There were good teachers there, but one vicious man called Brother Kelly. Some lads got there because their parents paid the fees: some gained a scholarship. A few of them learned to regret it.
There were heavy iron railings surrounding the school and passers-by could look in and see Kelly lashing the late-comers, many of them with not a shoe to their foot, with his thick black strap. Locals, and women on their way to the mill in Dromalane – or to the pawn shops – would cat-call through the railings over the brutal slapping on frosty winter mornings.
Anyway, it came time for Jimmy (Kirk) Ruddy to find work. His mother sought a job for him as a message-boy pushing one of those shop bikes with the basket in front. Indeed she successfully arranged such a job for him in Paddy Crilly’s butcher’s shop in Sugar Island, dependent only upon a suitable reference from his school.
Therein lay the problem.
Kirk had never been to school.
Kirk’s Mum walked down the Linenhall Block 5 to number 50 where Dickie Rodgers’s parents then resided. (They later moved to number 10).
‘Could our Jimmy go to school tomorrow with your Dickie?’
It was arranged. Young Dickie was asked advice as to what young Jimmy would require. Never one to miss such an opportunity, Dickie soon produced a list (jotter, pen, pencil etc.) that would require Mrs Ruddy to part with 1/- , or twelve pence, a sizable sum in those days. Another Square lad, Paddy Ruddy (no relation) made up the threesome that set off the following morning on Kirk’s first venture to school.
First port of call was O’Hagan’s sweetie shop on Hill Street just across from the Town Hall. You could get a halfpenny twist of sweets then and each boy purchased his treat with Kirk’s money. Next stop was Joe Pagney’s Fish & Chip shop on Lower Hill Street (where Dirty Dicks’ was in later years). Pagneys was frying from early morning. Three separate pennyworths of chips was ordered and soon consumed.
Eventually – if somewhat late – the scholars made it through the school gates. Kelly was waiting.
‘Where do you think you’re going, Rodgers, at this time of the morning?’
Dickie got a few heavy slaps. In his turn, the same fate awaited Paddy.
‘And who are you? And what time do you think this is?’
Kelly addressed Kirk, holding up his wrist to reveal his expensive watch.
Before he could explain that he’d never been to school and didn’t know how to read the clock, Kirk was reeling across the playground at the blow from the back of Kelly’s hand!
He scarpered off home as fast as his legs could carry him.
And that was the end of Kirk Ruddy’s schooling!
Needless to say, there was never any reference produced!