Changing Schools, Imagined – 1

Mullaghduff NS – OSi Cassini 6inch raster mapping dated 1830s to 1930s.

At the end of the school day they stack their clean slates at the front of the room. The Master waits for silence; they know his routine and fall quiet.

“Téigí abhaile anois. Slán agus beannacht.” 

(You all go home. Goodbye and blessings)

And they are up and out as fast as they can squeeze through the door.

“Bí ciúin!”

(Be Quiet!) he shouts as the last of them exit the room and the small yard next to the road explodes in a high-pitched cacophony of children’s screams and voices.

Ena and Phyllis play tig with a group on the road until, panting they fall down in the grass at the side of the road and pick summer flowers. Herbie and Reco, with the older boys talk in a huddle outside the low school wall while one of them plays with a handball. Cecil is with the younger boys throwing stones across the recently tarred road. Gradually the children drift off in various directions, homeward.

“Lets go!” shouts Ena to her siblings.

“They’ll be wondering where we are.  Maybe there’ll be boxty.” she says as she runs off but remembers that a pig was killed that morning and there would be tasty bits of pork for dinner, and black pudding. She was glad to be at school that day of all days; she hated the squealing of the pigs being killed, it went on and on, there was no hiding from it and then there was that awful smell. Ah, now she remembers, the extra jobs waiting for them, we’ll be in trouble.

They walk up the lane, Herbie, Reco, Ena, Cecil and Pyhllis, the girls trailing behind. Their Aunt, Mary Jane is waiting for them at the head of the lane, hands on her hips.

“Wha kept ye all? Year mother told ye not to delay! Ye childer knew there’d be extra work wid the men off at Brannan’s roof? At tha school all day and there’s not a brain between ye. Arragh will ye come on! Herbie ye should know better!” she says waving her arms after them like she is gathering hens.

“Look at the state of ye girls, cover in dust and dirt. Com‘ere and I’ll give ye a brush down afore ye go inside”

“No, no. I’ll do it.” Ena says brushing herself down quickly. She’s a bit afraid of her aunt who is old and sometimes very cross. Her spinster aunt had been there as long as she can remember, like her Uncle Alec; she was regularly at odds with her mother and always seemed to be complaining; her Uncle Alec was different.

Wallace and Alf come running to meet them, chewing on bits of meat with greasy hands and mouths. Wallace has stayed at home for the day to look after Alf, who grabs Ena by the waist wanting to play, but the eleven-year-old shakes him off.

“Not today young cub! I’ve got jobs to do.”

Continued in next blog.

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