CBs finally pull out of Northern Ireland…

I never experienced first hand the hand of the Christian Brothers; though our history teacher used to enjoy regaling us with stories of the rough justice uncompromisingly handed out to the boys of the Falls Road… Pol thinks we should spare them the hysterical stereotypical treatment:

Some commentators argue that the ethos of the Christian Brothers was very nationalistic — for which you can read that they were too pro-republican. Nothing could have been further from the truth in my experience from the late 1970s to the mid-1980s. The Brothers favoured the Rosary over revolution and would dearly have loved some of us to either join the order or become priests. (One of the first tasks in any language class was to learn the Hail Mary. I used to be able to recite it in French, Italian, German and Irish.)

Catholicism trumped nationalism; we were educated as Catholic Irish and not Irish Catholics.

And there was the effects of a broad curriculum:

Irish was compulsory until O-level — but then so was French, maths, English and religion. It cannot be a coincidence either that many of the books on the curriculum were anti-war in their themes: O’Casey’s Juno and the Paycock was hardly a ringing endorsement of violent republicanism; the poetry of Wilfred Owen did not speak of the glory of dying for one’s country (whatever the colour of its flag); Julius Caesar did not praise politics so much as bury them and the short stories of Heinrich Böll often showed the human tragedy of total war.

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  • CS Parnell

    I was also at St Mary’s. I don’t think the brothers were republicans in the Gerry Adams sense – more Fianna-Fail-esque than anything.

    But I am not sad to see the back of them.

    The forthcoming collapse of the Catholic Church in Ireland – now all the Poles are going home, will be a joy to behold.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    “[i]I never experienced first hand [u]the hand[/u] of the Christian Brothers;”[/]

    Interestingly put, Mick. In what way were they hands on?

  • computer programmer extraordinaire

    italics [/i] testing

  • Brian Walker

    I remember an old friend recalling Geography class at age 12. In his innocence, he thought there were two places, once called Londonderry and the other called Derry. In his map drawing exercise he found Londonderry and duly wrote it in. The inspecting CB caught sight of this and exploded. He knuckled dusted the wee boy on the temple to the chant of: “There’s -no-such-place-as Londonderry,there’s-
    no-such-place-as-Londonderry.”

    Ah the memories of youth CBs best immortalised perhaps by Joyce and McGahern?

  • Dec

    Thoise of us fortunate enough to go to Park Lodge PS will have nothing but glowing memories of the Christian Brothers. Other CB schools I cannot vouch for.

  • Grassy Noel

    I went to St Marys’ as well, and agree with Pol and the rest. Opposition to, and revulson at, republican violence ran through lessons like writing through a stick of rock.

    My old politics teacher – the brilliant Mr Keville – was an SDLP man as was Ben Carragher – they would never, ever countenance giving the job to Pat Rice who was associated with Sinn Fein.

    I remember the odd fist-fight during politics between the Shinners and Stoops as fallout from an argument during class over republican ‘legitimate targets’.

    I disagree with CS Parnell (the one on here) in that I never really heard a single nationalist thing from the mouths of the brothers, or any teacher for that matter. I only became nationalist-minded when I went to Queens as it was something I never gave much thought to before – I was more interested in political ideologies and the American political system.

  • Grassy Noel

    ADDS – Important to note, I mean the borthers never would countenance giving the politics teacher job to Pat Rice.

  • Buile Suibhne

    I’m with Dec. Brother Holian was and is one of the kindest most gentle men you could ever meet.

  • Terti

    @Grassy Noel

    I disagree with CS Parnell (the one on here) in that I never really heard a single nationalist thing from the mouths of the brothers, or any teacher for that matter. I only became nationalist-minded when I went to Queens as it was something I never gave much thought to before – I was more interested in political ideologies and the American political system.

    Strange you should say that. I went to a state (nominally Protestant) school and am from a working class area that would be considered Loyalist and never thought of myself even as unionist, or political in any way, while seldom meeting Catholics I thought they were just like me and any kind of opposition between the “two tribes” was outdated nonsense.

