Memories of Dreenan School
The Bard of Armagh
I would like to send my best wishes to all past pupils and former teachers of Dreenan School.
I was a student there from 1945 until 1952. A group of us would often walk to school from Drummuck to Dreenan. In addition to my family, this group included Brigid McCrystal, Marie McCrystal, Sheila McCrystal and Paddy McCrystal. I also seem to remember walking it on my own.
This was a truly magical journey. We sometimes started by crossing our moss. Thoughts of Andy Mooney; the quiet man. I remember passing Charlie McCann’s house with his very tempting apple trees. Then down a steep hill with stones on the road over a river and up the other side with foxgloves on both sides of the road. Past the crow’s nest where in a past time the Kellys gave my Uncle Barney a gold sovereign before he went to America. Barney if you never spend this you’ll always have money. The next moss had tall heather and was very exciting. The best part was the rock where you could imagine yourself to be a brave cowboy dodging rifle bullets. Finally across a field near Rankins and over the wide concrete road and into Dreenan School.
One memory is, of writing with white chalk on irregular black pieces of slates. Things were often black and white in Dreenan School. Miss Mooney, sister of Andy, the quiet man, had some unique qualities and some favourite expressions. The term` poisoned pup` springs to mind and I seem to recall my cheeks being pulled. Any child she thought was non musical was called a` crow`. Who knows how many pop stars Dreenan would have produced if we had been given more positive encouragement. She dispersed nicknames like a man sowing grass seed. I was bold Phelim Brady the Bard of Armagh and my brother Brian was Brian Boru. You got into trouble if you made a blot when writing with those pens that had nibs and now called old fashioned.
In the senior school the five standards were usually, organized in two groups. You could learn things in the junior group just listening to what the senior group was doing. There was big maps of Ireland on the wall and a dusty wooden floor with knots into which canes would periodically disappear. Miss Boyle, my aunt, taught some Irish as well to prepare us for the feis in Ballinascreen. We did mental arithmetic standing up in a group; sums as they were called. Cleaning the offices was a big civic responsibility and I remember sharing this important task with Henry McPeake murmuring quietly about burying golden treasure.
We did learn some poetry in Dreenan. I recall learning a very sad poem about a certain Lucy Gray;
`The storm came on before its time;`
She wandered up and down;
And many a hill did Lucy climb;
But never reached the town.- William Wordsworth.
I am still doing sums. But as past pupils of Dreenan we can all say with Patrick Kavanagh the Monaghan poet `We have lived in important places`.
1945 - 1952