Through the Mist of Time

By Frank Moran

In the early years of the 1940’s life hadn’t changed much for the residents of the Lower Ormond parish of Kilbarron but it was soon to change.
With World War II raging through Western Europe, fuel, clothes and food were soon to be “rationed”. The State was fighting the spread of Foot and Mouth disease. Men were employed by the State to stop movement of Live Stock. The L.D.F. “Local Defence Force” dressed in their green uniforms patrolled the country side in an effort to prevent a German invasion. As young school going children all this was over our heads, attending our brand new school, opened in Kilbarron in 1941, The boys playing the game of hurling in the school playground.

The following is my memory of a day in the life of a young boy attending school with his siblings and neighbouring children.

My dad would have just left the house to start work in Castletown at 8 o’clock. My Mam would eventually have us up and dressed for school. In 1942 there were four of us attending school in Kilbarron, and our first year in the “New School”. With our lunches and bottle of milk packed away in our school bags and our breakfast of porridge known then as “stirrabout”, we made our way to Coolbawn Cross just yards from our home. We would join the school children from around the area. The Cleary’s of Skehanagh, Paddy Flannery of Glenbower, Tommy McDonald of Ryehill who lived for some time with his grandmother, Mrs. Gleeson in Lesserragh, Michael Carroll of Coolbawn, in his last year in Primary School, also Mick Molamphy in his last year in Kilbarron. We were joined by the children from the Bellevue Road, Jack Donoghue “Jenks’’” daughters Betty and Kathleen. The Tiernan family from Lesserragh. Henry O’Donoghue and his siblings came the following year. Eileen Carroll of Brookfield also in her last school year, Jack Flannery of Scriboge and also Paddy and Noreen Donoghue. We would make our way past Meagher’s House, past Needham’s and Joe Coonans old house and Quarry down Meredith’s Hill to the Long Lane Cross. By this time the Stanley Family of Coolbawn would have passed us in their pony and car on their way to the Protestant School in Finnoe. We were joined at the Long Lane Cross by the Twin Hogan’s, Julia and Ann, Nonie Moran and her sister Peggy of Ballyscanlon, Paddy Ryan “Builder” in his last year with members of Paddy Tierney’s (TD) family from Ballyscanlon. A short distance from the school members of the Gleeson family would join us. Don’t get the impression we all walked together, we didn’t. The Girls would stay together, as did the boys. Those who came from Kilbiller and Lisquillabeen came by Mass Path. The Casey’s, Mara’s, Slattery’s and Costelloes. I will describe the Mass Path later.

