School days in Cork: My Confirmation class - I can name them all!

A Throwback Thursday reader shares his Confirmation class photo from 1968 in Cork... and tells JO KERRIGAN the names of ALL the pupils
School days in Cork: My Confirmation class - I can name them all!

The confirmation class of 1968 at the North Mon. See the main text for the names of all the children in this photo, as remembered by schoolboy Fintan Bloss!

LAST week, Tim Morley recalled being in the confirmation class at Glasheen Boys School, in our Throwback Thursday column.

This encouraged Fintan Bloss to delve into his archives and share with us this photo on the facing page of the Confirmation class of 1968 at the North Mon.

Recognise anyone there? Well, all praise for Fintan’s own memory because he lists every single boy in the picture!

Front row, left to right: Stephen Corcoran, Liam Murphy, Sean Coughlan, Tim McCarthy, Neil Fitzpatrick, Kevin Kelleher, Eugene Foley, Tony Dalton, Fintan Bloss, and Paddy Hegarty.

That’s three boys in long trousers and seven in short pants!

2nd row: Tadhg Horgan John Airey, Maurice Murray, Tom O’Neill, Tommy O’Driscoll, Charlie Forde, Jim O’Mahony, Finbarr Downey, and David O’Brien.

3rd row: Damien O’Mahony, Martin O’Brien, Paddy Curtin, Barry O’Regan, Liam O’Keeffe, Donal Crowley, Martin Clifford, Dominic Cronin, Finbarr Murphy, and Eddie McWhinney.

4th row: Robert Stephens, Richard Lee, Michael Buckley (Fintan’s first cousin), Pierce Power, Paddy Daly, Kieran Lyons, John Horgan, Brendan Goggin, Harry Peglar, Tom McKiernan, and Bill Creagh.

Fintan Bloss at his Confirmation in 1968. It was the era when long trousers were just starting to take over from short pants among some older boys.
Fintan Bloss at his Confirmation in 1968. It was the era when long trousers were just starting to take over from short pants among some older boys.

Back row: Brother O’Sullivan, Finbarr Bolster, Paddy O’Flaherty, Denis McCarthy, Tony Hogan, Sean Cronin, Tom Montgomery, Walter Blake, Roy Corbett, and Don Kelleher.

Well, more power to your long-distance recollections, Fintan. That’s quite a feat.

Do any of those names or faces strike a chord with other readers? Do let us know if they do!

Fintan also obligingly shares an individual picture of himself in full Confirmation splendour and shyness (above).

That comment by Mr Bloss about three of the Confirmation class wearing long trousers while seven were still in short pants, reminds us that this was customary right up into the late 1960s in Ireland.

Long trousers were more expensive, and in any case were seen as a transition to adulthood. They were very rarely to be found on younger boys. Freezing winds and icy rain on winter days just had to be coped with.

Meanwhile, another reader, Mike English, who has contributed many fine pictures to this paper over the decades, also was stimulated by those memories in recent weeks of Glasheen Boys School.

John Bernie Coughlan NT (right), first Chairman of Bishopstown GAA, and a teacher at Glasheen National School, with Con Begley, Chairman from 1991 to 1993 when the club captured most trophies in its history.
John Bernie Coughlan NT (right), first Chairman of Bishopstown GAA, and a teacher at Glasheen National School, with Con Begley, Chairman from 1991 to 1993 when the club captured most trophies in its history.

“I was taught by Miss Ahern, Miss Murphy, John Bernie Coughlan, Dick Donegan (who played the guitar and featured in many local concerts and on Radio Eireann; he died quite young), Joe Holly and John Crowley,” says Mike.

“The Mr Burns was, I’m pretty sure, Con Burns, who later became principal at the new Scoil an Spioraid Naoimh in Bishopstown.”

As an aside, adds Mr English, the very first of his own photos to be published in the Echo, around 1967, was of Michael Sharkey, Chairman of Bishopstown GAA, presenting a set of playing jerseys to the said Mr Burns for the school team.

Now there is a nice link, Mike!

“Regarding JB (Bernie) Coughlan,” Mike says, “he would have been held in high esteem in the Bishopstown area in the late ’50s and ’60s. He was, I think, a Peace Commissioner and was involved in the County Library, and when he was approached by a number of local hurlers, who were interested in establishing a GAA club in the area, he accepted the role of Chairman at the inaugural meeting held at the SMA Library in Wilton in November, 1957. He held the position until 1961 and acted as vice chairman for another year.

“I had the pleasure of working with him during that time, and later when he became Chairman of the first Bishopstown Community Association.

“We organised a weekly lotto draw which was held on Monday nights when the promoters attended with their contributions (I think it was one shilling a week, to be in with a chance of winning a few pounds) at what was known as the SMA science hall, since demolished to make way for the Wilton SMA Community Centre.”

