I have realised plenty of times in my life that I am so lucky. Lucky to have a good husband, children, grandchildren, a peaceful home, a comfortable lifestyle, good colleagues, and supportive friends.
My special friends are a group of women from my school days, my school pals. I met them in September 1959 when we started as junior infants together at the Marist Primary School on Clogher road in Crumlin.
We were the pioneer class starting a new school, a new time in life and a new world of education and communication.
A group of us from that class have been friends since. We are not the ‘in your face’ friends but those you can meet once or twice a year, go right back to your school days, laugh and reminisce and remind ourselves of how innocent and yet responsible we were as children and young teenagers going through the school system.
When I was teaching, I often told students in my class that when I was in fifth and sixth, we had 72 pupils in the class. Six rows across and twelve desks per row. They used to look at me as if I were mad. Well, that’s debatable, but it was a fact about the large numbers of pupils in the class.
How on earth was a teacher expected to teach that number of pupils without any help or any support? Impossible, I believe the answer to that is,it was absolutely impossible.
However, here we are now veterans of that system that put a dunce's hat on the head of the person who could not pick up where the last person left off when we were reading aloud or finish the problem on the board when we did sums. Oh God that reminds me, I hated sums. A teacher told me one time I must be stupid because I could not add two and two. I was so nervous at the board that I couldn’t think and got the sum wrong. That statement stayed with me for many years.
We made our first communion and confirmation together. Went on school tours and took part in Christmas Operettas, as they were called at our school, a concert to everyone else!
All of us from working class parents and grandparents and they were all doing their best to give us the best possible opportunities in life, as they had so little in theirs. The free education scheme had just come into action and the parents in our community were taking everything they could get for us, so we could have a better future.
During our school time, we had lots of experiences together. Most of them are fun orientated. Those who had the courage to challenge the teacher, well they were the most fascinating, that's what I thought, because I was terrified to do that! What I mean by challenging, giving back a bit of cheek to the nun! That was about the height of it.
We were really good friends to each other and looked out for one another. That’s something I see less and less of nowadays such a pity.
There were plenty of times when I felt held by these young women, who were my school pals, now still my lifelong friends, that I trust impeccably with any information about my life.
The talent in that class shone through time and time again. We had teachers, nurses, administrators, physios, therapists and more.
We wrote plays together, went on strike and acted in pageants! Some even cut the top off their school tunic, which was royal blue with yellow tartan, and rolled up the pleated skirt so it was mini length!!
So funny. So simple, so innocent. That was about as bad as it got! The boy’s tech which was across the road from the school and they called us the ‘blue bottles’. Our uniform was very unique at the time: royal blue gabardine, beret, cardigan, and tunic, white shirt and blue tie. The first class to start the girl’s secondary school, the first of its kind in the area.
So we met a while ago, and one said it was a special anniversary as it was 50 years since we sat our leaving cert. The 7th June 1972! Imagine that. And we are still friends and meet a couple of times a year to enjoy the craic.
We are older, wiser, some of us grandparents and some great grandparents. Did I ever think we would be sitting together, having dinner and a few drinks and lots of laughter sixty three years later. Never! What a bunch of legends we are.
School pals if you are lucky to have them, they really are the best pals.