    It was only when I went to Queens and found the active “the Gael is what must be assimilated to” (or whatever the De Valera quote is) element there that I changed to view that many Catholics were in fact not the same as me and would not tolerate live and let live, and I became a Loyalist. E.g. the green domination of the Students Union, bilingual signs etc.

    The thing about this is that it is so seemingly contrary to the dogma of the “anti-sectarian” narrative that holds that sectarian tribalism is something that dominates working class areas with false consciousness and from which can be escaped from “meeting the other side”. I wouldn’t have considered myself a loyalist until I met it’s counterpart. My Britishness was simply passive and “part of the furniture” until this happened at Queens.

    I wonder if anyone has had a similar experience?

  • Suzie

    I’m quite like yourself Terti, brought up as passive British and only when I went to Magee Campus in Londonderry did I experience how the other side viewed myself, especially those who were learning Irish and Irish history. It was like they were studying these subjects as a way of revenge for all of the injustices ‘their people’ endured. I was totally gobsmacked by how many of these young people allowed their lives to be dictated over events in the past, especially how naive they were to Irish Republican propaganda.

  • Harry Flashman

    I remember in 1994 following some bit of rioting or other in Derry having to go along to Strand Road RUC station to sort out issues resulting from the damages, on this occasion I was accompanied by my father, a man would been through the Brothers in the 1930’s. We were dealing with an officer from Belfast, an inspector or superintendent I think, who it turned out (and I have no idea how it came up) happened also to be a product of the CB’s in Belfast, admittedly from a later generation, the 1960’s I presume.

    My old man launched into his lifelong denunciation of the Brothers, my Dad hated them, not on political grounds but on their sadistic teaching methods but the RUC man respectfully disagreed, he couldn’t speak highly enough of the Christian Brothers, to him the education he received from them was the making of him, my father looked at him quizzically and assumed the Brothers of Belfast were different men from those of Derry.

    I merely retell the anecdote for what it’s worth.

  • Dec

    …did I experience how the other side viewed myself, especially those who were learning Irish and Irish history. It was like they were studying these subjects as a way of revenge for all of the injustices ‘their people’ endured.

    What happened? Didn’t they tug their forelocks at you? Still interesting as your summation of Irish Language and culture is (“Revenge”), perhaps dewy-eyed recollections of how taigs spoiled everything belong under another thread entitled “This used to be a great wee country till the fenians ruined it.”

  • Suzie

    I am only telling it as it was in the early 90s. The vast majority learning Irish and Irish history at Magee were on a revenge mission. They were not concerned in the beauty of the language, culture or history, they seen it as a goal to a united Ireland. I know this because I’ve witnessed it. The cultish behaviour of the Irish language brigade was unhealthy.

  • kensei

    Suzie

    What is wrong with a United Ireland as a goal?

  • Suzie

    There is nothing wrong with such a goal, but I have seen the goal destroy social relations with other students because many of these young people create their lifes around this dream and set up barriers between themselves and others. The goal to young students in Magee became an obsession, where it was interwoven with other subjects like Irish language and Irish history, tarnishing the pure nature of those subjects. Lines were blurred.

  • Dec

    Politics on a student campus – whodathought!

  • kensei

    So Suzie, let me get this right. Some young people have a perfectly valid political goal and also enjoy other associated activities which are also perfectly valid.

    I have only ever heard the “I was radicalised/becanme more extreme at uni” thing from Unionists. I wondered if we were really that bad, or Unionists were just shocked to discover that yes, Nationalists want a United Ireland and like Irish culture and are not exactly like Unionists. Your answers are leading me in one direction.

    tarnishing the pure nature of those subjects

    I am similarly at a loss as to why they need to be “pure” by some subjective definition. People can do the same thing for different reasons. Culture is not “pure”, it has too many involved with it to be anything other than unfaithful and dirty.

  • kensei

    Should be “too many people invloved in it”

  • Chris Donnelly

    The lazy sectarian assumptions about the Christian Brothers are often repeated by those with little experience either of being taught by Brothers directly or a Christian Brothers’ school.