Mike adds: “Plans were prepared to purchase land at Ardarostig for a Community Hall, but they fell through as members felt that the area was too far away from the centre of Bishopstown! Gradually, interest waned until the current association came into being.

The photo of Bernie Coughlan on the facing page was supplied by Mike.

Mike’s mention of Bishopstown matters reminded this writer of happy childhood days learning to ride at Mrs Barrett’s stables, which were situated at Gurrane House, high on a hill above the Bishopstown of those years.

Back then, the housing pretty well stopped just beyond Bishopstown Bar, and it was countryside from then on.

My sister and I would take the No. 8 bus as far as it went, and then walk up what seemed like miles of a lane to the farm, crossing the track of the old Macroom railway line on the way.

Money was tight enough in our family of five active kids, so we only had half-hour sessions with those beloved ponies instead of the full hour indulged in by children of wealthier families, but Mrs Barrett was always accommodating and kind.

We thought she was wonderful, and our hearts were broken when they moved out of Bishopstown and down to Kilbrittain.

I have a vivid memory of being down on the coast near there some time later, and spying what I thought was my favourite pony, a piebald called The Joker, grazing in a field nearby. So near and yet so far! The tug is still there, even now, so long afterwards.

Gurrane House still stands above the ring road near Dunne’s Stores. It was a magical place in our childhood, with real sheepskins on the stairs (probably the most practical use for them), a wind-up gramophone for playing ‘musical chairs’, and a splendid toy farm set out on its own vast table, with dried moss for hedges, little stone walls, and every farm animal you had ever coveted from HCC in McCurtain Street. A real old-fashioned country house with all the warmth and comfort you could want.

Driving through the Dunne’s car park recently, I spotted a bit of the old avenue, and realised that the ring road must have been built halfway up, very close to or actually on the old railway line itself.

Driving round towards the Bandon Road exit, I could see the very field where we learned to jump. Happy childhood memories.

I thought it would be nice to share these memories with Mike English and he has responded fervently:

“We sported and played in the same area! I knew the Barretts. Mick was a butcher, John V. a surgeon, Joe, the farmer, and Kevin, who I think emigrated. Violet was Joe’s wife, and ran the riding school.”

Mike lived in the cottage (now demolished) on the main Bandon Road which faced the lane up to Barrett’s farm.

“As kids,” he recalls, “we often raided their orchard and picked blackberries on their lands. But they were good neighbours.

“When trees came down in a storm we were invited to avail of same for firewood, the only central heating we had back then.”

Mike contributes more local historical detail. “The old Macroom line is now a walkway running alongside the Glasheen stream from the Sarsfield Road roundabout (entrance near ESB) out as far as Dunnes, north of the ring road.

“Another part of the line forms a walkway from Sarsfields Road to Togher and onto the Kinsale Road. The Bandon railway line passed to the south of the farm on its way to the Viaduct and beyond.”

His final observation? 

“It’s a small world Jo.”

So it is, and you brought back some golden days of youth for us both, Mike.

Tom Jones, our Corkonian expat in Florida, always loves reading the Echo’s Throwback Thursday columns, enjoying to the full the input and recollections of times gone by of readers. He distinctly recalls the first two classes in Blarney Street C.B.S. being known as Babies and Low First, then progressing from 1st to 7th class a.k.a. the final class, or graduation level.

He also pays tribute to the recollections of Dermot Knowles. 

“These are so reminiscent of my own experiences, i.e. Christian Brothers’ attitude of accepting ‘foreign sports’, the Cocoa Room, passing out of the buns, the use of corporal punishment, etc. Wow, man, excellent stuff! 

"Can’t help wondering if any of the ‘Hard Chaws’ he mentioned ever threatened those dishing out the treats with any extra activity after school if not ‘OFFERED’ an extra bun?”

Tom also agrees with Dermot that perhaps the profession of religious dedication was chosen for rather than chosen by many of the Brothers. “As he writes, ‘square pegs in round holes’, and being the product of their times, rather than vocation, or of their own volition.”

Many in the era of ‘Holy Ireland’, Tom believes, were dedicated/sacrificed to the cause of the church or religious organisations, in particular from large rural families.

“Who does not know of at least one large Irish family of a past era that does not include one priest, nun, etc. in their family history?” he asks.

This, in fact, he observes, is also prevalent amongst older Irish-American families. “Be they ‘Lace Curtain’ or ‘Shanty Irish’, a phrase popular among the Irish genealogists in New England, particularly in Connecticut where I lived for many years.”

Tom asks us to accept that he writes this as an observation, not as a critique, and suggests that the topic may provide a sociological study for modern day students. It might indeed, Tom.

We have heard more than one recollection of convent school days where girls went in terror of being singled out and gently encouraged to consider a nun’s vocation.

“I was so horrified that all I could do was promise earnestly to think about it, and then ran as fast as possible,” said Kate.

“When I finally walked out those school gates at the end of 6th year, I never looked back, and never went back. The thought of being confined within those walls life-long terrified me.”

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