My first day at school
From Harry Foy's Book 'Growing up in Portadown in the Thirties and Forties'
When I was about four years of age, I was packed off to school dressed in my little sailor's suit. I took the hands of my elder brother and his chum and started off up the hill.
In those days, street sweepers swept the mud on the streets into neat piles. Later a horse and cart came to collect the muck. As we arrived at Thomas Street, my brother and his chum played a game by holding my hands and swinging me over the piles.
I was enjoying it all immensely. Just as we came to the main school gate, either by design or by accident, I was dropped into the middle of a huge, wet, mucky pile. Minutes later, covered in mud and crying, I was presented before a large tall nun who noted my name and sent me home again. My brother and his friend laughed all the way home.
The next three years were spent learning the three "R's". In those days Catechism, arithmetic table and general knowledge were learned by chanting in unison. I can still rhyme off the eleven times table. On reflection it was a good way of learning. At first we wrote on slates with chalks and learned to count on a large ball-frame at the front of the classroom. Later we progressed to pencil and jotter. Lunch was the same for everyone - two large slices of bread with jam which your mother had wrapped in newspaper.
Once a year the doctor visited the school to examine teeth and eyes. A nurse also examined our hair for nits and lice.
On Summer days the nuns had religious processions around the garden. One hymn we sang then is one we wouldn't sing today because it began "The sun is shining brightly and all the world is gay"!
The big event each year was the school concert which was presented in the Town Hall. Singing on the stage was a great thrill. After all these years I can still sing "I Will Sail The Ocean Blue" from H.M.S. Pinafore.
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