    As many will attest to- in Ireland and beyond- the culture of using violence in the classroom was unfortunately not restricted to the Christian Brothers.

    I count myself privileged to have attended both a Christian Brothers’ primary school and grammar school in Belfast, where the Brothers have a proud record of having provided education to the catholic community in disadvantaged communities.

    Having attended the same post-primary as Pol, Dec and it would appear many others on the site, I find it deeply ironic to read clearly ignorant suggestions that the Brothers during the most recent conflict were pro-republican.

    Somebody mentioned my old Politics teacher above, an SDLP member who enjoyed discarding with the syllabus and having a good ol’ row with us republicans in his class. I used to meet him in Malachi Curran’s famed Anne Boal Inn every now and then after that, reliving some of those earlier discussions.

    As for Pat Rice: I’ve never heard anybody question his integrity as a teacher, nor indeed as a person. I might have disagreed profoundly with the politics of Ben Caraher and Kieran Keville, but they- like Pat- were excellent teachers.

    Brian Walker’s
    Here’s a little gem I was told by a fellow primary school teacher.

    A catholic by background- but by no means practice- said teacher found herself providing substitute cover in a Controlled (i.e. ‘Protestant’) primary school. After several days, she was sent for by the Principal who chastised her for having mentioned the name ‘Derry’ in passing to the children of her class (she’d been asked where she had gone at the weekend.)

    The incident occurred three months ago…

  • Mick Fealty

    Guys, can you not let people tell their piece without getting so defensive?

    My starkest recollection of campus politics is post Hunger Strike and pretty mundane. In the Union bar we met up with a guy who’d been at my school but had moved to Lurgan before sixth form.

    In the midst of the conversation he told a story about a nasty confrontation (for which read scrap) he’d had with a group of Protestants in Lurgan, then remembering my mate Ian (who’d been an infrequent Saturday night visitor to the Cumann Cluan Ard, and so had a few words of Irish) was at the table reassured him that it was all okay because we were all ‘nationalists’.

    What was at the core of nationalist student politics in the 80s and 90s may have been sincerely held social and cultural concerns, but it also had its own ugly edges.

  • Mick Fealty

    My apologies for taking matters even further off topic…

  • I find it odd that some on this thread seem to think that people learn the Irish or Irish history in order to gain revenge for repression of same by authorities here. It’s bad enough when people complain about “Irish” being rammed down their throats etc – but to have people complain about others learning Irish sounds to me like begrudgery.

    The same goes for complaints about bilingual signposts – how does including some Irish on a signpost in a University turn one into a loyalist? As if that isn’t a cult of its own?

  • CS Parnell

    Pat Rice the georgraphy master? God, my memory is going.

    For sure, there was more politics dummed into us at Holy Child by various teachers than there was at St. Mary’s – but the ethos of the place was clear.

    As when the first Irish lesson on the first day in first year the Irish teacher made us take out our Atlases look at the linguistic spread across Europe, asked us to identify all the countries where Celtic langauges were spoken and then asked us why Ireland was special of all of them?

    The reason was it was independent.

    [Of course probably the only place where a Celtic language will be in widespread everyday use in a century’s time is the decidedly not independent Wales, but we’ll let that one pass.]

  • Gregory

    Themmuns must appreciate Ussuns bet we do not ahve to apprecite them. Simple.

    (Test Word: Europe!)

  • Dec

    Having attended the same post-primary as Pol, Dec and it would appear many others on the site

    Chris

    Splutter…I made no such claim. Why have Glen Road Hamburger when you can get Antrim Road steak?

  • CS Parnell

    Dec now outed as a middle class bastard 🙂

    How has he been able to take the time out of his surgery or from the confessional to shhot the breeze with the plebs of the West?

  • Grassy Noel

    C.S. Parnell – you must be old school as that just seems so bizarre and whacko when set against my experience of the tyrannical Jock McFlynn!

    CD – Keville, Carragher and Rice were excellent teachers – I wasn’t trying to imply anything else.

