School Daze: ‘I was sick with terror’

School Daze: ‘I was sick with terror’

I was a good student always. I studied like mad. Every night of my life I would study for four hours at home, says Francis Brennan

My secondary school was CUS in Leeson Street in Dublin and prior to that I attended the Christian Brothers in Westland Row. I am a Dublin boy, born and bred, I lived in Sandyford for 27 years. My parents moved to Sligo, my brother married a Sligo woman, my sister married in Sligo and John grew up in Sligo so everyone thinks I’m from there, but I’m not!

The CBS was a very strict school, and they murdered me. I got sick with terror every morning before I went in. In those days, you just got sick and went to school and got on with it. They were dreadful to us; I would never ever send one of my children to a Christian Brother’s school because I was never treated well there.

Secondary school was chosen because of the bus route - in those days there were no such thing as getting a lift from your mother or your father or any of that carry on that goes on today.

So, we were on the 44 bus from home to school and back again. CUS had an open attitude. Their attitude was, ‘here’s your work, here’s the homework, here’s the tools you need to achieve it, and if you don’t do it, well it’s not our problem’. Having been murdered at CBS, to go to CUS was unbelievable. To us, it was like Butlins. I absolutely loved it.

I was never a rebellious child, I was always good. I was a good student, always. I studied like mad. Every night of my life I would study for four hours at home. We’d have dinner at six or half six, and then I’d go and study until half ten or eleven.

My mother said that I should have been a scientist because of all that I studied, but I can tell you that I don’t know how to study. I spent all this time learning, but I was doing all the wrong subjects like latin and physics and chemistry. Well, if I was looking at an atom until the day that I died I still don’t understand what it does or doesn’t do.

When I left school, I worked for a number of years and then I went to the Dublin College of Catering in Cathal Brugha Street. During my first year there I was doing a three year diploma course, but I had my eye on a four year degree course. I arranged with the principal to repeat my leaving cert at the same time as doing the first year of the diploma on the proviso that if I did well, I could start the degree. When I did my Leaving Cert with the subjects that I liked, I got five honours - I only got one honour the first time because I was doing subjects that I hated.

There was a business management book for Leaving Certificate and it had a blue book, I’ll never forget it. The first time I opened it was on the bus on the morning of the exam, because I didn’t have time. I got an A in it. It was all to do with banking and business, which are things I would have done with my Dad. We had a grocery store and I was always around business growing up and I used to do the bank lodgements for him when I was a child.

It’s terrific for youngsters to understand what streaming can do for them. There was nobody asking me what I was good at, or doing tests to find out. You were just given subjects that you had to do. I know that my nieces and nephews have all done well because they were streamed to their strengths. I think I am a great example of streaming gone wrong, until I went back to school myself and did my own streaming. Father Henegan was my English teacher and he was great because he brought it alive. He understood Macbeth and he understood Hamlet and he explained it in a very modern way. As a result of my classes with him I have a great love of English. I got disclipline and a work ethic from my school career, of that I am positive. Discipline is much less important nowadays, and I think the world is the worse for that. I think uniforms are brilliant, they kick all of that fashion nonsense out of it. As I drive around the country I see stylish uniforms in lots of places so it’s not a bad thing. I think it’s a wonderful discipline to wear a uniform every day.

I look back and I think that compared to what kids get up to today, I did nothing. I only went to school, studied, slept and repeat. Nowadays the young people are away in London for a weekend and then they’re off to Edinburgh and then they’re off somewhere else - they have a great time, all the time. It is a completely different time now.

Francis Brennan, Specsavers Audiologists’ ambassador is turning up the volume to encourage proactive hearing health and announce Specsavers ongoing commitment to supporting the National Hearing Implant and Viani Research Centre at Beaumont Hospital, in a bid to raise €25,000 for the charity. Visit your local Specsavers Audiologist for more details or www.specsavers.ie/hearing

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