Memories of a Former Teacher

By Mrs. Hehir

Looking forward to twenty five years seems such a long time. After all, it’s a quarter of a century and so much happens in that length of time. However looking back on the twenty five years I spent in Kilmurry appears to me, not as just another episode in my life, but an episode full to the brim of memories.

Having spent eleven years out of school, because of the marriage ban, it was
with fear and trepidation I went to the Junior Room in Kilmurry to take over
from the late Mrs. Curley R.I.P. I had one great advantage in that I knew the
families either by sight or from hearsay. I suppose they were as much in awe of
me! Here the children were introduced to the famous and inevitable 3Rs. We
painted and sang and acted. We had fun and shed tears, too, when difficulties
arose. We prepared for first confession and Holy Communion when the little
innocents learnt and spoke so candidly and openly of their secrets and
troubles. I learnt a lot of the beauty and shining candour of a child’s soul.

On Winter’s mornings, when I went there in 1958, the fires were lit with
“cipinI”, paraffin, turf and coal. The drinking water was brought in a bucket,
from the well, by the senior boys. We had not got electricity at that time so
the kettle was boiled on the fire. The bare boards were often damp from wet
shoes and the wind often whistled thro’ the windows — we were the hardy generation! At Christmas we had an annual Nativity Play and I still remember how uninhibited the little players were and how lustily they sang the Christmas hymns, as they suited, in the play.

It was during this time the secular and religious programmes were changed. We
got the “Buntüs” in Irish and it was hard work, but reading, writing and
conversation were so correlated that it made for easier working on the whole.
It was at this time also that the Metric System was introduced, so all the
measurement, monetary, liquid tables etc, could be discarded; —
these had been introduced in the Junior Room. In the religious programme we learnt and taught religion with relevance to the religious seasons of the year — Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, and afterwards. The prayers were simplified and all in all, made the programme far more interesting.

Almost half way through my time in Kilmurry Mr. Rohan, ‘our Principal,
who had been my teaching partner for twelve years, moved to a larger school and
took with him our very best wishes and gratitude. The love of English he
instilled in his pupils has enhanced their enjoyment of reading to this day.
Indeed they can thank him for the good foundation that enabled them to be the
success they were in later life.

I then crossed the threshold into the senior room where I renewed the
acquaintance of my former pupils while my place in the junior room was filled
by a few temporary teachers, the most notable being Mrs. Walsh, then Miss
Goggin. She spent a year with us and she must have liked us because she, her
husband and family are now very important members of the community in Kilmurry.

Mrs. Brady, then Miss Cunneen, was next appointed permanently. She applied herself with her usual skill and energy as only she can do. We were very sorry to lose her to Kilkishen, her home base, after a short spell of two years. The late Canon Ryan chose ‘a woman from the Kingdom, Mrs. O’Brien’ as the replacement for Miss Cunneen. When we expressed our ‘Céad Mile Fáilte’ we were afraid she too, would take off for pastures new! Well she came she saw and we conquered — she stayed!

Meantime life and work continued in the Senior Room. We travelled, in imagination, to far distant climes, traded by rail sea and air. We studied our
earth and stones, rivers, lakes, and mountains. We skimmed the history of our
country from early times to the present day. On our various tours we travelled
to the Dublin Zoo and Botanic Gardens, to Holy Cross Abbey, Cashel of the
Kings, the Suir Valley to Tramore, back through the Glen of Aherlow. Another year we went on a boating trip of Cork Harbour, saw Spike Island, Haulbowline,
Verholme Dock and Irish Steel in action. In all our tours we were very lucky in
that we were blessed with beautiful weather, and enjoyed every day immensely.

We welcomed our official visitors — Priests of the Parish — who visited us each week and helped us in every way they could, and our inspectors who dropped in to see us occasionally. After a session in the classroom they enjoyed a ‘cuppa’ so invitingly prepared by Mrs. O’Brien of the Junior Room. We knew the parents and community of Kilmurry and valued their friendship and co-operation. We remember with great warmth all our former pupils and we follow their progress and success in life with interest. For our happy time in Kilmurry, to which you all made a big contribution, we thank you most sincerely.

Go mairidh sibh i bhfad!