Lads, isn’t ‘The Tech’ great! That was our initial opinion after years in the national school. Now before anyone says otherwise, most of us would agree that we got a great education during those days but enjoyment was probably not the word we would use to describe them.
Then came ‘The Tech’, and by that I mean the Technical School in Listowel which at the time was sited at the end of Church Street just up from Rita Dowling’s shop. No corporal punishment and subjects like woodwork, metalwork, magnetism and electricity, mechanical drawing, mathematics, English, Irish and rural science. Where could you go wrong! To add to that, a number of the teachers were great characters in their own right and seemed to enjoy life. That was how it looked to us anyway. It is necessary to name a few of these men as they left us with a brighter view of life. Mr Harry Nielsen, a genius and a little eccentric who taught metalwork, mechanical drawing, magnetism and electricity. Harry, as he was affectionately known to us all, would stride through the classroom and workshop ‘smoking’ a stick of chalk, while demonstrating how to ‘turn’ properly using the lathe, file metal correctly, draw detailed isometric diagrams and, if you did not do it accurately afterwards, he would come down and read the riot act to you in front of the class. You never took it personally though because the next day he could praise you for doing a task correctly. He had a bit of a short fuse as well, I remember one day, he expertly floated a chair through the air and it bounced a few feet from a couple of lads messing in the workshop, which brought them immediately to their senses.
At that time in the early sixties, Sunday night was the big night for dances. Harry could never understand the reasoning behind this as everyone had to work on Monday. “Why do people not go and enjoy themselves on Saturday night when they could rest on Sunday, after all it is the day of rest” he would constantly question. He had many more similar questions on life in general which at least made us stop and think for a moment or two.
Next we had Mr Paddy Drummond from Tralee who was the boss and nobody questioned his authority. If you tried to pull a trick on him, he would draw himself up to his full five foot nothing and say “Come over here, if I met you on the Rock Street fourteen yard line a few years ago, you would be still recovering from the shock, get out of my sight before I lose my temper”. A brilliant maths teacher who singlehandedly made the subject interesting to the ‘shower’ he was teaching (us). He deserved a medal for patience and another for his teaching methodology. He was also responsible for entering us for public examinations such as P&T (Posts&Telegraphs – Eircom nowadays), ESB, Bord na Móna etc because we certainly would not have bothered entering ourselves. At that time in my life, I thought driving a lorry for Cahill’s would be a great number and that was the height of my ambitions. Paddy and Harry got me to sit the P&T examination and as a result, Cahill’s lost a bad lorry driver.
Paddy Drummond was also the main man behind the football teams in the school. I, however have a sad story for you about my football career in the Tech and it involves Paddy who I think always thought I was a bit of a smart-ass anyway and needed to be shown the error of my ways. The junior team were playing a match back in West Kerry and I was selected as a sub on the team. I was so delighted and even more excited when during the match, as I was sitting with the rest of the lads on the subs bench, Paddy called out “O’Shea, come here”. I thought this is my big chance in my footballing career. However, Paddy says to me “go behind the goals down there and every time the ball is kicked over the bar or wide, kick it back to the goalie”. My dream of stardom was shattered.
I must tell you about another event that sticks in my memory. Just a few weeks after I joined the P&T, the phone in the Tech went out of order and myself and the technician went down to have a look at the problem. The phone was in Paddy Drummond’s office and in we went. Now remember I had only left the Tech about three months earlier and was still only seventeen, but now I thought I was above all that and I stuck out my hand and said “Hello Paddy”. He looked me straight in the eye and said “To you boy, I am still Mister Drummond”. That put me in my place and of course gave the technician a great laugh and he used Paddy’s comment as a joke on me for long after.
Some years later, I met Paddy after an All-Ireland near Heuston Station in Dublin. We were talking about old times. He asked me how I had done and I said ok, ach dúirt cara a bhí in éineacht liom gur bhain mé amach céim eolaíochta cúpla lá roimhe sin, this was meant to say to Paddy that the teaching methods in the Tech were really good. Paddy made sure that I didn’t get a big head and said “finally grown up, have we, well done”. He shook my hand and we laughed.
Seán Ó Mahúna was our teacher for Irish. A big man who lived down Bridge Road direction. Bhí an-ghrá aige don Ghaeilge agus mar sin thug sé an grá sin dúinn. Nílim líofa san Ghaeilge, mar a fheiceann tú, ach deinim mo dhícheall chun í a úsáid agus thug Seán an misneach do dhaoine chun spraoi a bhaint as ár dteanga. Now we pulled a few tricks on him in the classroom from time to time and he could show his displeasure in no uncertain terms, ach de gnáth, bhí an-tuiscint agus an-fhoighne aige chun rudaí mar sin a ghlacadh.
