Throwback Thursday: A maths class after Delany’s Olympic win

When Ron Delany won gold in 1956, it prompted a Cork teacher to use it for a maths poser. JO KERRIGAN has more of your memories of schooldays and a few from the golden age of Cork cinema
Throwback Thursday: A maths class after Delany’s Olympic win

Gus Harrington, Mick Archer, and Denis Philpott show the All Ireland Minor Cup to the children at South Monastery School in 1961. A former pupil recalls his time there in today’s Throwback Thursday

TIM Morley has been reading with interest other Corkonians’ memories of Glasheen Boys School - whose photos have featured in Throwback Thursday in recent weeks - and writes to say he would like to fill up a few minor gaps in the whole bright picture.

“As it happens, I was in the first Confirmation class there,” says Tim. “Don’t ask me what I was doing five minutes ago, but no problem with 67 years ago!” (What, he wonders, would a student of the science of ageing say to that?)

“In 6th class, we had John Crowley as our teacher,” adds Tim. “He was a natural athlete, he organised school sports in my earlier days there. He was also the singing teacher. 

"I remember singing in the choir for celebrating the digging of the sod for the new school.

NATIONAL HERO: Arklow-born Ronnie Delany wins the 1500m at the Olympics in Melbourne, Australia, in 1956.
NATIONAL HERO: Arklow-born Ronnie Delany wins the 1500m at the Olympics in Melbourne, Australia, in 1956.

“When Ron Delany won the Olympic 1500m gold medal (in Melbourne in 1956), we first spent half the morning talking about it, and then we had to determine if the winning time would, if calculated for a mile, be under four minutes!”

This was a pertinent issue at the time, as England’s Roger Bannister had run the world’s first recorded four-minute mile - a slightly longer race than 1500m - two years earlier.

In 5th class, recalls Tim, they had Joe Holly, “without a doubt the most naturally gifted teacher of my time there. He had no favourites, and no enemies among the pupils.”

Tim also remembers being taught in 5th class by Con Burns, a Kerryman with an MA in History, who also did some teaching at UCC.

“In 4th class, we had Dick Donegan, a semi-professional musician as well. ‘The Fox went out on a chilly night’, was one of his specialities.”

In 3rd class it was Mr Coughlin. 

“I missed out on him, but he made a very genial impression. He knew personally how the Black and Tans when going out on patrol would grab young schoolboys as a human shield (Boris, are you proud of this bit of British history?).

Second class was taught by Tadhg O Tuama, brother of Sean, Professor of Irish at UCC.

“In First class, it was Miss Murphy, who lived on the Magazine Road. The High infants teacher was Miss O’Leary, aunt to Miss Ahearne. Low infants’ teacher was Miss Ahern, who came to live in Croaghta Park when she got married (Mrs Healy).”

What a memory you have, Tim!

We were delighted to receive confirmatory evidence of these and other anecdotes which have appeared in Throwback Thursday (isn’t it great to know they are read in such detail?)

Mary Holly, daughter of that much-loved teacher, says that Kerryman Con Burns, who taught 4th class, lived on Earlwood Estate, and Junior Infants teacher Elsie Ahern did live on Croaghta Park, but before that with her aunt, Miss O’Leary, on Bishopstown Avenue.

It’s interesting to see that Low Infants became Junior Infants. I wonder when it was realised that the former title might be demeaning?

Certainly, in this writer’s baby school (the great Miss Cahill’s on Summerhill), there were Low Babies, High Babies, Middle Division, Juniors, and Seniors. All in a school which had ten or 12 pupils at the maximum!

Mary Holly confirms that her uncle, Seán O’Donovan, and aunt Maureen, had a little shop attached to the house across from Glasheen school.

“You can see a little of it on the left of the photo you had on Throwback Thursday. Maureen was also a hairdresser, and had a small salon behind the shop. Her clients were mostly local ladies of a certain age.

“Occasionally we were ‘ treated’ to Maureen cutting, washing and conditioning our hair. I write ‘treated’ deliberately. Maureen had long, talon-like, red painted nails with which she vigorously and enthusiastically ‘massaged’ our scalps. It hurt!

Mary adds: “I remember one girl in my class who spent her pocket money in the shop so she could admire Maureen’s nails. What my schoolmate did not know was that the red nail varnish camouflaged very discoloured nails. Maureen was a very heavy smoker, a habit that dated back to the time when cigarettes were untipped.”

Dermot Knowles has also been following readers’ reminiscences about their schooldays with great interest.

“As one of your contributors mentioned, Throwback Thursday, the gift that keeps on giving,” he said.

I attended the South Monastery, An Mhainistir Theas, in Douglas Street, run by the Presentation brothers. ‘De Mon’. This was 1960. Looking back, I sometimes think it was more like 1860!

KEPT IN LINE: A Jubilee procession from North Cathedral chapel by South Monastery boys on March 28, 1935. A former pupil from the 1960s shares his memories today.
KEPT IN LINE: A Jubilee procession from North Cathedral chapel by South Monastery boys on March 28, 1935. A former pupil from the 1960s shares his memories today.

“The school itself was attached to the South Presentation convent, now Nano Nagle House. Corporal punishment was the order of the day, which we accepted with resignation.

