I did my leaving cert in 1997. In Mount Sion Christian Brothers School. I was ten years of age.
Ok, I was 16, but that was still pretty young. This is the second part of me trying to remember shit from my school days. The great thing about it is that other people read it, and then they remember stuff, and we all drown in a sea of Nostalgia.
The thing about Primary and Secondary school is that, well, it’s all a bit of a farce really. Like everything else in this country, it just doesn’t seem to make any sense. School is supposed to prepare you for adult life, right? Okay, so tell me, in your adult life have you ever:
- Had to find x?
- Needed to know what an OxBow Lake was?
- Needed to know ANYTHING about religion?
- Civics. What the hell is that all about. I don’t even know what we were taught in that bloody class. Except for one day when the poor unfortunate that was teaching it (Mr. Cullen – I’m sure that man had his fair share of affairs*) announced one day, while talking about smoking, that he one morning, saw sense and decided to throw his cigarettes away. He was met with the reply “Where did you throw them sir?” Not sure what that has to do with civics mind you.
- Sedimentary Rocks. Jesus Christ you’d swear Mount Sion was gearing up for a massive upshot in the demand for Geoligists.
I could go on and on.
What I would prefer to see is some kind of lessons in TAX…PRSI…VAT…PAYE…stuff that will actually be needed for some when they leave school. Lessons for others in Social Welfare and criminal law would also be useful.
Swimming and Driving Lessons would also be quite beneficial. What did we get instead? Bowling. Fucking Bowling in the Bowling Alley. We were all useless at Bowling (except for Damien Frisby, who was somewhat of a celebrity in the Bowling world), the only thing I liked about it was that I lived across the road from the bowling alley so I had a handy walk home for an extra long lunch.
This is not an attack on Mount Sion. This is an attack on the Irish Education System. And I’m not finished yet.
In 1991 or 92, I sat the entrance exam. The most pointless waste of a saturday morning that anyone has ever witnessed. The teachers already knew who the messers were and who the semi smart kids were. They certainly knew who the swots and the dunces were. What was the point of the entrance exam.
“John had a dog. Linda had a cat. Mary had a cute angina. Who had the dog?”
Then we have the next waste of time. The Junior Cert. If you fail…so what? Nobody will ever care about what you got in your Junior Cert in the same way that they won’t ever want to see your completed panini sticker album from the 1990 world cup. Kids last week were having sleepless nights about what they would get in their junior cert. I wish I could go in to every school in the country and give a lecture on the pointlessness of that exam. I think I’d become a hero.
And then we have the leaving cert, which, unless you want to be a doctor or a scientist of Rockets, will just be an annoyance to ya. I did a pretty shite leaving cert…I got honours in things I liked..English…History..I failed two subjects that I hated so much that I didn’t actually bother with them. I literally did not compete in these events. I give you – Accounting, and Irish. I was never going to become an Irish speaking accountant. It just wasn’t on the cards.
There were about 7 of us in accounting class, God knows how I ended up in that class by the way. Knowing Mount Sion it was probably due to some kind of lottery system. You weren’t allowed do subjects you liked in Mount Sion. I quite liked Art in the Junior Cert. As soon as they got wind of this, they sacked the Art teacher and abolished the subject all together. We had no Shindler to save us unfortunately.
Anyway, Accounting. We, the Mount Sion 7, were taught by a legend by the name of Mr Breathnach. I sat next to Lorcan Power (you will remember from my previous blog that we were best friends and he now hates me. Probably) Anyway…we were just two of the funniest fuckers sitting at that desk. We took no interest in accounting. Lorcan, eternal credit to the chap, was having too much fun in the class and it turns out that he did want to learn because he repeated it the following year. We sat in front of a chap called Martin O Regan. It’s funny how all the kids that we called “gay” in school did turn out to actually be gay. Martin was a roaring homo sexual from the age of about 6. he took a bit of stick, but that was his own business. I’m kinda going off the beaten track here…I think the basic point was that I didn’t like accounting.
Irish, the other subject I failed (because I didn’t try) (sorry mam), was attempted to be taught to me by Mr. Hynes. Mr. Hynes was a lovely man. This is fact. A genuine nice guy. But, we were all cunts. Everyone of us. Some teachers were able to cope with this face better than others. Mr. Hynes wasn’t one of these teachers. Mr. Hynes could shout and you’d hear it at the end of bunkers hill. When people talk about Alex Ferguson’s legendary hairdryer team talks, I imagine them being mini pocket fans compared to what we got from Mr Hynes. He had this desk that had a lid, underneath which contained all of his books and pens and whatnot. Whenever this lid was lifted there used to be an audible hush that would descend upon the class because it was invariably rocketed back to its original position to the beat of his roars. Michael Keating got a lash of it one day for the seemingly innocent act of…farting. Someone shouted “Oh me eyes” “It burns”…and well that was enough to set auld BEANZ off.
I say he was a good man (Is probably) and I mean it. There was one moment that will live long in the memory. Can you imagine a meeting between Hitler and some of his cronies? Someone cracks a joke about hitler’s stupid moustache and there’s suddenly silence in the room. Uh oh. He’s fucked now. Hitler doesn’t do jokes.
