers running wild and free in my cousins house in county Clare. My uncle Michael loved fishing and used to pile us all into the back of his battered, chocolate Ford Cortina(no seat belts in those days) and bring us off down to Lahinch or to the windswept grandeur of the Burren where we used to spend hours collecting periwinkles or searching for crabs and jellyfish. I remember one particular evening as if it happened yesterday-I was sitting day-dreaming in his ancient boat looking up at the beauty of the late summer sky when I suddenly realised that it was only about nine o clock yet the light was fading. I knew then that the game was up and in a few days I would be sitting in my grey school uniform in a grey classroom in Bray staring out of the window dreaming of adventure ....Even still, over thirty years later,late August brings up lots of conflicting emotions. As a ten year old,I remember the feelings of loss because the summer was finally over but at the same time a big part of me was looking forward to getting back into a routine(although I'd rather die than admit this to a living soul) and of course September meant meeting up with all of my friends and there was nothing bad about that!!!
Mary Doherty and Siobhan Hackett are the authors of Shine
No matter how old we get, back to school memories stay with us for life, stirring up a sense of nostalgia and nerves. Summer sleep-ins became a schedule filled with homework and early morning boarding school wake-up calls. It signalled a transition that brought challenges as well as excitement. The thrill of catching up with cherished friends, swapping stories and friendship bracelets of every colour combination possible, that remained on the wrist until they fell off. The heady smell of chalk dust and new books covered in smooth brown paper. Comparing new, impractical novelty accessories and shiny pencil cases. Trying to hide ripped holes in my oversized hand-me-down jumper my mother convinced me I would grow into. And although the three bittersweet words "back-to-school" meant the end of summer I look back with very fond memories on it all.
Mary Doherty and Siobhan Hackett are the authors of Shine
For more information on the Irish authors featured in this piece visit www.easons.com