Stokane National School Reunion

My schooldays in Stokane School

Paddy Barrins

As the centenary of the foundation of Stokane National School is being celebrated this year a lot of memories flood back to those of us who spent the early years of our lives there or, as our parents would say “the best years of our lives”. Of course this description would not have been our way of looking at it.

My first introduction to Stokane School was in 1936 and I will always remember been taken into the junior classroom and seeing for the first time the youthful group who would be my constant companions until the day when I would say goodbye forever to the old school. The late Mrs. Rouse, Junior Class Mistress, showed me to my desk and sat me down beside a boy who gave me a big smile and whom I will always remember as being the first person to ease some of the fear that was in me. He became my true friend and companion and occupied a special place in my life even into adulthood. He also occupied the same desk with me from start to finish in Stokane.

My first fear was of my teacher who was a strict disciplinarian and who tried to instil some order in my early academic life. Later on I learned to respect her and did my best to please her. The boys and girls who shared my class were, in the main, quiet and docile, easily managed and gave no great trouble. AlI of them are now scattered in different parts of the world and one - Michael Hallinan - has gone to his eternal reward. May God have mercy on his soul. It is strange and perhaps unique that all who started in this class remained together to finish in the same class in 1944.

During these years we had great times together and shared a very carefree youth. There were squabbles but those were few and far between and overall, I can look back with great love and affection on those days. The bond, which was first formed in Mrs. Rouse’s classroom remains still and whenever I meet one of my old classmates nowadays I can still feel this same bond. We shared a common experience together which was so strong that it has lasted a lifetime.

Miss Bridget Maye was Principal during my early school days and she was replaced by Mr. John Murphy while I was still in Mrs. Rouse’s class. Later on our class was transferred to the senior room and we were from then on under the control and guidance of Mr. Murphy. I remember him as a very able and conscientious man. I also remember the many many times he gave me a lift in his car to the end of Stokane road in the winter evenings.

There were many chores which had to be done and which were outside normal class curriculum. One of them was to bring drinking water to the school from the local well. Two boys were dispatched to the well with a large gal-vanised bucket and a stick about four feet long. The latter was pushed under the bucket handle and held by both carriers so that the weight was evenly distributed between both. It was a fairly lengthy journey and of course, we would be in no hurry to return. Sometimes, the excuse for an overly long delay was that the water was accidently spilled and a second journey was necessary. The presence of a cane on the Master’s table ensured that spoilages and consequently second journeys were kept to a minimum.

Another chore, and one which was reserved for a senior boy, was ink-making. Ink came in powder form in those days and had to be mixed with water. The correct consistency was needed and this resulted in certain boys getting the job more often than others. I was called upon once to be chief ink-maker and I can only conclude that I had not the correct technique as I was never asked to repeat the performance.

Blowing the fire was another operation we were often asked to perform. The school was supplied with turf by parents of pupils and very often, and espe­cially in bad weather the turf would not be of the highest quality. When this occurred two boys would be asked to blow the fire. They would place themselves on their hands and knees on either side of the grate and would blow into the smouldering turf until the fire would be lighted.

Sometimes an intake of breath would draw some smoke into our lungs and there would be some coughing and spluttering until the lungs were cleared again. This was one job which was popular among the pupils because at least we would be warm for a while afterwards through our exertions and the heat of the fire. One turf fire at the end of a large room did not provide much heat for the occupants - especially those at senior level who occupied desks at the other end of the room. In very cold weather the Master would bring us, by classes, up around his table in a circle so that we would share some of the heat.

An incident I will always remember occurred one winter when a storm blew part of the roof off the school. Fr. Mc Nama (cr Fr. Mac as he was commonly known) inspected the damage next day. We were told to clean up the yard and surrounds of broken slates and put the pieces at the back of the priest’s car which was parked along the roadside. Obviously we were meant to throw them over the fence behind the car. Unfortunately some of us took the direction “at the back of the car” literally and dumped several armfuls of broken slate on the back seat of the car. Before the end of the operation we discovered our mistake and attempted to remove the slates but we were recalled before the job was complete and our good Parish Priest returned to his home with quite a load of broken slates adorning his back seat. He must be a man of great fortitude and not a little humanity because we never heard any complaint from either him or our teacher.

During our years in school the classrooms appeared huge, the desks were so big and the windows were so high. Years later when I visited the school I was surprised to see just how small the rooms were and how low the desks and win­dows were when seen from adult vantage. Likewise our little worries and troubles assumed huge proportions when we were young and now seem so trivial andsmall when viewed from adulthood. As a result we now repeat as our patents did, the old adage that “school days are the best days of our lives”.

After all these years I can look back on my years in Stokane school as a time of great freedom, comradeship and fun and, I suppose, like many more I would say that if I got another chance to bring back these years, I would make better use of them. I appreciate everything my teachers did for me, even if I did not always co-operate as fully as I should have with them and, yes, I do believe those great days, when the sun always seemed to shine, were the best days of my life.


Moments in time


Past Pupils