It's Us They're Talking About: Margaret Mary Comiskey

Margaret Farren

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One regard in which Lily and Hughie considered themselves lucky was that they lived very close to their school. Another scholar of '38 for whom that was a boon was Margaret Mary Comiskey, who was determined to take the most of her school days. Margaret Mary's memories of school are probably the happiest of those I have interviewed so far and for a very specific reason.

"I loved school. I was an only child and school was great. I enjoyed every minute of it! I remember my first day I went with a crowd. Peggy Farren brought me up. The next day I sat down over on the footpath and she had to trail me up on my backside. I wouldn't go, but I was taken!

Hannah Callaghan lived next door to me and there was Mairead Comiskey and the Brennans and we played all sorts of games. Hannah has a great memory for these things and has written a lot of it down. She can describe the sweets in wee Hughdie's window and we had a whole list of the games at one time as well. We played 'Here we go gathering nuts in May' and 'In and out the windows'. There were a lot of youngsters in the town and we all played together ....and fought together!"

"We had great fun at school , but we were different here in the Cross. We could come home for lunch. But there was such extreme hardship for some I'll never forget-it. You could know nothing about. People who had to come a distance without even shoes on their feet until November. It'd be Hallowe'en before they got their first shoes

"There was a big slate bench in the hall, where buckets of water were kept for drinking and some of us used to hide our shoes under there because we were ashamed to have shoes and everyone else with their toe to the chalk line!

Their feet were as hard as leather! They could run on the stones and anything. They were wonderful!

"And I'll never forget to my dying day the smell of dry 'injun'bread. It was made with indian meal and very little flour, I suppose. That's all some of the scholars had to eat, just a whack pulled off a scone with no butter or jam or anything. I'll tell you, only the strong survived! Right enough the Miss Meegans used to have extra bread and jam with them (that's all they were having themselves) and they would divide them on some of the youngsters. And they would crave that bread and jam!

"Suzie Kelly can tell you, I had an aunt that lived up in Ballinabo near Suzie's house and I used to go up sometimes to Suzie's and play. Suzie would wait for me after shool and she used to love those days, because the district nurse used to stay with us and there'd always be dessert! Maybe just rice or semolina or something. You wouldn't have to be the poorest in them days to be hungry!

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