The CBS, The Bookie and prayers for teacher

CBS Secondary, James’s Street: Our school of excellence

Comment and Opinion – By Jimmy Rhatigan

THE fantastic feat of three students of vision epitomises the brilliant educational strides made by Kilkenny CBS Secondary School over the years.

Fifty plus years ago when we, the elder lemons, sat in the classrooms every day, make that now and then for some, it was a different place.

It was similar in many ways but was dissimilar in that, understandably, facilities were quite frugal, class furniture was certainly not top of the class and the only real meeting place was the bicycle shed to the rear of the school.

It was a shed for your Raleigh or grandfather’s bike but for 6th Years in particular it was a privileged hideaway where you could light up and puff a fag without any worry of incrimination.

Times have changed and certainly for the better. Although, to be fair, we enjoyed our gig. In the ago you became a ‘man’ and enjoyed privilege status when you reached your final year as smoking remained taboo for all other students.

Perhaps the big thing that hasn’t changed is the rapport that was always there between teachers and students, most Christian Brothers included.

It is impossible to remember all the names to do a head count, but in the ‘Sixties there may have been more Brothers than lay teachers.

Or, at best, or worst, depending on your outlook, it was next door to 50/50.
Most of the Brothers and lay teachers were blessed with buckets of nous and intelligence.

We think in particular of Tony Henderson, Lar Hunt, Mick Bolger, Paul Glennon, Mrs Dunne, the first lady teacher in the CBS Secondary and on the non-lay side there were Brothers Leahy, Lynch and Malone who were particularly student-friendly and a pleasure to work with.

To be fair, students of yesteryear were also somewhat different to the learners of today, or at least the pupils we have come in contact with.

Those we respectfully call old school didn’t have the confidence that is so obvious in the modern student.

For instance, half a century or more ago if a call went out for volunteers to say a few words at a school event, everyone, certainly a majority, would disappear in a flash.

Conscription was teacher’s only hope.

In more recent times we have enjoyed wonderful school awards’ nights where unbelievably confident young men displayed superb oratorical skills and were a credit to a corps of parents and teachers.

In latter years there were no such things as awards’ evenings. Education was lashed out from well-worn books of learning, and while the system produced some great scholars, no names, no pack drill, the going was tough, particularly in Latin which was probably the most nagging thorn in some students’ sides.

Mention of Latin leads to a story that is worth recalling. We had many Latin masters over the years but one in particular stood out.

He was an elderly gentleman, who, despite his years, was hugely enthusiastic and knowledgeable about his teaching and didn’t stand on ceremony whenever his words fell on deaf ears or lugs that simply didn’t want to listen.

Mensa, nauta, agricola or whatever, we had the basics but when it came to Latin prose many of us were about as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike.

In our class, we had a great guy we called The Bookie. He was the one who during a free class told us about racing odds, cross doubles, trebles and all sorts of different betting combinations.

He sometimes say, ‘I have a good one lads, if any ye are carrying’, which of course meant if we had a few pennies, three-penny bits, tanners (sixpences) or even half pennies in our mostly redundant trouser pockets.

To make a long story longer, it came to pass that our Latin teacher, God rest his soul, fell quite ill and a companion teacher asked our class to pray for his recovery. Naturally we agreed.

That was until the bookie gave 2/1 that he would go to his eternal reward and 1/1 that he would not go on to God’s Garden.

Some of us had a conundrum, a real puzzler.

Depending on where you committed your tanner, you either prayed or didn’t.

When the good man passed on, The Bookie wasn’t happy.

So the ailing teacher never had a chance from the word go.

To be fair, practically all students had real respect for teachers and for the most part that respect was mutual. Paul Glennon was one of our favourites. He was a brilliant teacher of English and a true gent too.

Many teachers were part of what we were. Tony Hendeson played soccer on the old Castlecomer Road and was quite a performer, a thou shall not pass defender.

The game of soccer was truly in vogue here in the mid-Sixties after England won the World Cup and that led to a strike by some of us at the CBS who wanted to swap soccer for the traditional game of hurling.

Today, the student and teacher families are probably no different. In our dealings with the masters in more recent times we have always got a warm reception and great co-operation.

Having  strayed off on a tangent after paragraph one, we should mention that the feat in question was our Page 3, 4&5 splash story of today’s Reporter where we highlight the vision and brilliance of three students who have brought national innovation cheer to the school, our Alma Mater.

From frugal surrounds, the CBS now boasts hallowed halls, brilliant classrooms and a refreshing air of camaraderie, a feel good factor permeates throughout the building which, ironically, now has a giant axe hanging over it, as the school prepares to move to a super school on the Freshford Road.

Perhaps neatly packed boxes of small pieces of stone from the original buildings would prove to be good fund-raisers to help collect what the The Bookie would have called dosh that would perhaps pay for the foundations for what promises to be a state of the art facility for future generations of CBS boys.

It is not a very innovative idea and one can only guess as to what odds The Bookie would give as to its possible success or otherwise.

Our view is that such a scheme would be brilliantly supported, as a majority of those who have had the privilege of being students of Kilkenny CBS Secondary, Primary too, at some time or other, have bags of fond memories.

Even the bad times were good but that might prove to be a

head-scratcher if our wannabe turf accountant were to open another book, fifty years later.

It could well be 4/5 fail; 3/1 succeed.

Our aim would be to empty The Bookie’s satchel.

It wouldn’t be the first time.

Regardless, it is a good bet that fund-raising for a new home will be a bumper success, particularly with principal Tom Clarke and his team of teachers and administrators, some from Tipperary, others from Catland, all pucking in the same direction.

The omens are positive and please God the final result will be good too.