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June 2019
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2002-10-02 Snooging at Grammar School

At the tender age of 10, was I perhaps the youngest ever 1st year at Sligo Grammar School? I did turn 11 shortly after, but it meant that I was ultimately to sit my Leaving Cert at the age of 16.


Was I also the only boarder who lived just a short walk away from school?

In hindsight, it seems a little bizarre that I boarded so near home, but in the end, it was good preparation for my move to a Dublin boarding school in my 3rd Year, and I did get home at weekends.

I spent two years at Sligo Grammar School under Mr. Blackmores Headmastership - the KGB! (No more nicknames, honest).

Having been friends with Ken and Joan Blackmore and their five boys since as far back as I can remember, it was comforting to have them living just the other side of our dormitory wall. And who could forget the undeniably wonderful Bridie Roberts, who, as anyone would tell you was worth her weight in gold.

I hope the canteen food has improved since my Grammar School days? I remember the bread always being incredibly fresh. We were so hungry; I think it never got a chance to go stale.

Other than that, baked beans, semolina, porridge and mixed-fruit jam are firmly ingrained in my memory for some reason. Thankfully, Hannigans and Higgins were just a short hop down The Mall, and the Tuck-shop also saved the day on many occasions.

My first introduction to Shakespeare came under the inspirational tutelage of Dick OBeirne, who also gave me a solid grounding in English grammar (no clever letters please!).

The somewhat unique Miss Davis taught me French, the glamorous Mrs. Sir gave me my start in German, while Mr. McGovern was my muinteoir Gaelige. The eloquent Mary Watson took us for elocution.

Arnie Griffin extended my knowledge of history, doubling as my scout-leader after school hours.

Mr. Morris did his utmost to teach me Maths, though it proved to be a bit of a lost cause (Sorry Olly), and he ably put us through our paces on the rugby pitch.

Bob Richardson attempted to control us in the science lab. Mr. Cryer made Art classes fun. One could not have hoped for a finer Geography teacher than Tim Paxton, who was also a bit of a celebrity having masterminded his way onto our TV screens.

The fabulous Mrs. Cole continued to take me for piano at the Grammar, but I seem to remember studying for my Grades at the end of a corridor in a fire exit! I think the music department moved onwards and upwards after I left.

We were taken for hockey and swimming by Mrs Blackmore and Miss Craig. I also did canoeing, and recall being only slightly scared by my initial capsize down a Garavogue weir.

Speaking of which, I think I am long enough out of the Grammar and far too old for detention now, to divulge the fact that the weir area was also the most popular location for any romantic assignations we may have been lucky enough to schedule.

Basically, there was much snogging down by the weir, though behind the bicycle shed was also a favoured setting, especially if time was of the essence.

From a very young age I think I must have been aware that the best sort of freedom is voluntary self-discipline, but I was nonetheless intimidated by the hours we had to sit in silence every evening in order to do our homework.

Prep always seemed very long, but I expect it taught me to use my time and motivate myself.

Of course one of the most vivid memories of my time at the Grammar was being woken up very early in the morning to assist the girls and the lady staff after the High School fire.

Following the initial drama and near major disaster, one couldnt help but feel that this almost signalled the end of an era.

Soon after this I was to head off to pastures new to boarding school in Dublin. No longer could my homesickness be remedied by a brisk walk home.