VOICES FROM THE NORTH INNER CITY

At School


"Every Monday morning, you had to bring a penny for the black babies in Africa. If you hadn’t got it you were slapped or put against the wall and humiliated by the teachers – they thought we spent the penny on the way to school."

“In my day at school, because people left school at 14, the primary school curriculum was to fit them for life –

– everything was packed into that.  For instance, I remember learning with Mr. Collins from the coming of St Patrick in 432 up to the economic war of 1932.”

BROTHER PAT COLOHAN - BORN 1944, EAST WALL

“My mother had a terrible time with one of my brothers, Mick.

He was attending Rutland Street School.  My mother used to bring him to school each morning and he in his bare feet.

But on the way to school my mother would be walking closely beside him and he used to catch her out.  He would say: “Look Mother, quick!  The man is beating that poor ass with a big stick!”. And when my poor mother would look around, he would run off down the road on her and go mitching.”

ELLEN COMISKEY - BORN 1913, EMERALD PLACE

“I went to a school in Railway Street called St Patrick’s. It was for young children.

Some of the children used to come to school in their bare feet. Their mothers couldn’t afford to buy them shoes. They had terrible stone bruises on their feet.

One time my mother was summonsed to court over me not going to school. The judge asked me why I didn’t go to school. I said to him I was sick and I couldn’t go. The teacher stood up in the court and told the judge, “She is telling you lies! She was down in the Sloblands picking cinders.”

Somebody in the school must have told on me.  The judge fined my mother five shillings. That was lot of money in those days.”

CHRISSIE HAWKINS - BORN 1907, RAILWAY STREET

“When we went to Rutland Street School I remember that the classes were so overcrowded that we were sent over to a big tenement house in Buckingham Street Upper.

They had a few rooms at the top of the house converted into classrooms, where you were taught your school lessons. But the funny thing about that house was that when you misbehaved in the classroom the teacher would not punish you there. They sent you over to Rutland Street School to be slapped by the teacher over there.”

KATHLEEN CUMMINS - BORN 1924, ELLIOT PLACE
Roll book
2018-07-27 13.54.02

"There used to be a detention centre on Summerhill, where Mountainview Court is today. It was a big house where the windows had big iron bars on them. You were put there for not going to school."

MOLLY GIFFORD

“I went to Rutland Street School.  That wasn’t much of a school.  I used to get some terrible hidings for nothing.

It was cruel.  One of them used to come in with a hangover and take it out on us.  You couldn’t have a favourite teacher in that school.  They hated us.  They hated their job.  Your father learned you most.  He’d learn you how to read the Herald when you came home from school.  You learned more outside than you did inside.”

MICK O’BRIEN

“Each one of us ended leaving Seville Place school and going up to Rutland Street School which was known as the Redbrick Slaughterhouse.

I think it was the biggest mistake I had ever made because I got no education there – some of the masters had no interest in the pupils, not like St Laurence’s where they took an interest in you no matter how bad you were.”

JOE JOE MARTIN

“We made our first Holy Communion in 1941 or 1942.

We were to be moved over to big school in Seville Place.  Our nerves were shattered about the move.  The older boys from the big school used to taunt us in the street saying: “Wait till you go over to the big school.  The Christian Brothers will make men out of you babies!”.   As it turned out, it wasn’t as bad as we were told by the older boys.”

JACK O’REILLY
Children from around Railway Street and Corporation Buildings in Rutland Street School children 1920s
Upper Rutland Street 1940s

“I went to school in Langrishe Place in Summerhill.
We had a rhyme about our schoolmaster. It went like this:

Johnny O’Keeffe, he ate tin beef,
And went to Mass on Sundays
To pray to God to give him strength
To bash the kids on Mondays!”

JAMESIE MEEHAN – BORN 1904, BOLTON STREET

“I enjoyed going to Rutland Street School.  I made my Communion from that school in Lourdes Church, Sean MacDermott Street, and also my Confirmation.

Down in the schoolyard, it was very cold in the winter but in the fine weather it was very nice.  We played plenty of games and we were brought over to Lourdes House on Buckingham Street for our lunch, which was soup; on Fridays it was rice.”

MARY SHELLEY DARCY - CORPORATION PLACE

“At 13, I left school to help rear the others.

We were mostly playing in school at that time, and learning Irish.  I couldn’t take to the Irish at all, couldn’t take to it.  There were four or five nice teachers in the school, all women.”

BRIDIE EAGER - ST. BRIGID’S GARDENS

“I enjoyed my school days but I remember one day I decided to go on the mitch on my own.

I hid in the cattle yard in Upper Mayor Street.  We used to love watching the cattle and the sheep that were kept in there.  Sometimes we used to sit on the backs of the sheep and pretend we were sitting on the back of horses.

I was enjoying myself watching the cattle but then my oldest brother sneaked up on me and grabbed hold of me.  He dragged me back to the house to my mother and she let me have it.  I got a few boxes around the ears and I was dragged up to the school to Brother McGrath.

He sat me down and gave me a lecture about the dangers of mitching from school.  He put me on the straight and narrow and I went on to win a scholarship which was given by the Dublin Corporation in those days.”

JACK O’REILLY
Street View, Summerhill, Dublin City, Co. Dublin, Ireland

Summerhill, Dublin City. © The Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland.

"We had no school uniforms of any kind. You wore clean clothes going to school and when you came home from school you had to make sure to take them off and put them neatly away. Then I had to put on my street clothes. Times were hard and you could not get your school clothes dirty."

ELLEN COMISKEY - BORN 1913, EMERALD PLACE

“I remember Luke Kelly was in my class. Now Luke, he was a good football player –

– he absolutely loved the Gaelic football.  I remember he was living in the back block of St Laurence’s Mansions at that time. Sadly, Luke moved out of Sheriff Street when his flat went on fire and the Corporation offered his parents a house in Whitehall and they moved out.”

GERRY FAY - ST. LAURENCE O’TOOLE’S SCHOOL

“I was in Miss Denny’s class. She was the hardest teacher in the school.

I remember one morning I had not got my catechism done and Miss Denny called me up to her.  She was the type of teacher that, if she found any fault at all in your homework, would give you a cane across the legs and you were left standing on the big brown locker until she was ready to let you sit back down.”

BRIDGET HEFFERNAN NEÉ WHITTY - BORN 1910, MERCHANTS ROAD

“Some of the children went to school in their bare feet, in summer and winter; their feet used to be red from the cold.

Some of them were poorly clad with patches on their trousers. We all wore short corduroy trousers and a gansey (jumper). We had turnback stockings, some wore hob-nailed boots, others had shoes with studs underneath them to make a noise as they walked along the street.”

JACK KELLY - ST LAURENCE O’TOOLE SCHOOL

Do you have family memorabilia or stories about life in the North Inner City? We’d love to hear from you: