I remember long ago while sitting in the classroom, Mr Hegarty, with his round, bulging face, snorted belligerently at the class, declaring, ‘Williams, get out of my room this instant and send yourself to the Head’s office’. To this day, I can still hear the crack of the pandy bat, thundering down upon the small fellow, and he, whimpering. The poor wee boy. That was life; any movement out of you, any sign of rebellious thought, even a whiff of it, and you would be catapulted out.
Back in the sixties of course, school mirrored a sinister prison; the long winding avenue, lined by grey, imposing trees, the castle, with its small square windows, the priests, in their long soutanes, billowing in the country air. Life was harsh at these Catholic institutions. You could not dare mention the name Protestant for fear of being labelled a ‘blasphemer’. Worse still, I remember the slop in the morning, the slop in the evening, the slop at night. Getting out for a brief moment, escaping into the world of Dickens or Yeats was the only release. My father refused to listen, to understand.
School is a funny place today though! Kids seem different, more street wise, yet struggle to spell, more technology savvy, yet fail to prepare on paper, more willing to express themselves, but cannot concentrate. Maybe we should bring back the slop? Maybe those dark corridors and brooding blackboards are needed once again to frighten the child into an imagination. Bring back Dickens and Yeats, Keats and Coleridge, Bryon and Pope, Milton and McNeice. I prefer Worthers Original anyday to a packet of winegums! Maybe that was the discipline imposed upon me!