My unfortunate early experiences of Catholic primary school

"I can’t say I ever had good teachers, mostly they were Mercy nuns who ruled over us with canes they kept close at hand."

I went to a Catholic school in the early 1960s.

There was never any suggestion that it wouldn’t be a Catholic school; after all, it was in a time when the Catholic Church ruled supreme over its respective congregations.

I can’t say I ever had good teachers, mostly they were Mercy nuns who ruled over us with canes they kept close at hand.

The teachers I recall who did make an impression on me were only there for a short time before being replaced by women who wore their religious habit, I used to think, with a degree of distaste as they found themselves locked into a life they were not enjoying.

Like a lot of kids, boys in particular of that time, we found far more enjoyment in sport and school was an ideal place to find yourself engaged in serious games of cricket or football depending on the season.

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At one stage, there was a huge development in the playground which involved large bulldozers shifting the earth to create a new playground area for us to play in. We’d be watching out the classroom window at every opportunity as what boy doesn’t love seeing large machinery at work.

One of the strangest things that happened while I was in primary school was the day we were lined up on the playground waiting to go into class and from the sky it rained fish. Just small fish about the size of small goldfish fell on top of us. Most people when I tell this story look at me in disbelief as we lived a good thirty kilometres from the coast. But it did happen.

These were also the days of the free school milk. We’d await the delivery as the crates of milk would arrive covered in ice which was always good fun to suck on and throw around. There were never enough kids to drink all the milk and by lunchtime the nuns would line us all up and make us drink the warm stale milk telling us about starving children and all that. We hated it, and were always reluctant in drinking it.

In those times the nature of the Catholic Mass was changing and I was in the last group of boys to learn the Latin Mass responses. I used to go to lessons of a Saturday morning with Sister Romauld to learn the responses. It wasn’t long after I started that the English Mass began but there are still phrases I remember like at the end of the Lord’s Prayer I’m sure the response wasn’t, “Said Leo there’s no more Milo” but it sure sounded like that to me.

What memories do you have of your primary school years?