Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

Christian Brothers School 
Carlow School Days

Source: The Golden Jubilee Journal 1936-1986 (Michael Purcell)

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Photo above as follows: 1946 — Left to right: Joseph, Harry, Austin and James Crowe.
1, All went to National School, Graiguecullen and C.B.S. in Carlow.
2, All joined the Army as Privates and Volunteers.
3, All were commissioned as officers during the emergency, 1939-1946.
4, All retired with following ranks:
1, Colonel, Joseph; 2, Lieut. Col. James and Austin; 3, Lieut., Harry (at end of Emergency).

This article is by Austin Crowe, Lt. Cot., sometime O.C. McKee Barracks, Eastern Command, Dublin. One of 4 brothers (unique) commissioned in army at the same time, 1933-1936.

When the new C.B.S. school opened in 1936, most of my class in the Primary school had just transferred to the Old Secondary school. It was disappointing for us that we were not accommodated in the new school. However, for most other activities we attended the New school for retreats, lectures, plays, etc. We had left behind us a very memorable period in the primary school, during which Mr. Aidan Murray, N.T., was our teacher for the greater part of three years.

It was, therefore, with not a little trepidation we looked forward to the very new atmosphere of the secondary school. Education — whether we sunk of swam, was going to be pounded into us.

During the great election campaign of 1932, while standing at the back of a crowd I heard the word “edumacation” being bandied about for the first time. Two well-known brothers from Graigue in the coal haulage business were getting excited about the policies being propounded by McCarthy — the “Solissiter” when one of the brothers began heckling him. The other brother tried to cool the first fellow by saying “now Pat you have more edumacation than I and I can’t contain myself’ whereupon the two of them fell to containing one another with blackthorn sticks. I didn’t wait to find out what the outcome was going to be.

Up to and including the thirties, those who wished to advance beyond the National school system had a considerable amount of obstacles to overcome. As far as I can recall, at that time teachers were paid on a Capitation System and this placed a great restraint on pupils moving from one school to another, despite the rights of parents under the Constitution. The fruits of this situation had a direct bearing on the education of my brother and myself.

Around 1930, considerable inroads had been made into school attendance in the national school in Graigue. Besides the normal wastage of students leaving school, two of my brothers together with a number of farmers’ sons had transferred to other schools. This situation, combined with the fact that my father had attended the C.B.S. influenced him in his decision to send his two remaining sons to the brothers.

Harry and myself, being the last two boys in the family, were attending the National School in 3rd and 4th class. When my father sought the transfer on our behalf, the head teacher informed him that he felt no advantage would be gained by transferring pupils at that period in their education. As a result the transfer papers were left unsigned. However, my father, thinking that a misunderstanding might have arisen, approached the Parish Priest directly and outlined his case to him.

The P.P. being of the more stern mould of clergy (noticeable at that time) was not at all impressed by my father’s stand in the matter. When my father outlined to him the obligation of parents regarding education of their children under the Constitution, tempers became rather frayed on both sides. The Parish Priest told my father to forget his socialistic tendencies and requested him to remove himself from his doorway, as otherwise he would have to have recourse to his blackthorn stick — whereupon my father informed the P.P. that, having spent four years in the trenches in World War 1 (fighting for someone else’s freedom), he was not going to be cowed into subjection by the sight of a blackthorn stick. However, this confrontation with the P.P. gained him nothing, the transfer papers were left unsigned.

As a result of the interview with the P.P. my father decided that in order to bring things to a head, he would keep the two of us at home from school. We did not understand what all the rumpus was about and we would have been only too happy to remain in a complete state of blissful ignorance as long as the impasse would last.

In the meantime, my father was’ leaving no stone unturned to resolve our schooling problem as soon as possible. Having written to the Department of Education, instructions were issued to the school for the completion of the transfer forms, but these were ignored and my father was back to square one.

We continued to enjoy our freedom — taking free rides on Kate Heleghan’s donkey and once being run off the river bank by Bridgie Melia. This woman, being my Godmother, gave me two shillings and six pence each birthday until I was fourteen years of age. She was extremely kind to me on that particular day — but after that I was relegated to the rank of blackguard and chased off the bank like the rest of my pals.

However, Harry and myself felt that it was only a matter of time before the good days would be over. My father was as determined as ever that the situation should be resolved as quickly as possible and eventually wrote to the Department of Justice — for (what the name implies) justice. The result was that an instruction was issued from the Department to the local superintendent ordering him to have us placed in the C.B.S. immediately. Needless to say this was chilling news for Harry and myself, and we were not at all impressed by the speed with which it was carried out. Harry said to me “the Guards will be down for us on Monday morning, what will we do?” and I replied that we would have to put up with our lot and suffer the consequences; beggars’ can’t be choosers.

I remember that I slept badly that Sunday night and with great trepidation I woke early on Monday morning. I had a quick look down the Street to see if there was any sign of a blue uniform, but all I saw was an old donkey belonging to Kate Heleghan licking the driblets of water from the ever-leaking fountain. Someone was beating out a tune on the anvil in Mike McDarby’s forge (not a vestiage of it left) and a leaf of cabbage blowing wistfully across the street, while Tom Hayden in Governey’s lorry with the solid tyres and swinging wheel brushes, clattered down the street — otherwise everything was normal.

I found it difficult to eat my breakfast that morning. Harry was no better because he kept asking whether ‘Hayden’s had pigs’ in order to justify the reason why his stomach was so upset. Then the inevitable happened — we could hear footsteps coming down the cobbled path outside. A huge figure in blue uniform blocked out the light from the entrance and called out my father’s name. It was Guard McHugh — and we knew it was the end of our extended holidays in Begley’s Bog! When the usual courtesies between the policeman and my father were over, the real work for which he had come got underway.

Pupils and escort started down the street towards Graigue bridge. Neither Harry or myself took any interest in the conversation between the guard and my father. But we did notice that we were being discreetly watched from behind lace curtains. Oh the mortification of it all! We imagined what they were thinking ‘Oh there they are off to Artane because they wouldn’t go to school’. It was much worse, we were going to the C.B.S. and a big guard was seeing to it that the ‘super’s orders would be carried out! Reaching the school that morning, we met Brother Leahy just entering the main gate and the guard introduced us all round. Whether the guard produced a document or not I’m not sure, but the head teacher appeared satisfied with whatever was said and brought us into the school. We underwent a preliminary test and were then placed in classes similar to the ones we were in in Graigue. I was in third class under Brother Holohan and Harry in fourth under Brother McInerney.

For three or four months afterwards we felt that things were rather soft for a C.B.S. school at the time. This situation became more obvious when we noted that for this brief period we neither had to do homework, buy books or get our poetry off by heart. It was rather disconcerting when one’s pals were being thrashed about, and we were being treated as new pupils when we missed anything. However, the honeymoon period came to an end one day when I did ‘miss my poetry’. My dream crashed about my ears as well as on my hands. The realisation that our ‘transfer’ had been effected, and that the process of our ‘edumacation’ was in the hand had now become a reality.

Source: The Golden Jubilee Journal 1936-1986 (Michael Purcell)

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