“Since most /all of the brothers have passed on to their eternal reward, I don’t think there is any harm in mentioning some of them that I remember. Brothers Adrian, Stephen, Fabian, Ferdia, Beede and Henry are some of the names that spring to mind.

“The Principal was Brother Gilbert, a small, broad, stocky man with a crew cut, glasses and a general demeanour that always struck fear into the heart of the bravest ‘Hard Chaw’. If you were sent to the Principal’s office for any offence, you knew you were in for it.”

Dermot does, however, have some happy memories of his time in the South Mon, “especially the Cocoa Room, where we queued up in a long line every morning for a mug of hot, steamy, sugar-laden cocoa and a currant bun with a delicious layer of cream on top. This treat was administered by a few of the big boys in sixth class. Yum!

“And if there were a few buns left over, and if you grovelled appropriately, one of those boys might gift you a second bun. Heaven!”

The Mon, like all schools run by Presentation and Christian Brothers, was big into sport, “provided that sport was GAA. Heaven help you if your favourite sport was soccer,” adds Dermot.

“The brothers despised ‘foreign sports’, but it seems soccer was their favourite pet hate. If you were an avid follower of English soccer (and I was a 22-carat fanatic), it was best to keep shtum about it.”

It always bewildered Dermot, he says, that Pres and Christians were bastions of rugby, a John Bull game if ever there was one. How, he asks, did the Brothers reconcile their aversion to foreign sports with the rugby ethos of those schools?

“lt smacks of hypocrisy to me. It’s common knowledge that the famous Liam Brady was expelled from school by the Christian Brothers for choosing to play a soccer match over a GAA game for his school.

“That he was selected to represent his country and was picked as captain cut no ice with the Christian Brothers.

“And, of course, hanging over all of us like a sword of Damocles was the dreaded ‘Bata’, which was wielded liberally by some, although not all of the Brothers, with plenty of enthusiasm.

“Trudging home on Friday it was a peer boast to proclaim ‘I only got two socs this week, boy, now many did you get?’ Remember this was the Sixties. The era of The Stones, The Beatles , Elvis , student rebellion, flower power, All You Need Is Love. I guess no-one told De Brothers.”

Perhaps it’s too easy, says Dermot, from this vantage point, 60 years later, to be critical of the teaching methods of the religious orders. “They were, after all, a product of their times. Some Brothers were born teachers, and we did get a good, solid, Catholic education, sometimes ‘bate into us’ , sometimes not, that stood us well in life .

“Other men were square pegs in round holes who should never have chosen the profession they were in. Or maybe it was chosen for them. Who knows.”

Transferring to the Tech after the Mon, Dermot says feelingly, was such a breath of fresh air. “As long as you stayed on the right side of Joey milli, centi, deci, metre, Deca, Hecta, Kilo, Kerrigan, AKA Cork’s own Indiana Jones, life was Me Daza!”

One last bun and cocoa story, adds Mr Knowles.

“My sister-in-law attended St Vincents Convent in Redemption Road. To qualify for a bun and cocoa, your father had to be out of work. Her father was in the fire brigade, the system being 24 hours on duty, 48 hours off.

“So on the days he was off duty, not working obviously, she put her hand up to qualify for her treat!

“I find it so funny the lengths we went to for our delicious treat. Such innocent times, long gone, but never forgotten.”

Tom Jones, a Cork expat in Florida, was stimulated by John McSweeney’s interest in our cinemas and their history (The Golden Age Of Cork Cinemas, go and buy your copy now if you don’t already have it on the shelf.)

“The mention in particular of the Coliseum, and it being Cork’s first custom-built picture house, again brought back memories of these long-ago times.

“My own recollection of ‘The Coll’ was that there were two ticket entrances where one could pay upon entering. One was on MacCurtain Street proper, the other at the intersection with Brian Boru Street.

“From the MacCurtain Street entrance, not the corner one, you would walk along a hallway behind the screen to enter through a door, stage right of the screen. Then, there, in front of you was the seating area. After a couple of rows in, the front section was a partition on a higher elevation to separate the seating arrangement, I presume, as I don’t recall if they were the more expensive seats in the back.

“Also, I don’t recall there being a balcony at all, so maybe others would have a better, more accurate recollection on the interior of the viewing area.

“Incidentally, I don’t know if this is an interesting factoid or not, but, were the Coliseum and the Lido the only two places where you could see the whole outline of the building? With the others, only the facade or frontage presented itself.”

Good point, Tom. Let’s have some answers from other cinema-goers.

It seems to Tom that The Coll, the Lee, the Ritz, the Assems, the Pav and the Capitol, were akin, in that they were the workhorses of Cork picture houses.

“Not forgetting, of course, my own muse ‘De Lido’ in Blackpool. While the Savoy, and the Palace with their more elegant, and elaborate interiors, were of a different pedigree of theatre, yet, it can be said that all played a significant part in the enjoyment of connoisseurs of cinema in Cork.

“They hold a million or more of our personal stories of films we saw, types of films, stories and experiences related with seeing them, etc, and other facets of our lives yet to be told. This I know, for sure, for I possess many of them myself.”

Thank-you so much, Tom.

And make sure the rest of you share your memories on Throwback Thursday too! Email or leave a comment on our Facebook page: (

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Add to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more