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Dunmore East
Dunmore East is a small fishing village on the south-east coast of Ireland, 16kms from the city of Waterford. It sits on the western side of the Waterford Harbour Estuary, 4.8kms from Hook Head in Wexford.
Dunmore East, Co. Waterford, Ireland


The old building creaked under the weight of the January gale. Great sheets of driving

rain lashed the windows, the roof slates rattled, the walls shook, and every now and then

a back draft of coal smoke came down the chimney and half filled the class room.

The school itself contained three rooms. The big room where the head Teacher, Sean

O'Mullain instructed the older children, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth class, and the small

room where the younger children learned under the watchful eye of Mrs Flynn.

The main door opened up into a cloak room where

we hung our rain sodden duffle coats, and the toilets

were in the school yard at the rear of the building.

The school yard was filled with pebbles and

surrounded on all sides by a stone wall.

Outside, the pine trees that encircled the school were

bending and swaying in the wind, it would be a long

wet walk home. We had no school bus, and cars

were scarce, some parents had cars, but they were

seldom used to transport children to school. It was Friday afternoon and library time. This

was one of our favourite pastimes away from the rigours of everyday school work. The

teacher allowed us time on Friday afternoons to go to the big glass cabinet at the back of

the class room and select a book to read from the library. I was forever engrossed in

“Irish Sagas and Folk Tales”, “Old Celtic Romances”, and “Greek Mythology”.

I had a particular interest in some of the old stories. “The Salmon of Knowledge” for

instance, where Fionn burned his thumb on the flesh of a magic salmon and from then on

could tell the future, and The Fir Bolg, or “The Belly Men”, one of the first races to inhabit

Ireland . Rumour had it that they developed a type of spear which after entering their

enemies body opened up into numerous prongs, so when it was withdrawn it had the

effect of removing his entrails. I dreamed of having such a weapon in the Dunmore wood,

and the respect it would command during our mock battles which we fought in the wood

every day after school.

Finally the clock struck three and it was time to go home for the day.

We would run down Killea hill, the wind near blowing

us away and the rain soaking us to the skin... We

would sit near the strand wall and wait for the big

waves to come crashing in, hoping that a car would

pass and not make it to the bottom of Longs hill, its

occupants maybe forced to abandon it in the middle

of the road

Of course it was not all storms and winter time during

our days in the old school. The spring would see us

wearing short pants and brown Clarks “start right” sandals, instead of our winter long

pants and shoes or wellies. Some of us cycled to school on the cold crispy winter's

mornings, rubbing our hands together from the cold, and some of us hated school to the

point where we would have to be physically dragged into the class room by a Parent

being helped along by the Teacher.

I can remember playing in the school yard and seeing the Teacher knocking on the

window to get us to return to class. I can remember standing in line at the teacher's desk

to buy a twopenny jotter or a six penny copy, or a nib for a pen. I remember learning our

first Irish songs and tunes which down the years I have often hummed and whistled in far

away lands. I remember writing with ink, and the teacher filling the ink wells from a big

bottle of black ink he had stored in a cupboard behind his desk. I remember blotting

paper, and of course being walloped with the teachers stick, most of which I deserved. I

remember wandering Musicians, Inspectors, and Priests and Bishops coming to the class

room. I remember the Teacher using Dettol to disinfect a cut knee, and lighting a few

lumps of coal with pieces of firelighter, during the frosty winter mornings.

On Easter Sunday 1966 we gathered at the school, children, parents, and guests. A

select few of the senior pupils stood up and recited “The Proclamation of Irish

Independence” acting out the parts of our dead 1916 heroes. We raised the Tricolour on

our new flag pole in the old school yard and sang “Amhran na bhFiann” to commemorate

50 years since the Easter Rising. I could see the pride in the face of our head master

Sean O'Mullain, for not alone was he a fine teacher but also a true Irishman in every

sense of the word.

His surroundings were meagre and his pupils were mostly the poor sons of Fishermen

and Farmers, but his efforts in our early education were second to none. In the cramped

confines of Killea School , void of any of the trapping of today's modern facilities, he

taught us reading, writing, and arithmetic, explained our heritage and the history of our

people, and as children gave us our first sense of identification, the fact that we were

Irish children and could be proud of it.

There's a new school at Killea now. It's a fine modern facility with bright and airy

classrooms, running water, and state of the art technology. The old school is derelict, its

once pebbled yard is covered in grass, and weeds grow freely from the walls that once

confined us during our young years. I stood in the yard a while ago and closed my eyes

to listen in the warm summer breeze to the sound of silence. Away in a long lost forgotten

time I could hear the Teacher's voice once again instructing us in the history of our land,

and of course the great deeds of Fionn and the Fianna. I saw the children playing on the

stone pebbled school yard, and I saw little boys dressed in short pants and brown

sandals walk past me because play time was over and the Teacher had knocked on the

window telling them to return to class. It was a Friday afternoon and their smiling faces

told me it was library day.

From the short story writings of Mick D.

Killea National School

The Short Story Writings of Mick D.