Stokane National School Reunion

Renewed anticipation to each new school day”

By Frank Finan.

Many years after I ceased to be a pupil of Stokane Primary School (and as an aside 1 am still at a loss as to why it is so named), U.N.I.C.E.F. formulated principles governing the rights of children and one of these in particular dictates that education be free and compulsory in the elementary stages which, in any event, has been the de facto situation in Ireland since 1926. The rule, however, goes further and sets down that ‘education”, at this stage, directs itself in a general way towards promoting the culture of the child, will form a basis of equal opportunity, will inculcate a sense of moral and social responsibility, will make provision for play and recreational opportunities and will provide for development of the child’s talents.

While, undoubtedly, most particularly in the eyes and wisdom of the modern parent of primary schoolchildren, much has yet to be achieved, one can only commend the various authorities and lobbyists who have brought about a situation where the child does not only enjoy the availability of vastly improved facilities, but literally enjoys the school experience and looks forward with renewed anticipation to each new school day.

Contrast this with my perceived situation in primary school where the classroom was always cold and somehow forbidding. Yet, being hardy ruralists we never so much as contemplated central heating but rather accepted feeling cold as the norm. Added to this we “enjoyed” only the basest of amenities. Lunch was consumed in the open air with our backs securely anchored to the West wall, which always somehow seemed to be facing North. Even this minor comfort was sometimes only available to the biggest and fittest on the strength of which attribute you sought out (sometimes fought), and then retained your back space.

The deprivation attaching to these denials did not overly impinge on our consciousness whether due to cowardice, servility or pragmatism.

One never felt that a mini co-op of school authority and parents were monitoring our well-being. Parent involvement seemed to be minimal, and the rare occasion when we were so visited created a cause celébre. Organised parent / teacher meetings were unknown.

Conversely, it now seems we did not contribute in any meaningful way to alleviating what must also have been the Master’s isolation. The exchanging of salutations by way of gifts and / or “favourite teacher” cards was not yet in vogue.

Recreation and play was, in the main, confined to the game of “catch me if you can”, during which events one now recalls the execution of, in Rugby parlance, some glorious touch-downs. This diversion was occasionally interspersed with the occasional “bottom wall and back’ sprint. Team games such as inter-school sports or matches or a visit to the pool were not catered for or engaged in, and participations in such activity was a matter for one’s own initiative provided the multiplicity of chores appropriate to the farming household had taken precedence.

The form of activity was, however, all very good for the complexion and unconsciously, perhaps, the school was in the vanguard of equality in that the girls engaged in identical pursuits — on the other side of the wall, of course.

One recalls that of school generally one was conscious only of the compulsory element of our being there, and we were totally averse and rejective of the dictum of it being for our own good. We required some considerable persuading that we were experiencing the best days of our early life. Had democracy prevailed we would have relieved, by a large majority, our parents of the burden of sending us to school. However, our desires in that regard were very rightly nobody’s command.

This aspect of the subject matter had as its main competitor for a place on the agenda only the perceived mood of the Master on any given day always based on recognisable symptoms which had to be evaluated.

Those of us who traversed the same approach road as he did were cast in the role of modern-day meteorological officers with responsibility for medium range forecasts. Some of these reports induced pains and aches of uncertain origins and occasionally initiated the dispensing of summary justice. Some of these scenes were and indeed are long since forgotten in the world of today which is still ruled by adults some of whom destroy and hate but the majority of whom build and love.

Now after many (regrettably too many), years down the road of life I have learned to be cautious of one’s perception and perhaps my childhood ‘25 feet high’ rock standing proudly then as now in a field at the back of my childhood home was never more than the approximate 6 feet high it (much to my embarrassment), turned out to be when I brought some of my own small children to view it. And whether the formulation of U.N.I.C.E.F. principles came too late I cannot say.

I wish the guardians and patrons of Stokane (whatever the name means), primary school fortitude in the next one hundred years bearing in mind that life’s aspirations truly come in the guise of children.

(Frank Finan is a Superintendent in An Garda Siochana now living in Claremorris, Co. Mayo)



Moments in time


Past Pupils