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Added to on March 18, 2007


The following extracts are from Chapter 18 of 'Your Dinner?s Poured Out"- the chapter entitled 'The School Around the Corner'. Paddy Crosbie talks about his teachers, especially Brother Hoolahan, learning Irish and Irish History, Corporal Punishment and the meaning of "Free Education" 40 years before it became official.

"I arrived at the Christian Brothers' School, North Brunswick Street, on August 23rd, 1920. The old school was, and still is a solid building. In 1920 there was only one main building, with a science room and a manual room at the rear. The school has always been called Brunner.

When I arrived from Stanhope Street Convent at the age of six and three-quarters, Brother Curley was examining the newcomers in the Second Reader. I passed with flying colours because I had most of the lessons off by heart from watching and listening to my brother Mossy. Brother Curley had succeeded Brother Redmond who had earned a great name for saintliness.....

Long before the British left Ireland the Christian Brothers were teaching Irish. The Brothers used a huge chart of pictures for conversation lessons, and their 'Aids to Irish Composition' was a book which gave wonderful help in problems of grammar. I doubt that it will ever be bettered. Regarding the chart, I can recall every figure and scene on it.

As I entered the school in 1920, I little dreamed that I was destined to spend almost fifty-seven years of my life within its confines, or that my own name was to be wedded to that of the school that was to become 'The School Around the Corner'.

Brother Hoolahan was in charge of Second School; Brother Doyle was upstairs in Third School. He was to be succeeded by Brother Ryan by the time I reached that height. Brother Donovan was in charge of Fourth School. Brother Hoolahan I liked very much; he it was, who gave me an interest in history, particularly local history, which I mention elsewhere.

It was he who taught us:

'Did they dare? Did they dare?
To slay Owen Roe O'Neill?
Yes, they slew him with poison
They feared to meet with steel.'

In the Twenties the hurling teams of Brunner were second to none in the City of Dublin. This was due to the coaching of Bill Small, himself an All-Ireland gold medallist. We feared him in school and he made us develop a do-or-die attitude that boded ill for other schools. O'Connell Schools were our greatest rivals....

But I am travelling too fast and must go back to Second School and Brother Hoolahan. When I began to learn about Irish History I took a great interest in historical spots......... The Bermingham Tower of Dublin Castle engaged my attention too. This tower held a fascination for me because of the Two Hughs, who were my idols. [Hugh O'Neill and Hugh O'Donnell]. In Brother Hoolahan's class the Battle of Kinsale became a personal defeat. 'That Don Juan D'Aguila was a dirty lookin' eejit.'

I was an altar boy at this time and Brother Hoolahan let me off very often to serve Mass at 10 o'clock. There was a Mr. Murphy in Second School with the brother at this period: I don't think he was a mere monitor.

When I arrived at Brunner the school fees were threepence per week, but in 1924 they were raised to sixpence. Friday was 'school-money' day and the brother spent a harassing two hours collecting the money. How the schools managed to exist on this money is a mystery, especially as so many stood up and said, 'I forgot it sir'. There were no government grants for the Christian Brothers in the Twenties. Many boys got 'free' education from the Brothers, before it was 'invented'.

One facet of life in a Christian Brothers' School was Catechism on Sundays. This was a compulsory class from 9.30 to 10.30 a.m. Stories from the Bible were read for us, and sometimes the Lives of the Saints were used. Woe betide anyone who stayed away from Catechism on Sunday; he paid for it on Monday. No other schools had this type of Sunday class. However, many liked it as there was no 'Biffing'......

There was an old man named Mr. Kinshella who lived in a room in Queen Street also. He had a big mop of snow-white hair, and he often sat on one of the buffer stones at the drinking trough in Haymarket. He used to talk to the children and tell us about games he played in Camolin, Co Wexford, when he was young......I told Brother Hoolahan in Brunner about Mr. Kinshella and one day the old man came along to the school. We learned from Brother Hoolahan that the old man from Wexford had been born in the year of the Famine, and that his grandfather had been killed on Vinegar Hill in 1798.....

Brother Hoolahan could be cross at times and I can remember a day, when he broke a pointer on Harrier Devine's head. I suppose the pointer was split at the time but Brother Hoolahan was a man who would stand for no nonsense. Mr. Murphy, the other teacher, was a rather quiet man but he never had any trouble from us because of the brother's presence in the room.....

Manual, or carpentry, was taught in Brunner for many year by Brother Maher, a Tipperary man. Nobody disliked Brother Maher. He had a red shining, smiling face, wore glasses and was very gentle and kind. Every boy was anxious to get into the Manual class; however I was unlucky enough to be left out. The class was held in a special room called the Manual room, which was situated behind the Science Room.....

When the Christian Brothers arrived, on the invitation of the Parish Priest of St. Paul's Arran Quay, they built their school on the south side of Brunswick Street. Since 1869 many physical changes in the building have taken place, but deep down, The School Around the Corner's still the same..........

And now..
Although the family left the old Markets area in 1930, I continued to keep in touch. I kept up my connections with the Stoneybatter area, and from 1934 down to the present, I have passed through the Smithfield area twice a day on my way to and from Brunner, this time as a teacher. ........"

Paddy Crosbie retired on 22nd December 1978 after teaching in the Brunner for 44 years. In 1979 he was honoured by Pope John Paul 11 with the Papal decoration Benemerenti. He died in 1982.

I wonder if he would still believe that "deep down The School Around the Corner's still the same" ? (Today it is unlikely that old Mr Kinshella would speak to any young schoolboy for fear of having his intentions misunderstood!).