Briathra NeamhRiálta and the men of Easter week

When I was in primary school (1980s) the curriculum was still very traditional and dominated by the ‘three Rs’ (Reading, wRiting, aRithemetic!)

I missed out on school extensions twice, firstly I was in sixth class when the funding came through for my primary school to be upgraded, and secondly I spent but only the last of my secondary school days in a gleaming new community school, having been housed in CBS prefabs hitherto.

And yet I would say I had an excellent education.

Aside from the 3 Rs there was another firm fixture on the CBS schedule and it never varied. I am reminded of it now in these days of glorious sunshine, of returning to the classroom to see the glint in teachers eye. Each day the lesson after lunch was the same, glorious and unchanging. Easter 1916.

We listened in wonder as we heard how a band of gallant men had held out against the might of empire. How by Pearses side they bravely died as cruel Britannia sent the cannon into Dublin. The mythical power of blood sacrifice. The symbolism of Easter rebirth. And the eternal epilogoue of four green fields with one still in bondage. It was a wistful class, as a school boy listening transfixed, the telling brought all the more to life by the pure drop allegedly enjoyed by the master during the break hour.

A noble man and a passionate republican that teacher inspired many. I stayed friendly with him long after and even used visit his house near the train station ocasionaly when returning from college, where we would swap books and discuss the civil war. In fact his Eoin Neeson account is in a box in my attic still.

My grandfather who passed away when I was younger still also left an indelible impact ; I remember well those evenings listening to how the yellow press did for Parnell. But that classroom was a further and significant chapter in my political awakening.

One classmate from that time later joined the IRA and is no longer with us. I retained the Republican beliefs and eventually joined Fianna Fáil when at university. Others may have been influenced to greater or lesser degrees. But those Summer afternoons spellbound by epic Easter deeds will always be with me.

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