  • kensei

    Mick

    Guys, can you not let people tell their piece without getting so defensive?

    No. If people are going to come out with it, then they should be prepared to get called on it.

    What was at the core of nationalist student politics in the 80s and 90s may have been sincerely held social and cultural concerns, but it also had its own ugly edges.

    Correct. But thiose aren’t the things people appear to be objecting to, which was my point.

  • Dec

    How has he been able to take the time out of his surgery or from the confessional to shhot the breeze with the plebs of the West?

    Prudent time manangement and the Golf Club now has wireless connection. Seems Dunville Park has too, judging by this thread.

  • kensei

    CS

    I love how St Macs gets it both ways. From the hard schools, it’s “St Mac, right, all fucking fruits aye, like, what” and form the posh schools like (spit) Methody it’s all “Oh, Dady told me to stay away form thos eruffians”. Screw all of you.

    Anyway, the plebs (and yes, some did attend St Macs) in North Belfast got it worse than the plebs in West Belfast. If we didn’t respond to our lot by nicking a load of cars, well that just speaks to the character of the people, you know.

  • CS Parnell

    Dec: Cheeky bastard. All us revolutionaries live in Norfolk Park these days I’ll have you know.

    Grassy – I reckon I am a contemporary with yer man in the Bel Tel

  • CS Parnell

    kensei, suck it up

  • Dublin voter

    Great thread!

    The reference to the Christian Brothers “pulling out” of Northern Ireland. I presume this refers to their setting up of a thing called the Edmund Rice Schools Trust which will run their schools from now on. If so, they are pulling out of the Republic too. They’re doing it basically cos there’s so few of them left. But don’t worry the ERST is Catholic and indeed, Brother, controlled. erst.ie.

    I went to a well-known CB secondary school in Dublin in the seventies. I’m always suspicious of the stereotype of the Brothers being savage violent types. The ones who taught me weren’t. A few were capable of violence and did sometimes inflict it as did a few lay teachers. As indeed did (and still do) Gardaí with young teenage offenders across town. So don’t blame the Brothers for societal norms.

    Finally, I’m intrigued by the off-topicish posts on how some people only “became” loyalists/unionists when confronted with overtly nationalist activity in college. I suppose that’s in us all (on both sides) – I try to be neutral, to respect people of all identities, to be reasonable. But I was on a train in England in the 80s with my mother. We mentioned to a fellow-passenger that we were going to Dun Laoghaire from Holyhead by boat. And then he said: “How will you get from there to Dublin then, donkey and cart, haw, haw, haw”? That kind of kicked off a primeval nationalist Brit-hating feeling for just a few secs.

    Finally, to any unionists who want to hear this. Having a love of the Irish language does not make one a raving Republican.

  • RepublicanStones

    I attended the CBS in Omagh, throughly enjoyed it. Often a stare from one of the brothers was enough to prevent the metre ruler from coming out. I was sad to leave to go to St Pats Academy in Dungannon, but studying under Faulsy was an experience one doesn’t foregt.

  • RepublicanStones

    forget*

  • Earnan

    The controvierisal historian Peter Hart found a (albeit slight) positive correlation between IRA activity and the prevelance of CB schools in a county by county study of the revolutionary period.

    I think the correlation coefficient was .14 or so, not very significant but still present. (I was just re reading parts of one of his books the other day)

    Of course, the republican/nationalist movement of the time was not the same as the modern version

  • Chris Donnelly

    Dec
    St Mac’s eh? I knew there was something about you…still, I shall say no more as I’ll be trying to get quite a few of my P6s into that esteemed institution soon enough….

  • Greenflag

    The ‘brothers ‘ conjure up all kinds of memories and iirc in the general ranking, the Christian Brothers were at the top of the list for ‘fanatical ‘ devotion to teaching , sport , history, Irish and everything else. Stupidity was never accepted as an excuse for not knowing your lessons 😉

    As for the ‘brothers ‘ themselves they came in all shapes and sizes but I suspect the vast majority were the younger sons of farmers who were not cut out for dealing with the general public and were thus corralled into a niche which suited their temperament. I often wonder did many of these ‘brothers ‘ get their vocation from the ‘free university ‘ education that was available to those who joined up . Also there was the scope for ‘foreign ‘ travel to Africa and the Americas and even Australia ?

