Tuesday, February 28, 2017

And even more memories of Roscrea #CCR

For my final trip down the soon-to-close Cistercian College Roscrea memory lane I'm concentrating on what I was there for - education.

My Favourite Class
No doubt about this - French was my favourite class. John Shanahan was my teacher for all five years of my time in CCR - 2A all the way up to 5A. Despite loving this subject I only managed a disappointing C in the Leaving Certificate. Twice during summer holidays I was sent to France on an exchange which helped enormously with my conversation and vocabulary. In first year my introduction to educational technology brought us "Voix et Image" - we recited "Voilà Monsieur Thibaut" so many times. I expected to meet loads of Thibauts when I went to France, but never did. For some 2A nostalgia, here's the video...

Other classes I enjoyed
I very much liked History and Geography - I did both subjects up to the Intermediate Certificate. By then I was being steered towards choosing Science subjects for the Leaving Cert, so I did not continue with either. Rody Ryan was our History teacher - only he could make an exciting subject boring. He spent most of the class writing on the board extracts from the course textbook, which we all had in front of us, and made us take down his notes. While I wanted to learn more about The Flight of the Earls and the War of the Three Kingdoms - I learned how to transcribe text instead. I also liked Fr Patrick's Latin classes, but not the Latin part. I loved Roman History and "Padjo" keep my interest in Julius Caesar and the Romans alive despite me being poor at Latin vocabulary and grammar. Incidentally, Fr Patrick is the only teacher to have ever thrown me out of class!

My Least Favourite Class
I had to think about this one. History (see above) came close, as did Chemistry for the Leaving Cert. Religion classes were not that interesting either, but there was less disinterest in the Church at that time compared to now. The "honour" of my least favourite class goes to Irish. In the year before I went to Roscrea I had completed 6th class in the all-Irish school in Trabolgan, Co Cork. I left there with a Fáinne Nua (which I later lent to a Ruane boy from Mayo in Roscrea and never saw it again), and the ability to speak Irish fluently. Somehow, five years in CCR knocked this out of me. By the time I got to the Intermediate Cert (when I got a barely deserved D) I had lost all interest. Trying to teach Irish through English does not work. Despite his best efforts our teacher (Mr McD) could not get me to build upon my foundations set in Trabolgan. The incessant emphasis on grammar and poetry bored the shite out of me, meanwhile in French class we were using tapes and images which was the way to go. I know that my poor performance in Irish was not due to my school and teacher alone - but the slow decline from 2A to 6B, and the inability to hold a conversation in Irish started in CCR in 1972.

"2" for Study
By the time I got to 6th year, I had never got a dreaded "2" for study which meant a trip to the President Fr Peter. By the time I got to 6th year (and 18 years of age) I was also beginning to become less interested in actually studying - I think I spent most of my time thinking about sex, even though I hadn't a clue what it was! I started to mess in study - students' performance in study was graded 0 - 6, but it was really just a system to keep us behaving. I usually got a 3 or a 4 which indicated I was not on the radar of the priests who supervised study. My first "2" was for messing with Niall Duff - we were "shooting" each other with "machine guns" (our rulers) and idiotically we did not see Fr Kevin coming to catch us. The second "2" was for reading a novel during study: Arthur Hailey's "Hotel". The Mire caught me reading this, confiscated this "dirty" book, and gave me a "2" for study. Fr Peter was sympathetic when I went to see him. I'm sure he was bored with endless excuses and trivial matters - he let me off with a warning not to do it again.

While not quite education, Mass was for our benefit to develop us as men as well as being good for the soul. If I recall correctly, in the years before 1972 Mass was compulsory every day, but after 1972 it was optional on some days. Sometimes I went just to skip study. The church had a hierarchy where younger boys sat at the front and older boys at the back. At times Mass was cool - especially when we had songs like "Let It Be" and "With a Little Help From My Friends" as hymns, for a few minutes we were Holy Beatles. For the most part our behaviour was exemplary - Mass was not the place to be messing under the watchful eyes of Fr Peter and God Himself. Studs on our shoes were very popular in the 1970s, and it was almost a competition to see who could make the most noise walking back to our seats after Communion. There was always an enthusiastic rendition of "Hail Redeemer" at the end of Sunday Mass - 300 boys belted it out as if our lives depended on it.

There it is - some memories that were personal to me. I know that there might be some CCR Alumni reading this who will have different recollections to me, and may even disagree with some of mine. Yet these are my memories, good and bad. I'd love to have a computer full of videos, selfies, and photos of all five years to refresh and relive some memories, but the 1970s and my teenage years was mostly about living in a boarding school with a great bunch of classmates disconnected from the rest of the world. This year we will be celebrating 40 years since we left CCR, this might be the last one before the school closes. Back in 1977 the world was at our feet, and none of us would have predicted the life we have now. Equally, none of us would have predicted that such a vibrant College would close 40 years later. I and my classmates have a lot to thank CCR for - I will be sorry to see it close.


  1. ​​​​​Great and balanced blog on CCR, Eugene; brings back the memories, good and not so good.

    I remember my first day in Roscrea when we went out for Rugby training after class with two of the college staff. We were due to play a game against Birr Town the following Saturday. Can't recall the staff names now; Johnnny Burke and Fr.Kevin perhaps. Anyway, we're all standing there on the pitch and Mr Burke says, "Okay boys, Backs stay here with me and Forwards go over there with Fr. Kevin".

    I'd never played rugby before and knew little about the game but the possibility of try scoring and glory sent me to Fr. Kevin's group.

    Big mistake; my ears are still sore from the scrunching they got the following Saturday against Birr.

    Cricket is a game for gentlemen played by gentlemen,
    Football is a game for gentlemen played by hooligans,
    Rugby Union is a game for hooligans played by gentlemen,
    And Rugby League is a game for hooligans played by hooligans

    Tosh 72-77

  2. Hi Richard,

    Really great to hear from you - I don't think we have crossed paths since 1977.

    Please get in touch direct by email (eoloughlin@gmail.com).