Going to School in Ballaghaderreen the ‘Back Way.’
I don’t remember my first day at school but photographic evidence exists. Pat O’Connor, the local pharmacist, who was also a photographer took a picture of myself and Edward Hiney. I don’t know who owned the schoolbag but we seem to have had just one, that we shared for the big moment.
Edward lived next door so we probably walked to school together for a year or so. The boys then went to their own school, with the de La Salle Brothers.
My most constant companion, and the person who took part in the ‘walking from school adventures,’ was Marie Bambrick.
Why walk directly from school when you can go ‘the back way?’ The Backways in Ballaghaderreen, and they are still there, are roads which run parallel to the main road through the town.
Walking home on this route felt like an adventure – nobody knew where we were, and we could explore laneways and the hidden history of the town. We stopped most days at the old graveyard which had been ignored and left to fall into ruin. In the days before local authority and Government schemes for preservation, or protection, nobody seemed to care what happened to it.
It gave us an opportunity to poke around, look into collapsed graves and imagine we saw skulls and bones which both attracted and frightened us in equal measure. In modern times the graveyard has been restored and given its rightful place as a part of the town’s history.
On Market or Fair Days we diverted down to the Main Square, which was still on the route home. There was always a chance of some stray dillisk from one of the market stalls – it was a delightful alternative to chewing gum and lasted longer. I can’t quite remember how we paid for it.
If time allowed, the swing on Bambrick’s main tree beckoned. Their house – ‘The Abbey’ had been the bishop’s residence in years gone by and had many mature trees in the front field and in the back garden. The back garden also had the mandatory abandoned Morris Minor where mystery stories were played out.
I left Marie and continued down to my house which was in Kilcolman Road. As it was below James Dillon’s Farm, it was regarded by my sophisticated town friends as ‘in the country.’ The farm, even though it belonged to a prominent politician, had to be bypassed quickly as I had to pretend to be disgusted by the smell or frightened of his herd of Friesians.
We never cycled to school and we almost never got a lift – everyone walked. At that time, most people who ran businesses, lived ‘over the shop’ and the town was always busy. Front doors were usually open and there was inevitably someone ready to stand in the doorway and observe everyone going by. It was a kind of ‘neighbourhood watch’ scheme that we didn’t know we needed.
Nuair a thosaigh na buachaillí ag freastal ar scoil na mbuachaillí, fuaireadar deis páirt a ghlacadh sa bhanna ceoil máirseála. Ghlacadar páirt i mórshiúil, in fleadhanna ceoil, in ocáidí poiblí agus in aon ócáid eile a bhí ar siúl sa cheantar. Dá mbeidis ag cleachtadh amuigh sa chlós agus muid ag dul thart, ghlacadh muid cúpla nóiméad ag féachaint orthu.
Ní fhéadfadh muid a thabhairt le fios go raibh éad orainn, ná go raibh suim dá laghad againn iontu. Nach naimhde móra muid? Nuair a bhíodh sneachta ann gach geimhreadh, dhéanaidis liathróidí sneachta sa chlós agus d’ionsaíodh siad na cailíní bochta ag dul thairis. Agus dá mbeadh an deis acu, bhrúdh siad meall mór sneachta ó bharr an bhalla anuas orainn dá mbeadh éinne sách díchéillí le siúl in aice leis.
Bhain rudaí ar leith le gach séasúr – duilleoga feoite le bailiú le do chos agus tú ag siúl gar don scoil, an leac oighir sna locháin sráide sa ngeimhreadh chomh maith leis na cluichí sa sneachta. Agus le teacht an earraigh, bhí rópaí le ceannach Tigh Flannery – nach raibh séasúr na scipeála tagtha!
Mairéad Ní Nuadháin was born in Ballaghaderreen, Co. Roscommon and lived there while attending the local Primary School. She has been living in Blackrock, Co. Dublin since the mid-nineties when she started working in RTÉ Television. For the past number of years, she
has been an independent producer, a columnist with @tuairisc.ie and a board member of TG4. She is still great friends with Marie Bambrick who now lives in Sheffield. They meet sometimes in Ballaghaderreen and walk the old school route through the town.
On behalf of the Museum of Childhood Ireland and Robert Burns, we would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to all of our wonderful participants for their time and their stories. We are thrilled to be presenting this project and we hope you will enjoy following along with us in the coming weeks.
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