Thoughts of Yesteryears

Master McGlynn

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The emergency lasted for six years ('39-'45) There were many amusing incidents during our years of training. Once there was a military inspection by senior army officers. Afterwards there was a question and answer session. When asked if our equipment was satisfactory the late Jim Clafferty caused a sensation by saying there should be a turn in the rifles for shooting round corners (shortly afterwards an American invented such a weapon). The late Jim was one of the greatest characters I ever met. His sense of humour and originality were astounding and unique. It was miraculous that during those years there was not a fatal accident as all volunteers carried rifles and live ammunition. It was a great credit to the discipline of the force. We were presented with certificates for our army service at the termination of the war.

I have many happy memories of my days in Crossconnell N.S along with the late able assistant Miss Martin. The children swept the floors in the evening and lit a big roaring fire in the morning. There was no electric light or running water. Oil lamps were used on election days. The system catered mainly for the bright pupils and owing to the numbers and classes taught in one room there was no provision for the slow learners. This was remedied later by the introduction of the remedial teachers whose work was very successful. Unfortunately everything is at the talking stage in education long before any action is taken and education was not a priority with the powers that be.

As regards the religious programme it left a lot to be desired. Children were examined individually and were expected to answer all questions without regard to their ability. It was an almost intolerable situation. I had discussions with the late Father Douglas that the religious programme did not apply to the ninety percent of children who emigrated. To give him credit he came in religiously once a week and talked to them about the conditions they would encounter in England. His work was very effective. Emigration reached alarming proportions and the flower of our youth emigrated, totally ignored by the Government of the day. It was sarcastically remarked that they were classified as tourists when they came home on their annual holidays to the country, whose Government failed to procure employment for them in the first instance.

During the war years many of the great naval battles were fought at sea between Dunaff Head and Malin Head. We were 'entertained' at play time by observing the actions on the heights behind the school. The children were very excited watching the flashing of the heavy artillery of the battleships and submarines followed by loud explosions resembling thunder. Mines were a hazard that came in with the tide and were highly dangerous. They had to be rendered harmless by military personnel by controlled explosions . All the neighbourhood was alerted to open their windows as otherwise the panes were shattered by the force of the explosion. My heart was full of sympathy for the army expert who carried out the controlled explosion. He used to kneel down and say the Act of Contrition before carrying out his dangerous task as the mine could explode at any moment.

There were a few warplane crashes in the parish, and in some cases the occupants were all killed. The bodies were transported to the border, where they were received with full military honours by the British forces. Some pilots managed to parachute to safety and were interned for the duration. A warplane landed on Tullagh Strand. Attempts made to move it to safety failed before the incoming tide partly enveloped it and it had to be dismantled.

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