In this extract Carmel O'Reilly recalls an incident from her school days. She remembers a particular teacher who could be quite cruel to the children. She describes a very different educational experience to what would be typical of nowadays.

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Did you have brothers and sisters?

Yes there was 7 of us…

And you all grew up on...

All lived up on Pearse Street in one room, a basement room, and eh there was 7 of us and in the house every room was occupied and there was this couple in what we call the back kitchen, we were in the front kitchen and the woman was at that time I suppose a secretary or something in Easons on O’Connell street but we didn’t understand at that time but anyway eh she was mad about us because they’d no children, you know, and I always remember when you go in she always had turnover...bread, you know the turnover, and always plenty of butter on it, cause we wouldn’t be having plenty of butter on the bread…anyway and eh she...she helped me with my exercise for school and of course I didn’t realise her writing was beautiful, you know...I’m a child and mine was probably dreadful anyway I went to school the next day and the nun said to me Sister Borromeo “who did your exercise with you?” and I said “no one” and because I told a lie I was knelt...kneeling behind the piano on the rostrum and every time she looked at me she shook holy water on me to banish the devil...that’s true…to banish the devil for telling the lies, yeah yeah…and if you were late for school on a wet morning you stood on the landing with your coat over your head a nun…Sister was dreadful and she’d hit you with her marker, there...till the blood would come out of your…she was a horrible nun and if you did anything...if you got something wrong, the partitian was a glass partitian and Ms. Costello was that side, we were this side, and she’d put the pointer in the middle of your back, you know the long pointer, and push you in to Ms. Costello to be checked.

It's a different world really...couldn't imagine that now...

Oh could you? Could ya? There was a woman, May Castles, she was in the class and her mother was em...she pinched, May was red haired and if you pinched her she'd bruise very easy like you know...anyway, she bruised May and Mrs Castles went up, and of course we're all in the class and the teacher...the nun says, "children, did I pinch May Castles?" and of course we had to tell the truth, so the class all said "yes sister",

But she wanted you to lie...

You couldn't tell a lie..."yes sister", cause Mrs. Castles was up complaining

And did she hear? Did Mrs. Castles hear?

Yes, oh yes, she was in...she had Mrs. Castles up there with her, we were all supposed to say "no sister"

And she can't really give out to you, you told the truth.


11:58.8 - 15:27.9


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Childhood, Education

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"Carmel O'Reilly remembers how the teachers would chastise children when she was at school.." Lifescapes: Mapping Dublin Lives, Item #89 (accessed February 21 2018, 7:26 am)