A Change In Times And A Change Of Perspective

The prime of Catholic boys' schools here in Ireland, formerly a staunchly Catholic country, was indeed back in the 20th century. I wasn't born until 1992, so by the time of my birth, the old, crude, miserable Ireland of the old days was gone. Despite my misgivings with contemporary Irish society, the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s etc. were much worse times to be alive, not least because of the endless sexual repression, clerical child abuse, corporal punishment and general miserableness but also because the schools at the times were machines from what I'm told - based on memorisation, rote-learning and regurgitation. This latter point wasn't necessarily all bad because by the age of 12, Irish children had a knowledge of Shakespeare, an tuiseal ginideach, differentiation (and integration) and Christianity.

Ireland is much changed since then (in good ways and bad), but one of the things that remained were Catholic schools, which had been around since the Catholic Church was enshrined in the Constitution by Eamon De Valera when Ireland was being founded as an independent nation for the first time. Schools are generally much more easy going and student-friendly places since the old days and the Catholic presence is nowhere near as obtrusive as it used to be; it is true that friars and brothers teach and run the school and that emphasis is put on religion, the school still fundamentally provides an education.

The particular school I went to (I graduated last May) was a particularly old one and over time became a place I very much enjoyed, but this was more down to the people there in general and the many things I did there to occupy myself and others. My experiences with the friars who run the school was always relatively stable, except my relations with the principal (we never really saw eye-to-eye). Though I came to reject the current guise of Christianity (I believe faith, like a language, dies the minute it becomes static), I still respected the enthusiasm of the friars to teach the values of Christianity and morality in general. Despite the pretentious and self-righteous air that occasionally permeated the school, I always found it rather manageable.

Being a Catholic school, it was naturally rather old yet ornate; the corridors we used (moreso in 5th and 6th year) had been around for quite some time and I have heard stories that certain parts of the school are haunted, though I am skeptical on these. The reason I don't really dismiss them is because one of the people who saw a ghost is a very scientific and logical man and the other is a teacher who has been at the school since he was young. I don't buy into the notion of ghosts, but since I'm not in a position to make assumptions, I reserve conclusion. That said, there is always a sense of mystery around the place, but I would put this more down to the sheer amount of activity that goes on each day (and has done in the past) more than anything else.

My school was never a perfect place by any stretch of the imagination and by the time I left, I was slightly relieved because some of the favouritism and internal politicking was beginning to annoy me. Two days after completing my Leaving Cert, I was speaking to the father of a friend of mine and he told me how he himself went to this school as a kid. His experiences were all the more unpleasant though, since the friars at the time were particularly violent and he came to bear a deep hatred for them as a result of the beatings and the punisments they inflicted for the most marginal of things. He told me that he read an obituary of one of the more violent brothers and he literally didn't recognise the man in the piece; he became so romanticised in death that his beatings were forgotten! That and there has always been very much a present-the-school-in-the-best-possible-light policy going around.

At times I fear that that place might someday succumb to fickleness, but I came to respect deeply and care affectionately for some of the people in the years above me and below me respectively. Since it is an all boys school, there was definitely a feeling of brotherhood at times, even if the awkward nature of Irish people made them reluctant to acknowledge this. In spite of the flaws, I think the very thing that makes me send my own son (or sons) there in the future may well be the positive memories I do have from having studied there. Still, a lot can change in twenty years.

Laertes

Laertes Laertes
18-21, M
Jul 16, 2010