It's Us They're Talking About: Lily Ivors and Hughie Copen

Margaret Farren

3 of 6

As for the time they spent in the school themselves, Lily and Hughie between them are able to conjure up a very vivid portrait.

Hughie: "There were no school bags, there was a strap and you put your books in the strap and tied it up, like a dog's collar. And for heating you used turf. You had to take in your turf with you and so you'd be going in with a turf sod in one hand and the books wrapped in the strap in the other. A lot of people had no turf [there's that complaint again] and to save face you'd look for a sod lying along the side of the road"

Lily: "I remember one morning, we had no turf only what would do us for the fire in the morning. I asked my mother for a turf for school -sometimes she'd have a big long one she'd break in two or three -but this morning she said 'no, no, that's all I have to make your dinner in the evening'... which would be potatoes and egg nog.

" Anyway, I went over the road and saw this sod on the road -it was just this piece of burnt grass, withered, just, with a very little bit of clay holding it -and I was afraid to go into school with nothing so I picked it up. I dropped my sod very smart and went down to my class. When the teacher, Mary , Master John's sister, went to light the fire, she picked it up with her tongs and she says 'Who brought this in school?' "Well, I got like a beetroot! [laughs] She came down to me and says 'Miss Morrison, did you bring this?' and I'm sorry to say I told a lie. I said 'Please teacher, yes it was me but I don't know...I just grabbed it!' And she said 'Go back now and turn into your corner' and I had to turn into the wall.

"There was no heating, no lighting and no sanitation. For me the hardest thing was going to the well. Two seniors would go with buckets to the well down the road and bring back water for the four big galvanised buckets sitting in the hall. Some of the water was for the tea and the teachers had a wee primer stove with methylated spirits and a wee small kettle that'd only do two or three cups. There were four teachers in my time: Mary McDaid, John Doherty, Margaret Doherty , and Mrs McLaughlin from Ballyliffen {Toland was her name).

"There were dry toilets. A£ter dinner hour, two 0£ us would have to go and get the 'shades', as they called them, and we'd have to go and get two or three buckets 0£ water and an old broom and wash away the toilets and then we'd get a bucket 0£ sand I don't know why, but I was always picked to do this! Either because I was good at it because I was strong and hefty! Likely that's the why! [laughs]"

Lily spends so long poking fun at herself over this one that she forgets to return to the subject, and so, unlike the young Lily, we are spared the full horror of the cleaning of the dry toilets in Urris school. Mercifully, we move on to things more academic.

McGlinchey Summer School

Comments, problems, feedback? Send email to:

Copyright © Inishsoft Limited. All Rights Reserved.