Patsy O’Sullivan was a great teacher and a good footballer who tried his best and to my mind successfully, to cultivate in us a love of the land through his rural science classes. He initiated a project where we were to grow vegetables in a little plot at home and he indicated that he would call to our homes to inspect our efforts. Some very successful gardens resulted from that.
Another good teacher who comes to mind was Bob Fitzgerald. He was the main man on woodwork but I regret to say that his expertise was lost on me. It was a subject that I did not like, and that is putting it mildly. The only woodwork tool I could use properly was the mallet so you see I was never going to become a great carpenter. Mick Curtin (RIP) at Lisselton Cross was not going to have any competition from me anyway. I really envied the lads who could turn out beautiful pieces with tight fitting mortise and tenon joints. Myself, I could never find where Bob kept the nails in his workshop (joking). Technology came to my rescue and took me away from inflicting my woodworking ‘skills’ on an unsuspecting public.
I had many friends during that time, a time I will never forget. I will name a few of those I met during those days, many years ago – I hope they do not mind. Gerard Sullivan, Pat Quill, Tim Brazil, Mike Sullivan, Tony Donoghue, Teresa Larkin, Mairéad McKenna, Jim Nolan, Michael Costello and there were others.
Gerard Sullivan was way ahead of me in the cop-on department and I must say, life was always brighter when he was around. In those days, the bicycle was king as far as transport was concerned. Cycling to and from the Tech should have been included as part of the curriculum as we certainly learned a thing or two about life during those journeys. Gerard and myself made many cycling trips to such exotic places as Duagh and its surrounds and the people we met added greatly to the enjoyment of life.
I remember getting a pair of homing pigeons from Tony Donoghue in exchange for getting him membership of Captain Mac in the Irish Press newspaper. Who remembers Captain Mac? One mistake I made, I did not clip the wings of my birds and by the next day, the two had returned back to Tony. After a reduction in wing size, the two remained with me for the remainder of their lives, much to the horror of my mother as they were certainly not the cleanest of pets. Tony emigrated to Chicago and did well as a head chef in big hotels in the windy city. Pat Quill was from the famous townland of Lyreacrompane. As well as being a gentleman, he was a great footballer and a pleasure to know.
Is mór an trua nach mbíonn ‘bualadh le céile’ againn chun scéalta a mhalairt ón am sin fadó, nuair a bhíomar óg agus nach raibh morán ciall againn.
Talking about Lyreacrompane allows me to change the subject for a moment, if you don’t mind. It reminds me of that lovely part of the world and of the bog. Bíonn áthas orm i gconaí siúl tríd an bportach agus suaimhneas a bhaint as an chiúnas agus ceol binn an éin. Tá an portach i nDirha go hálainn nuair nach mbíonn ort obair leis an móin. Aer úr an phortaigh a chuireann ocras ort i gcóir an dinnéir, nó ar maidin taréis oíche mhór i mBaile an Bhuinneánaigh, baineann sé an tinneas póite uait agus tagann tú ar ais chughat féin. Sin mo leigheas ar aon nós, bain triail as tú féin. Ní dhéanfaidh sé aon damáiste ar aon chuma.
Long ago, we often asked the question “what was the worst job in the bog?” Was it ‘the cleaning’, ‘the cutting’, ‘the turning by hand’, ‘the footing’, ‘the re-footing’, ‘the drawing out’ or ‘the drawing home’. My vote goes with ‘the turning by hand’, usually the sods were stuck to the heath and after a day on bended back, pulling the sods free and then turning them, that was a back-breaking job. The ‘footing’ could come a close second, with the ‘drawing out’ in third place especially if you had to use the wheelbarrow in a soft bog. A great deal depended on the bog of course, as some gave you great black turf off the sleán and it was ready to draw out after a few weeks. Other bogs were a nightmare. Inniu tá an t-inneall ann chun alán rudaí a dhéanamh agus tógann sé sin an cruatan as cuid den obair ach ní dheineann sé an tae fós. An tae sa phortach, sin scéal eile! Nach raibh sé go hiontach. Nílim ag caint faoi bhlas an tae mar de gnáth, bheadh luch ábalta siúl air bhí sé chomh láidir sin. Táim ag caint fén bhriseadh ón obair agus an comhrá eadrainn faoi ghach rud a tharla ar an domhan nó i mBaile an Bhuinneánaigh ar aon nós.
Talking about the bog. Above is a meitheal of hardy young and not so young from days gone bye. It would be great to have the names of All in the group. I think I recognise members of the Neville, Enright, Lynch, Mahony, McMahon, Long and King families among the team.