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June 2019
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2002-04-25 Pencil Goes Down Hole

APART from the train service which seems much the same as in the 1970s, Sligo's face just keeps changing. On every trip home, I see some new addition to my town, whether it be a cineplex, a new fast-food joint, a riverside promenade, a pedestrian bridge, or my primary school being turned into the Model Arts Centre.


So maybe back in the 1970s the building was in need of a little refurbishment. Maybe the rats and bats had outstayed their welcome - maybe that's where I acquired my rat phobia? But who could ever have doubted the unique splendour of the Model school's architecture? I was not yet four years old, a very "Junior Infant", when Bean Ui Higi (Mrs. Hilda Higgins) stood in front of me and asked me my ainm. Could a little child have asked for a better educational start in life than with this lovely lady? We still keep in touch, and how many can say that of their first teacher? She even made times tables enjoyable, even though I did go on to loathe Maths (not the fault of Bean Ui Higi). Music was high on her agenda, and she also quickly made me realise that English was not the world's only language. My own mother's fine French teaching also made me aware of that. I am certain that we Irish have a better linguistic facility because of the awareness we have of other languages from a very early age. It also didn't take me long to realise that if I arrived in Bean Ui Higi's class on time and secured the front desk, I'd be rewarded with a milsean which seemed like a pretty fair deal to me. So I normally arrived somewhere between 6 and 6.30am! I also still keep in touch with milsean! After two years I moved up, literally, to Bean Ui Ewing. I arrived early and made a beeline for the front desk, but sadly, no sweets. Mrs. Ewing was fairly adept on the harmonium, and very protective of it too. You didn't mess with her, so I think I probably learned my good behaviour and discipline in those two years. Bean Ui Ewing had a shop at the Point, and was always extremely generous with the sweets out of classtime. A lovely lady who is sadly no longer with us. I remember that playtime in the Model School was always a time to particularly look forward to. I doubt if any other primary school in Ireland had such a selection of play areas all on different levels. The little ones amused themselves in the area quite close to the main building, whereas the bigger kids - I don't mean the overweight ones - could go way up to the top area which was amazing. And there was always the Grassy which I still think was a really original name for a field! In 3rd and 4th class I was under the expert guidance of a very fine teacher, Bean Ui Cooke. It was somewhere on the journey between 2nd and 3rd class that I had a perfectly good set of colouring pencils taken off my person by a girl, who shall remain nameless but who I have never forgiven. She forced them down a rathole before my very eyes. I wonder if when the Model School was becoming the Arts Centre, did anyone find my pencils - they were brand new, straight from Keaney's shop. Anyway, my fascination with Geography and maps was developed in those two years (useful for my travel) and who could ever forget Bean Ui Cooke's Irish dancing class? That is really where my Model School experience ends. I did move on to 5th class, but as our teacher was having personal difficulties, that year is a bit of a blur really except that it was spent in a rather unattractive pre-fab. We all skipped 6th class, and at the age of 10 I went across the road to the Grammar School.