Not that I’m comparing Mr Hynes to Hitler you understand.
One day we were doing something which I think we all loved – Role play – (some of us still love it today), I was at the top of the class, with Hynes’ desk in front of. I lifted it up, in full view of the class and the man himself, and pretended to do one of his legendary FREAKS. Like Hitler many years before him, instead of throwing me out the window, Mr Hynes smiled, and then smiled again, and then burst into a laugh. It was a glimpse of humanity that I’ll never forget.
Speaking of being thrown out of a window. It wasn’t uncommon for someone’s school bag to be get kicked all the way to the back of a class and then flung out the window. This was such a common practise that if we were on the floor below we were as used to seeing falling school bags as we were falling rain.
I was thought English by Mr. Farrelly. I hope, as you read this, that you feel that he did a pretty good job. He was our Dead Poets Society teacher. I saw him the other day – he looked about 40. Which means he thought us when he was about 14. (Mr Moynihan tried to teach me maths.) Anyway, my resounding memory from Mr Farrelly was after I submitted an essay to him. It was a particularly rushed effort because with Where in the World and Glenroe the previous night I just didn’t have enough in me to match my usual high enough standards. He took me out of the class, and into the corridor. (where you would usually see someone like Jonathan Brown, or Damien Grant who had just been kicked out of the class next door). There he said these words to me: “What the fuck was that? You’re better than that Darren. Jesus. Go back in there.” And that was that. Honours followed baby.
I dunno if people in other schools had this next “thing”, but we had it, and it’s something that no Mount Sioner will ever forget. The Prayer Room. 6 students would be chosen from their place in the alphabet, (Me and David Sheridan did many school events together) and sent down to Brother Carr in the prayer room. This mostly consisted of us all closing our eyes (and then opening them and looking at each other and laughing). Br. Carr would talk about how he spent 30 years in bed with TB, and then we’d be sent back to class. This is how I remember it anyway. I hope I’m not blanking out anything. Contrary to popular belief, nobody was inappropriately touched in the prayer room. At least I wasn’t anyway. Maybe little John Walker was.
You see we didn’t consider any of these teachers as real people. They were just teachers… disciplinarians. It was us and them. Looking back now I think most of them were actually genuinely nice people. Like Mrs Kinsella. Jesus christ she absolutely hated me…but I had loads of time for her and I think she was a nice enough human being. The Jaw. Our first year was his last year, and that kind of says it all about our class to be honest. The words “Get your bags and baggage and get out of here” were heard every day. If not that it was “Br. Codd is coming…” The man just had no control over the class. Students had changed through the years and the poor man just didn’t evolve with them. Some students, me included, just felt sorry for him and generally went easy on him. Others just couldn’t help but make his life a misery. I remember the day that he turned on me and I felt like shouting “Hold on a second here pal…I was being fucking nice to ya! i was feeling sorry for ya!! And this is how you repay me?!!! Well fuck that anyway. There’s spit all down your back by the way.”
In my class, I’m not sure about any other class in the whole world, but, in our class, we knew the names of all of our parents. For example, I knew that Damien Sullivan’s mother and father were called Pat and Pat. When Damien would come into school late, you’d hear a little shout of “Pat”, and it was usually from Mark O Callaghan. Or “Francis” as we called him. We knew all the parent’s names and for some reason, we used that as abuse.
Another little trick we were famous for was not letting anyone read aloud in class without making them burst out laughing. If you had the misfortune of sitting next to, say, Jason O Farrell, (now a man of the law – wtf happened there?) and you had to read something out, he would start rubbing your leg and say thing like “Oooh…Meave…Martin…(My parents) in an uncomfortably seductive voice. He must be some lover now because I was never able to get past two sentences.
I’m going on a bit now and I’m sure if you know none of the players above you’re becoming pretty bored. I’ll go back to some memory bullet points.
The White Wall. I went home for lunch everyday and I’d walk back to school with people from the cork road or hennessy’s road. When Neighbours was over (back then it finished at 1:50) you’d leave your house and be joined by about 10 others who left at the same time. We got to see neighbours, but would never get to see Going for Gold (unless we were sick of course). Anyway…we’d walk in the black gates and then there would be a separation. The smokers would go to the white wall for some John Player Blue action, and the non smokers would head into class. Double maths or some other painful shit. I was never a smoker and the reason was always simple. They’re horrible fuckin things.
Silence. Silence was something that wasn’t to be trusted in Mount Sion. If you walked down a corridor and there was a full class waiting there, and nobody was speaking…you knew well that you too, should say nothing. If, for some unknown reason, you did decide to open your mouth and show your inexperience, you would be beaten. Severely. And would have to sit for the rest of the afternoon with 2 very dead legs.
The Library. A place to see big black aboriginal tits. And that was it. There were lots of National Geographics from the 70s in the library. And not a whole lot else. The library was also used for a thing called “Study group.” This is where people would not only volunteer, but actually pay good money to stay back after school and have “supervised study”. The mind boggles.
The Church. Which apparently contained the body of our hero, Edmund Rice. And yet they tore the thing down a few years ago. We had our end of school mass in there. I believe we sang these two songs:
Nowadays kids sing this kind of shit when they leave school:
says it all really. We were legends.
Until next time…