“There’s a job going there if you like.” An early school leaver’s story

My name is Michael. Many years ago I started in William Street School in Junior Infants – just off the North Strand. I then went up to high babies. I was there for a few years. Primary was the last schooling I ever done. That was my school days.  I had my name down to go the North Strand Tech but I never bothered. 

It was the end of the summer. I was supposed to go but then I got a job. A mate of mine growing up in the same road, a couple of years older than me, left school to get a job. He did the same things what I done, he didn’t go to secondary school. He was there a few years. “There’s a job going there if you like.” he said to me. So I said Ma, if you’re sending me to school, I’m not going. I’d rather just go to work and see what it’s like. I stayed in the job for 5 or 6 years. There was an opening there. 

I drove the bread van for Johnston, Mooney and O’Brien on Jones Road.  It was on the electric vans delivering bread.  Every day I was up at 5am to be in work for 6. The route was from the city to Coolock.  I had to do a few things in my job. I had to make sure the van was charged. The bread came in from Johnston, Mooney and O’Brien bakehouse in Ballsbridge. It came in on lorry loads and we had to fill the bread in to cages in the van.  At 7am I had to deliver the bread and we were finished by 1pm. 

I don’t regret leaving school. When my Ma sent me there I never got there.  Every day I would always meet someone who wasn’t going to school, who wasn’t in the humour of going. They were in the same boat.  My mother always got me up, got me breakfast and got me ready but I never made it in. I said to my Ma, you’re sending me to school but I am not learning anything. 

The older lads in my area knew the guy who went around in a push bike from the schools. He was like a summons officer. My Ma never got the letter from the school to stay we were mitching. He was told by the older lads not to come into our area. If you missed so many days you’d get a letter from the school. I think this lad on the push bike was a retired guard so a lot of the lads in the area stopped him and told him not to come in. 

Nearly everyday there was someone mitching from the flats.  Most people were out every day, in Spencer Dock, on the trains, going into the back of lorries, playing around in an empty Croke Park.

Croke Park was my second home. Even if a match wasn’t on, we would go for a bit of craic. We used to just jump the wall in. It was 1980 or 81.  I’ve been watching in nearly every all Ireland, even if Dublin wasn’t playing.  We would wait until the stands were empty and when all the culchies, the country people left we would be looking for loose change on the ground. I’ve been in Croke Park over a hundred times in my life. 

My own parents finished school but they went working straight away.  They did a higher level of school than I ever done.  Now my own young fella is 16 and he is in school. I am going to make sure he will go. But he loves it, that’s the thing. I hated school.  We had the Christian Brothers and nine times out of ten you got a hit of a hurley stick. It was like you just had to do what you were told. But the good thing was that we never got any homework from them. We got a pass to play Gaelic.  We were forever playing in Croke Park and they were happy with that.  I played years ago for a club but because of the hurling, I was coming home with cuts to the face, cuts on the head, whatever. My Ma said, if you don’t want to do the hurling, there is no point in going to school. My teacher was a Christian Brother and they were mad for the physical education. It was easy for my Ma to let me give up school but we had to warm up my Da. I think that is because he finished school himself.

We had a bad bringing up with the Christian Brothers.  It was about discipline with them. Their word was god. You couldn’t cross the line or you’d get a bang. 

My reasons for returning now is to better myself, for reading and writing and spelling. It’s not for work, it’s something personal. It is something I always wanted to do.  It’s not about certificates or badges or anything.  It’s my own personal thing and something I always wanted to do. I’ve been saying it for years. It’s about time I got up off my ass and did it. If I don’t do it now I’d probably say I should have done it years ago when I had the chance.  I want to do it.  

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