    It’s the end of an era and even a hardened ‘atheist ‘ like myself cannot write off the huge positive contribution most of these ‘brothers ‘ made to education in a ‘poor ‘ country . Yes I can remember one or two ‘nutters’ probably driven crazy over the stifling of their natural human urges . But I also remember the best history teacher I ever had was a ‘ De La Salle Brother’ . Someday I hope to track down and find out whatever happened to the man . For surely a Catholic ‘brother ‘ who praised the virtues of Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation would surely have been ‘racked ‘ by now 😉

  • Dec

    St Mac’s eh? I knew there was something about you…still, I shall say no more as I’ll be trying to get quite a few of my P6s into that esteemed institution soon enough….

    Good luck with that though if they’re from the west you should explain beforehand the college curriculum doesn’t include Car-jacking and Benefit Fraud.

  • Scaramoosh

    “I used to be able to recite it in French, Italian, German and Irish.”

    What about English? 🙂 and how many can you still manage?

  • Chris Donnelly

    Dec

    I shall rise above your goading- easy when I’m not even from the west myself (and share primary school ‘alma mater’ status with yourself.)

    Oh, and they’re all good nordies, don’t you worry…

  • CW

    Interesting piece from the radio DJ and author Stuart Maconie about his experience of growing up 1970s Wigan (from his autobiography “Cider with Roadies”):

    “I went to and from school, learned about the Anti-Corn Law League and Brownian Motion and tried not to get “strapped” by Brother Ring, the most sadistic of the bullying bog-trotters who taught me – or the Christian Brothers to give them their official name. When not thus engaged, I would be watching Fawlty Towers or Ripping Yarns, smoking furtively in a variety of toilets, parks and bus shelters or engaged, equally furtively, in a kind of amiable hand-to-hand contact with a girl from Orrell called Hilary. In an almost comical piece of good luck, Hilary turned out to be a teenage nympho whose dad owned an off-licence, a semi-mythical creature not normally found outside the fantasies of Sid James.”

    I attended Omagh CBS in the mid-80s till the early 90s. By that time there were vey few brothers left. To be fair they weren’t all sadistic bastards, although previous generations obviously had it a lot worse. A few of them were decent sorts, and the ones prone to violence were presumably frustrated from the years of celibacy.

    With the steady decline in vocations over the years the demise of the CBs was inevitable. Many will have mixed feeling about their passing, but the fact is they were a product of their time.

  • CS Parnell

    Feck off back to your Antrim Road mansions anyhow. Make sure you lock the doors, youse wouldn’t want to be bothered by the nose when we’re hot wiring your 4x4s.

    You can pick up the burnt out wrecks in Hannahstown at the weekend. Keep your insurance dockets handy.

  • CS Parnell

    At least them hoity toity feckers from Rathmore have keep their bakes shut on this one.

  • Harry Flashman

    We St Columb’s boys’ only contact with CBS types was when they’d ambush us outside the back gate at Bishop Street so the wee gobshites could steal the nice Parker pens our grannies had bought us for passing the Eleven Plus.

    I had the great pleasure of employing one of them decades later, oh the funny stories we recalled from back then.

    Immanuel Kants the lot of ’em.

  • Seimi

    Just to clarify – Pat Rice taught Spanish and Irish at St. Mary’s. He also used his free periods to run down to the Shaws Road and teach in the first Meanscoil, then back up to the Glen Road. He became a Sinn Féin councillor at some point in the 80s and now spends his time between Belfast and South America, from where his wife comes.
    Frank Rice (Geogy Rice) taught Geography at St. Mary’s.

