Thursday, December 31, 2015

Coláiste Mhuire

Rang '63 sa chlós
Version of photo with names
Click any image for a larger version

In the Irish Times, 29/12/2015, Sean O'Donnell criticises the blinkered Catholic nationalism and the culture of violence of his schooldays, in the course of which he takes a pop at his, and my, alma mater, Coláiste Mhuire.

He seems to have got the short end of the stick when he was landed with Brother Kinsella. I don't remember that brother, who may have come after I left in 1963, but we too had our quota of violent teachers. In those days you got them everywhere, not just in Coláiste Mhuire.

As far as the Christian Brothers were concerned the country was divided into two provinces, north and south, with the split being on a line between Dublin (northside ?) and Galway. Brothers were rotated around within their own province, so a lot of other non-Coláiste, and probably non-Dublin, pupils would have had the pleasure of Brother Kinsella over his teaching career.

Maybe my class was lucky overall in the range of teachers we had.

An Br. Ó Maitiú

Our class brother was Brother Matthews and he was more given to psychological than to physical torture. Whether this was more damaging in the longer run is a matter for debate. He did, generally, look after his pupils, though.

Albert Folens

We had an exceptional French teacher in the person of Albert Folens (Froggy), who, in the absence of Irish, had to teach by the direct method, which was ultimately to our advantage. We were not aware at the time of some of the more controversial aspects of his past. To us he was just a good French teacher.

Michael Judge

We also had the benefits of a wider literary education from Michael Judge (Judgie), who was our English and art teacher, and who died only recently.

Brian Devanney

And we had Brian Devanney (Babs) both as an English teacher and musical director. He was a most civilised and cultured man, and, like Michael Judge, wrote for external media.

The School Orchestra
Version of photo with names

There was no shortage of extra-curricular activities. I was not involved in sport, nor was I a star of the mat drill, but I was in the school orchestra which was run by Babs. We not only played at school concerts, but we were externally assessed.

The orchestra also had an offshoot, the pit orchestra, which played in the pit, as opposed to onstage, to accompany the onstage gymnastics displays at the annual school concerts. This was a much looser arrangement than the formal orchestra

And we had a string quartet and subsequently quintet, which played Mozart and Beethoven at the school concerts, and even played the Presidential Salute in the Gate Theatre, for Dev and Sinéad, at the opening of Féile Drámaíochta na Scol.

Debaters: Pól Ó Duibhir, Alan Dukes,
Colm Ó Muircheartaigh, Naos Mac Cumhaill

Then there was the debating, admittedly confined to a relatively small number of pupils. The photo above is a press photo and it was taken when we won the Leinster championship in the Gael Linn national debates.

Remember these debates were entirely in Irish. You could not prepare for them as you only got the subject twenty minutes before the start. Debaters, however, could take individual positions for or against the motion. The team aspect only really came into play when the scores were added up at the end.

Me as St. Peter with two of the Marys

And the annual pageants. As Sean says, these were written and directed by Tomás Mac Anna. He did a brilliant job on them and any participant keeping his wits about him learned a lot about stagecraft, including sound and lighting which were operated by pupils on the night.

You can see a programme for the 1963 pageant here.

I had my own role in them. I didn't like being onstage, with or without a script, and eventually managed to hog the role of drummer (in the pit) when Brian Tuite, the resident brilliant drummer, left.

And yes, the school was very nationalistic. I suppose it was a combination of Irish language and Catholic church. But the whole 1966 commemoration of 1916 showed how naïvely nationalistic most of the nation was in those days. The proper evidence based study of history, as opposed to its ideological counterpart, only emerged gradually after that time.

Some members of my class reflected on the school in the context of a retrospective on Mise Éire released in 2013.

As far as my class is concerned, in more recent years we have had reunions, some of which were attended by a majority of the old class. We have a slightly broader mailing list, and I have a web page devoted to our class, past and present.

Class of 1971

By 1971, standards of sartorial elegance and hair styles had evolved somewhat from my day as a comparison of the two class photos in this post will testify. A skim through subsequent class photos will show this as a continuing trend.

So I'm sorry Sean had a bad experience. I enjoyed most of my schooldays in Coláiste and that's not because I was spared the leather, because I wasn't. But we were spared the hopefully few madly violent teachers, and ambient (normal) violence was part of the wallpaper at that time throughout the educational system.

Related post: Seomra 1916

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Bhí Sean O'Donnell lán go béal le cac agus ba náireach an rud é don Oirish Toimes an t-alt sin a fhoilsiú gan freagra. Ní raibh an scoil foirfe, nó gar dó bheith, ach nuair a luaitear Babs, Judge (cé nár thaitin an sean-mhnáchas a bhain leis liomsa) agus daoine uaisle cosúil le Hamill, Plank, Órla, Milo, Piggy agus go leor eile ní fíor in aon chur an méid a bhí sa nuachtán.