From the Borrisokane side came the Kitson’s of Oldcourt, the Dunnes of Kylebeg, Oliver, Mary and Jerry Lynch from Garryncurra. The Burkes of Kylebeg and later the Burkes of Firgrove. The Whelans of Gurteen came by Mass Path on to the Ballinderry road at Bridge Tracey’s Pub. John O’Meara “Builder” would have walked with the Whelan’s. The family who travelled the longest journey were the O’Meara’s and Prout’s of Ryehill who would join with Murt Donoghue and his sister Peggy at the bridge in Ballinderry. Lucy Hogan spending her last years in Kilbarron her brother Paddy and sister Madeline, joining them in Grawn were Mamie and Kitty Hough Tom and Mary Meagher with the Kennedys, John, Ester, Minnie, Martin and Oliver and the Prout sisters of Brocka would join them at Whelan’s Cross now, John Costello’s. Walking past “Poulvicterra Cross” up Corboy’s Hill to Ballinagrass Cross to be joined by the O Meara’s of Kevinstown and Ballinagrass. Pat Joe, Mary B and Michael Moloney also joined the group there. Most children arrived in school at 9.15 am, if you arrived after 9.30 am you had better have a good excuse. One boy whose parents owned a field some distance from his home, the field was named “Canada”, this morning the boy was very late, the Teacher asked him why he was late, his answer, “I had to go to Canada for the cow sir”!!!. When everyone was settled into their classes, Miss Graham had infants and first class, Mrs. Concannon had 2nd and 3rd, Seamus Collins had 4th 5th and 6th and at one stage there were some in 7th – Those who were not needed to work at home and those who were waiting to go into further education might spend an extra year in Primary School. First thing in the morning we had prayers then roll call. The call went something like this “Prionsias O’ Morain”, I would answer “Anseo”. I am not completely sure how the day went, the time before noon wasn’t good, the teachers seemed extra cross in the morning. There was a lot of catechism, the long and short version, a lot of Irish, some English, Geography and Mathematics. Yes, we were punished for not knowing our lessons and stepping out of line. One was brought up to the front of the class, told to hold out ones hand, the “Assailant”, I mean “ teacher” would hold your hand by the wrist and hit you with a hazel rod as hard as he or she could. No one got one slap it was often three or four on both hands. Your hands would be stinging for hours. If they did it now they would end up in trouble. School finished at 3 pm. Some of the older children stayed back to clean the school. We would make the same way home as we came, some of us would run in fear of a few clouts from our mothers, if we were late. We would love to meet the Roadmen “Council Workers”. They would always have a word for us. The Lynch brothers from Carney commons “Shane McGowan’s Granduncles” , Pat Dunne from Rodeen with his mule “a type of pony” and cart, Ned Considene of Claree, Jim Burns of Carney Commons, Jack Kennedy of Annagh, Pat Lynch, a fine singer, would ask us “Did you learn any new songs” we would reply, “No just the same old ones”. In Mrs Grahams room we would sing “Oh the days of the Kerry Dancing”, in Mrs. Concannon or Miss Hastings room we would sing “Beg Aónach Amarach, In Countai an Clair”. In Mr Collins room it was “A nation once again”. As we said goodbye Pat would start singing “The Rocks of Bawn”, one line I remember “Do you think you might be able to plough the Rocks of Bawn”.

At the first sign of good weather we got rid of the boots and went barefoot to school for the next 6 months. The joy of running through the grass covered with morning dew was heaven to us. During the summer months many kids used the mass paths to get to School and Mass. The Bellvue people crossing the field behind Tommy Slattery’s house over Coolbawn Hill through “Whitakers” field onto the road at Meridit’s Hill. When my family moved from Coolbawn to Kilbiller, we used the mass path with local children. Our house was opposite Lisquillabeen Lane. We would walk in the lane past Hogan’s House and Forge onto Casey’s house and farmyard. We would meet up with the Casey Children, head down the path to Martin Maras House, just beyond his garden we crossed over a small stream by stepping stones into Waller’s Hill, now Firgrove. By the time we started school, Jack Burke owned the land. The Slattery’s and Costelloes crossed through the field that contained the Black Castle, which stood silent and gaunt on its craggy hill, through the Fort Field into Casey’s Callows crossing the stream at O’Mearas, then over Wallers Hill. There was a gate into each field and beside this, a wooden stile to accommodate the mass goers. We came out to Kilbarron Village through a field beside Jonnie Donoghues Pub. No mass paths remain today. All the hedgerows are gone as are all the stiles and stepping stones.

Back to the bare feet, it took a few days for the soles of the feet to harden up enough to walk roads and lane ways. With the exception of the odd bruise and black toe nail, our feet stood up very well.

Kilbarron School, now twice the size it was in 1941. The mass paths are a thing of the past. The Ring Forts bulldozed. During our breaks from school we did odd jobs working on farms, sowing and picking potatoes, tinning beet and turnips with the farmer’s words ringing in our ears “Put your head down, your arse to the wind and get on with it”. One job everyone hated was picking stones. There seemed to be no end to them.

First Communion and Confirmation went by without too much fuss, with Confirmation over, we knew our school days were coming to an end. The last big item before leaving school was “The Primary School Certificate Examination”. I did pass it and still have the Certificate. I was glad to leave school. I did not go on to further education. I went to work for a local farmer and helped my Dad at some building work. Like many young men from my school days, I emigrated to England to find work. My School days are now just a distant memory. Many of my school friends have passed on, many more, thank god, are still with us.

“Hang on to those days, Don’t grow up too fast”.

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