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Added to on March 21, 2007

(from "Your Dinner's Poured Out" - Chapter 18 "The School Around the Corner")

'The School Around The Corner' is St. Paul's Christian Brother's School, North Brunswick St (aka "Brunner") where Paddy Crosbie taught for 44 years until 1978.

(1) When Brunner opened its doors first in February 1869, accordingly to the annals, practically all of the boys who turned up to be enrolled were barefooted. They were an unruly lot as none had been to school before. Beside the school was a site, lately vacated by the Medical School, and when the boys were let out to play, they made their way to this site, where, within a large shed, they found human bones. One of the Brothers was horrified to find his new pupils playing hurling with the skulls and bones. He quickly took command and the bones were interred in a safe place.

(2) 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. On one occasion we were due to play O'Connell's in the Final in the Fifteen Acres. On the morning of the match, Thursday, our star player, Sean Moore, was absent from school. Bill Small nearly had a fit. He sent a boy up to Sean's house in Cowper Street and received this note from Mrs. Moore. "Dear Mr. Small, Sean is sick and cannot go to school today, but he will most certainly be up for the Final in the Park this afternoon, Mrs. Moore".

(3) A funny incident occurred in Brother Hoolahan's class one Monday. It concerned Arthur O'Sullivan the well known actor. Arthur was known in schooldays as Archie and lived in Queen Street with his widowed mother. On this particular Monday Archie was kept home and was marked absent. During the morning Archie's mother sent him for a pint of milk. Archie went with the jug to the dairy in King Street and was reading a comic-cut. Coming out of the shop, instead of turning right, he turned left and continued on, holding the jug of milk with one hand and the comic-cut with another. Absent-mindedly he turned into Red Cow Lane, then Brunswick Street, then the school gate, finally the school room door. There was consternation when Archie walked into the classroom, carrying the jug of milk. As Archie couldn't explain the situation, the laughing went on for quite a while.

(4) The following incident is not included in Paddy Crosbie's book and I recount it from memory. It occurred on The Late Late Show sometime in the 1970s in the course of a discussion about corporal punishment in schools. Paddy Crosbie was pitted against Doctor Cyril Daly who saw corporal punishment as a barbaric practise. The exchange went something like this:

Paddy Crosbie: "Suppose little Johnny strikes a match in class and holds the flame against the bare leg of the boy in front. What would you do?"

Cyril Daly: "I would say; 'Johnny what did you hope to achieve by that action'."

Paddy Crosbie: "Man, you don't even speak their language!"

A week before corporal punishment was abolished Dr. Daly, (or one of his friends?) had a letter published in the Irish Times. It stated that teachers who practised that form of discipline "have seven days to turn yourselves into decent human beings". I can't vouch for the exact words but that was certainly the sense of it.

Paddy Crosbie retired from teaching in 1978 when he was 65. (He could have retired 4 years earlier after 40 years service.) Great changes were occurring in Irish society - not so much building and improving on what had gone before as repudiating it. There was a marked increase in violent crime, drug abuse started to become a significant problem and criminal gangs began to make their mark. The worst hit areas were in the north inner city including the area served by St. Paul's CBS - aka "The Brunner" or "The School Around The Corner".

I believe that The Late Late Show exchange between Paddy Crosbie and Dr. Daly was significant. I am quite prepared to concede that the traditionalist approach to teaching may have become outdated. The problem is that "reformers" like Cyril Daly were sanctimonious prigs who knew nothing about the working class. They believed that punishment was wrong, and that the main thing was to remove "repressive" practises. After that the pupils creativity would flow and the Brave New World would appear. This approach may have had some validity in middle class areas but in the north inner city it was a disaster. Teachers like Paddy Crosbie recognised this but they were getting old, the religious orders including the Christian Brothers were declining and there was no one to pass on the torch to. It was impossible to dialogue with idiots like Cyril Daly whose "liberal" dogmatism exceeded anything to be found in the Catholic Church. (The Christian Brothers were highly PRAGMATIC teachers.)

Societies normally progress when the old pass on their experience to the young who accept the gift but also change and develop it. There was a great break in Irish society in the 1970s. A new generation despised and repudiated the past and we are still living with the consequences of their behaviour.

Rory Connor
21 March 2007