Thursday, March 14, 2002

St. Joseph's School Roll Book

I recently had the opportunity to inspect the roll book of St. Joseph’s School for 1946 and was pleasantly surprised to find that on 13th May of that year two young lads started their first day in school. They were the only pupils enrolled that particular day. Frank English and myself were unaware until now that our paths had crossed at such an early age for it was the two Frank’s who stepped over the threshold of St. Joseph’s for the first time on that day 56 years ago. For one it was the day after his 4th birthday, while the other young fellow had taken a little longer to ease himself out of nappies! I won’t tell you which of us was the precocious one.

Those of us who went through St. Joseph’s School, the Christian Brothers primary school and later the secondary school may have a little difficulty in immediately recognising the name “Frank” English because in those far off days my good friend was universally known as “Harry” English. Frank or Harry and myself were just two of the many young lads who over the following 14 years or so came together as school colleagues in an educational system which for many ended before those 14 years had expired. All of us had gone from the Christian Brothers secondary school in St. John’s Lane by the end of 1960. Over the years there were many names and many faces which came and went, some disappearing on the tide of emigration. Others sadly passed away long before they had reached their prime. No matter how long or how short the period we shared together as schoolboys, the bonds of friendship created survived the advancing years. Some of us have not met for over 40 years. Others can be seen among the familiar surroundings of our hometown on a regular basis.

This year quite a lot of those old school pals who spent so many years together as young fellows will reach the grand age of six score. Whisper it softly for my still youthful mind finds it hard to fathom the physical cruelties of the galloping years which so ungallantly outstrip my zest for life. So what’s all this about then I hear you ask? Simply the advancing years have sounded a bugle call to remind a couple of former school pals to get together and arrange a reunion of those with whom we shared our young school days between 1946 and 1960.

Brendan McKenna, now retired and enjoying his hard earned pension, together with Seamus Ryan still working and living in China, and Michael Robinson, he of the hedonistic lifestyle in Australia, have joined with Frank English and myself to organise a reunion scheduled for Athy next September. The intention is to get everyone back to Athy for the weekend of 20th to 22nd September to meet, talk, eat, drink and make merry. It will be our first time to meet since we all left school and given the grey streaks lining the more hirsute amongst us it will probably be our first and last such meeting.

A list of those with whom we attended school, whether in St. Joseph’s, the National or Secondary School is understandably incomplete, but the most recent head count identifies 59 former school colleagues. Addresses have been found for most of them but there are a few whose whereabouts are not yet known. I would like to hear from anyone who knows the current whereabouts of Peter Allen, formerly of Meeting Lane, Des Byrne formerly of Moone, Eamon Dunphy formerly of the Bleach and Joe Gordan from the Dublin Road. My classmates will recall Theo Kavanagh of the Bleeding Horse but I am looking for his current address, as well as that of Johnny Mulhall, formerly of Geraldine Road and Frank Power whose father was a bank official. Jim Vincent, formerly of Woodstock Street and Christy Southwell are two others I would like to contact. What about Brian Fitzsimons, Leo Dempsey, Paddy Maher or Paddy O’Keeffe? One last name is that of Colin Seabrook who spent some time in Athy in the 1950’s.

If anyone out there can help locate any of the above or indeed if you remember sharing a classroom with Frank English or any of the others mentioned, give me a call or drop me a line. We want to make sure that as many as possible will have the opportunity to attend the reunion which will start on Friday, 20th September with a reception and get-together in the Leinster Arms Hotel. The first night will be given over to the men only with a buffet reception and drinks, accompanied by music from the 1950’s and 1960’s.

The Heritage Centre will host a school photographic exhibition over that weekend and on Saturday afternoon a presentation in the Town Council Chambers will be followed by a reception in Scoil Eoin, Rathstewart. Later that evening a dinner will be held in Kilkea Golf Club Restauant for the past pupils, together with their wives and partners. It is hoped to have as special guests on that night some of our old teachers. On Sunday a service of thanksgiving will be conducted in the old school yard in St. John’s, followed by a tree planting ceremony in Edmund Rice Square. The weekend proceedings will close with a buffet reception on Sunday afternoon.

You would expect someone like myself who writes of times past every week to remember the names of all the teachers who taught me over the years. Fortunately I can always rely on the likes of Teddy Kelly or John Mealy to recall the detail which I can never seem to remember, and both of them confirm our teachers in St. Joseph’s School as Sr. Bernadette, Sr. Brendan and Sr. Alberta. In the Primary School we had Brother Candy who was replaced by Brother Sullivan, then Brother O’Laughlin or Loughran, with Brother O’Flaherty in sixth class. There is confusion about the 4th or 5th class teachers as some recall Brother Smith, others Bob Martin, neither of which taught me so far as I can recall.

Secondary school, which in the 1950’s consisted of three classrooms at the top of the metal staircase leading from the St. John’s Lane school yard was easier to remember. The teaching staff consisted of two Christian Brothers, the school Principal Brother Burke and his colleague Brother Keogh, commonly known as “Johnny Boris” with Paddy Riordan, then a young man from Cork and the legendary Bill Ryan. Today’s secondary school re-located some years ago to Rathstewart and now restyled Scoil Eoin has 23 teachers on its staff.

At least forty two years have passed since the young fellows who joined St. Joseph’s School in 1946 passed out of the Irish education system. Hopefully next September we can all come together to renew old acquaintances and catch up on the years which have slipped away in the meantime.

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