    Yes, I also, was taught by the Christian Brothers. Some of them were great – anyone remember Brother Walsh in Barrack Street? The Whizz! – whilst others were…ummm…not great…one brother, who drowned in Africa leaps to mind…but I don’t think a single one of them advocated Repuclicanism in school…

  • gram

    Dublin Voter>>I went to a well-known CB secondary school in Dublin in the seventies. I’m always suspicious of the stereotype of the Brothers being savage violent types. The ones who taught me weren’t. << The brothers used a carrot and stick approach to education, without the carrot. I went to the CBS in Omagh during the 80s and witnessed a few beatings then that would land the teacher in jail today. There was just something so unhealthy and creepy about the whole set up. Why for example did these guys not become priests?

  • CS Parnell

    Come to think of it, Pat Rice may well have been the fella with the Atlas. iirc had two Mr Rices teaching me in first year. But that is three decades ago now.

    I’ll have to dig out that copy of “First Steps” and see if I wrote his name down.

  • CS Parnell

    Harry Flashman, of course we boys from St mary’s used to get jumped in the entrys by other CBS boys – the ones from the secondary school on the other side of the Glen Road.

    Twenty years later I read “The Uses of Literacy” and the divide it describes between working class boys who passed the qually and those (the majority) who failed in 1950s Leeds was very much alive and well in 1970s/1980s Belfast.

    Anyone else read it and care to comment?

  • Harry Flashman

    My reasons for liking the 11+ was the egalitarianism of it, if you were good enough you got in, if you weren’t, well sorry no amount of friends of Daddy in the Golf Club were going to help you out. Of course I’m referring to the Catholic grammar schools, I can’t comment with regard to state schools.

    In “the College” (in Derry there was only one “College”) everyone was equal, I have heard some people whine about how middle class kids got treated better but this is nonsense, once you were in you were treated the same as everyone else. My best mates came from Rosemount, the Glen and Carnhill and never did any of us get preferential treatment on the basis of our family background.

    The friend to whom I was closest was from Carnhill and as per CSP’s reference to Leeds he went to that city to study law. He was amazed to discover that the posh totty on his campus were very impressed by the fact that he was the product of a Catholic grammar school and that he could quote Latin, he used these qualities to full effect in shagging as many of them as he could.

    Today, he’s a middle aged senior civil servant, father of three, married to a lovely woman from Northampton and extremely pleased that he passed his 11+ and forever grateful for the superb education he received from the Catholic education system for free.

    He never quite fancied the idea of being condemned to digging roads in Manchester for all his life.

    The 11+; it wasn’t all bad you know.

  • kensei

    HF

    Anecedotal success story. For that one story, how many anecedotal failure stories do you think there are?

    I never found Catholic grammars the least bit biased to background once you were in. But thsat isn’t the btui I believe anyone is making an issue of.

  • Seimi

    ‘Come to think of it, Pat Rice may well have been the fella with the Atlas. iirc had two Mr Rices teaching me in first year. But that is three decades ago now.’

    CS, read my post at 10.14.

  • CS Parnell

    Seimi, I did! You need to read my earlier one from yesterday about the Irish teacher and the atlas.

    For once I am agreeing with kensei. Great if you could make it in. Rubbish if you were one of the 75 – 80% who got dumped on at the age of 11.

  • Seimi

    Apologies CS, I did read that, but honestly thought you’d gotten the 2 teachers mixed up.

    As to kensei’s point – I passed my 11+ and was sent to CBS first, then St. Mary’s. I went from the top of my class in a number of subjects to bottom. Not that I was stupid (at least I don’t think so!), but I had to make a massive adjustment in the method and style of teaching. My experience of Grammar school was – if you were capable, you were looked after. If you struggled, at anything, you were left behind. With notable exeptions (‘Slim’ Jim McClean, ‘Ropey’ O’Prey, Decky Breen, to name but 3 of a very small group), most teachers were happy to let you sit quietly at the back, so as not to disturb the ‘capable’ pupils.
    As to the CBs, on my last day at St. Mary’s, I was told by one of them – you are nothing and you will achieve nothing. Charming. I hope I have proved him wrong. Though my Catholic guilt does keep me awake at night…am I nothing…?