Sixteen Years in Carnaun School by Teresa Burns


Travelling down memory lane can be a very sobering experience especially as the lane gets longer and longer. One is confronted with what seems like a bottomless well of incidents of every shape and form - some happy, some not so happy. One sees many a familiar face taking shape in the mind's eye and hears many a long forgotten voice, and asks the question “Where are they now?”

Teaching is one of the few professions where one encounters many, many people in the course of one’s career so naturally there is a wealth of memories. The natural apprehension which goes hand in hand with starting a new job seized me as I travelled from Newcastle to Carnaun to start my first day’s teaching in the local primary school. Being a “bualadh isteach” in the parish the school, teachers and even the road were all strangers to me. It was such a quiet road then, travelling past Raheen along by Moanbaun, not a house to be seen, so different from today.

When I arrived at the school I was heartily welcomed by a boyish-looking redhead, Finbarr O’Regan, the principal, and his mother, Nora O’Regan, the assistant teacher. The building was old and shed-like as most schools in rural Ireland were at that time. Unfortunately little has changed in Carnaun since, but I am reliably informed that due to the persistency and hard work of the present Board of Management a huge project is being undertaken to make the present building one to be proud of.

I was shown the “new room” which was a recent addition to the two-roomed structure. To my surprise there were wash hand basins and running water in the hall!—none, however, in the dry toilets at the rear of the school where it was most needed.

Very quickly I settled into my new job in Carnaun. This was in no small way due to the co-operation and welcome I received from the teachers, parents and local community. At that time free transport hadn’t been introduced and before and after school there was many a little téte-a-téte between teachers and parents as they delivered and collected the little ones whom I taught.

Very quickly I got to know everybody. The local “Stations” also helped me a great deal to become acquainted with the parents and in a very short while I no longer felt a stranger.

During my teaching career in Carnaun I saw many changes. Public free transport was introduces by Donogh O'Malley in 1968. Decimalisation was introduced in 1971 and teachers breathed a sigh of relief to be able to shelve l.s.d, feet-inches, miles-furlongs-perches and the likes. Maths was going to be fun from now on—but no such luck. I’m afraid there is no magic formula for teaching, only “sweat and tears”! Then came the introduction of the “New Curriculum” and we all reviewed our teaching and learning methods with enthusiasm.

Our school too got a little bonus at this time. The old electric storage heaters which had been in the church in Athenry were installed - no more headaches trying to kindle damp turf on a sub-zero morning. At this point I would like to express my appreciation to Finbarr who seemed to have a special knack at lighting these old turf fires and always saw to it that conditions were as comfortable as possible for all of us. However, the heaters brought their problems and one day the then manager, who shall be nameless, came to us in a fury, having received the school E.S.B. bill and ordered us teachers to purchase scarves and gloves to keep warm as he was turning off the heat. I must hasten to add that he never implemented his threat.

Another great milestone was the establishing of Boards of Management. This was a major “céim ar aghaidh” in Irish education as now responsibility was shared by a group of people.

After sixteen years an opportunity to work nearer home presented itself. But for some persuasion and a little pressure exerted by family and friends as to the practicality of the move I don’t think I’d ever have left Carnaun, but to quote from my patron, St. Teresa: “All things changeth, nothing endureth”. I reluctantly decided to move on.

After my trip down memory lane I would like to thank all those who made my days in Carnaun a pleasant experience. To the teachers, former pupils, parents and community I say “thank you” for the memories, and for your continued support in good times and bad. Of course I still keep in touch through meeting some of my past pupils and their parents in Athenry and having a chat about times past and present. Sometimes, I have a problem trying to identify those young men and women who were once my “infants” but a particular phrase, look or mannerism quickly jogs the memory.

Beannacht Dé is Muire oraibh agus gura fada buan an t-slainte agaibh.


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