End of an Era

My old primary school is being demolished this summer. A new, purpose-built, hi-tech, all-singing, all-dancing structure will take its place. It will have all the mod cons – interactive white boards, projectors, dedicated IT suite, an elevator, disabled facilities. You name it, it will have it.

I don’t know that it will last as long as the current, yet-to-be-demolished version. This particular edifice has been standing for around a hundred years. My dad went to it, my brothers and sisters and I went to it, my children have all gone to it. Two of them are currently there today. My youngest still has five years to go there.

It’s quite an ugly building. It was built over three levels and constructed of blonde sandstone. It looks like a giant cuboid standing on one of its smaller sides. It has mesh on most of the windows to prevent break-ins and vandalism. It looks like a prison. And I am sure there have been plenty of children who have gone through its doors and felt that it was exactly that.

But I have some fabulous memories of my time there. I met my favourite teacher of all time there. I had the pleasure of being in the Primary seven class of this young (then) woman who just ‘got’ kids. You knew that she understood every one of us. She was patient and kind and had a fabulous way of putting her lessons across. She made everything worthwhile learning. It was in her class that I fell in love with Greece and its myths and legends. It was in her class that I realised that, even although I was quiet, I was noticed. She inspired me to give of my best. I worked my tail off for her approval. And I loved it. I blossomed.

I later did a teaching practice in the school myself as a student and she was still there. I was still in awe of her. I even posted a little note through her door at the end of teaching practice to tell her what an inspiration and fabulous teacher she had been. I was still too shy to say it face to face.

She retired some years ago and I still think of her. She never married. Teaching had been her life.

Thank you, Miss B.

It was in this school that I first did any acting. Well, if you can call it that. One of the teachers was particularly talented at art and music. He put on some mean performances. He wrote lyrics to classical pieces and had us all singing our hearts out on stage and feeling that the Oscars were just around the corner. He should probably have taught music in the secondary school. So, Mr. W, thanks for the memories.

One other teacher in my third or fourth year there was so old-fashioned. She used to wear an orange checked overall to protect her clothes from chalk dust. She had the girls curtseying and the boys saluting during a particular topic. I think it must have been ‘The Victorians’. We loved it.

‘Good Morning, Miss B.’ Curtsey. Salute. Such fun.

My first year in the school I was in a class that had an open coal fire. And a rocking horse. I so wanted a shot on that horse but pushier children always got there first. Sods! We practised our letters on small chalk boards and worked out number bonds with Cuisenaire rods. God, I sound like 120.

Parts of the school have terracotta coloured ceramic tiles covering the walls. These are to be removed and used to make a mosaic. Primary seven children will do this. So one of my daughters will be doing this as a last act before leaving for secondary.

Tonight there’s to be an open evening and a Mass to celebrate the end of an era.

My sister’s hosting a little after party too so there will most likely be a few sherbets and some tears.

Two days until the end of term and this school closes forever. To be flattened to the ground. But the memories will live on.

Cheers!

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