The School Daze of Cathy Martin from Dowtcha Puppets: ‘Music was the best class’

Cathy Martin of Dowtcha Puppets reminisces on schools days with Ciara McDonnell.

The School Daze of Cathy Martin from Dowtcha Puppets: ‘Music was the best class’

I’m originally from Navan. I attended the Mercy Convent in Navan town. I have to say, they were absolutely lovely; I had a really, really nice schooling. My mum was a teacher there. There was a dodgy nun in the school and I think my mum made sure that both my sister and I didn’t get her!

In the end, my mother taught me in junior infants, first class, and fourth class. She was fair, to give her credit. She didn’t take any guff from me or anything like that. The funny thing about having your mum as a teacher is that when everyone else would have their hand up, shouting ‘teacher, teacher’, I’d be going ‘Mammy, Mammy’!

I think I was always a creative person. There weren’t a huge amount of opportunities to be creative in school, it has to be said. You could do visual things in primary school of course, like painting and drawing. I was always interested in drama and dance, and it took until I was in secondary school for that whole world of creativity to open up to me.

I remember it so well. I was 13 and I had my appendix out and was recovering in hospital. My friend came in to visit me and told me with great dramatic pause, that she had found a dance class for us to attend. I just remember it feeling as though all the lights had gone on — I couldn’t believe it.

Along with the rest of my class, I had done Irish dancing up until that point, but it was a painful experience for me. I couldn’t understand why I had to keep my arms down by my side, or smile. It was so restrictive to me. I used to go out on stage and I’d have my mum in fits because I’d be waving to her. I was never going to be in Riverdance, shall we put it that way!

I don’t know if you could call me a particularly confident child, but I think I was comfortable in my own skin. I made friends easily and they stuck. I am 47 and I am best friends with five other women. We all started school together at three years of age. We are so lucky to have each other. Next year, we will know each other for 45 years; we feel so blessed. We have been through a lot together.

When it comes to the academic side of school, I think I was lacking in practically every subject. I adored English. I loved poetry. I loved learning poems and getting to go in front of the class and recite poems.

Maths, I would call painful. I can still remember Pythagoras’s theorem though. I can viscerally recall the terror of not being able to do something and worrying about what was going to happen.

Just before I did what was then called the Inter Cert, I went down to my mum to tell her that I had no idea what was going on in maths. It just did not make sense to me. I recently had a discussion about how people don’t understand the point of maths and the importance of it in our daily life. I think that if the role of maths in the fabric of our society was better explained to children, it would make it more palatable.

I loved music. It was the only arts subject that was available to me and there were only seven of us in it. It was the best class, of course it was. In school, all I wanted to do was dance. The nuns used to let me not go to gym class, so that instead I could go to the hall and practice and throw myself around the place. I know now how lucky I was. They were so supportive of me in that way.

At Dowtcha Puppets, we try to create events that have lots of different age groups intermingling with each other and being part of a huge project and learning about each other as they go along. You’ll have an older person who’ll be having the banter, exchanging information. Isn’t that the best way to describe the most influential kind of education?

I think that children today have a voice that we didn’t have. They know that they have a voice and many of them know that their voice is heard and respected. Isn’t that a brilliant thing to be able to say?

GLOW runs each weekend until from November 29 to December 22. See www.glowcork.ie

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