It’s on Days Like This …..

It’s on days like this during the school holidays that Mother and I used to go on our ‘little school viewing’ expeditions. I was obsessed with schools, as a kid. Maybe I should make this clearer, I was obsessed with looking in the windows of schools. (When I was at school, I always rather liked looking out the windows and longed for the days to end and the weekends and holidays to come.)

We always seemed to bring a small picnic with us ~ cream crackers, and a bottle of homemade lemonade.

Recently, I was passing Knockmahon School which is just outside the village of Bonmahon on the Copper Coast. I couldn’t resist having a snoop around and those days with Mother came flooding back, including the fear that someone would appear with a cane and ask what the hell I was doing there!

The school is a beauty, built up on a hill:

Knockmahon School, Co. Waterford
Knockmahon School, Co. Waterford

It was built in 1956 and would have been new by my ‘childhood’ standards.


This style of building with the circular shed was one I knew all too well, having been to four different national schools during my transitory youth. None of the sheds, where we sheltered during wet break/sus/recess times had a mural, though, like this one in Knockmahon has:

Mural of the Copper Mining Works at Tankardstown
Mural of the Copper Mining Works at Tankardstown

The kids obviously still play hopscotch in Knockmahon School but they don’t have to draw out the squares like we used to. (Yes, I did have a little hop around while I was there!)


I did my best to get a good look inside but it wasn’t that easy with the blinds on the windows. However, I caught glimpses of familiar looking tiny chairs from my son’s time in junior schools.  I rather miss the old fashioned double wooden desks with the inkwells that were a fundamental part of my experience.

But, how I loved the little posters on the door of Knockmahon School which say so much about its ethos and philosophy and what school should be all about:


Just look at all those things that you are when you enter the school … friend, writer, mathematician, musician, artist, musician, scientist.

Every single school has its own personality and personalities. Every single school has its own history and I suspect, every single school has people like me trespassing looking around with a bagful of memories.

Author: socialbridge

I am a sociologist and writer from Ireland. I have worked as a social researcher for 30 years and have had a lifelong passion for writing. My main research interests relate to health care and I love to write both non-fiction and poetry.

27 thoughts on “It’s on Days Like This …..”

  1. I enjoyed your bagful of memories – brought my memories back to me too. Mine go to my children’s sweet one-level elementary school, and taking my son by hand for his first day at kindergarten. Since then, he grew up and attended college across the country and began his first job in a city on one coast, then moved to a city on our original coast. And last year…? He held his son’s hand and walked him into the SAME kindergarten class at the same school, and kissed him good luck on his first day of school….

  2. I was brought back to the elementary school of my youth..I never did get a chance at kindergarten as they put me in first grade. I thought of the small chairs each of a different color centered around this easel stand with a big book (the biggest I ever sayw) with Dick and Jane on the pages. They got to have cookies and milk at recess. This room was very attractive and . I was looking forward to attending school. You can imagine my disappointment when I was put behind a wooden desk and my learning process began..needless to say I repeated the first grade as I wasn’t ready to dig in and learn. The picture of the school is very attractive and if I were a child again I couldn’t wait to attend it’s so warm and welcoming…

  3. What an intriguing building design–do you know the purpose of the tower? It looks like a stairwell tower, but it does not seem to connect to anything. The mural is also great–imagine introducing children to artistic murals so early!

    1. Hi Suz, those towers are so familiar to me but I never wondered why they are there. I suspect it could be to do with heating. Not a stairwell or I’d have found my way up one at some stage!
      Yes, the mural is great to see, isn’t it?

      1. Not able to resist ferreting out the details of a mystery, I looked it up. The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage described the building and identified it as a flat-roofed water tower. My search brought up Anthony Mulcahy’s recording of the song “The Knockmahon Mines” (lyrics written by “an O’Brien from Bonmahon in the 1870s and later put to the air of the traditional Irish song “Spancil Hill” which was written by Michael Considine in 1873″ (Mulcahy). He did a fundraiser for the school, and learned the first three verses of the song while attending Knockmahon National School. A photo on his website shows the remains of the Knockmahon Mines, featured in the mural. I listened to him sing the song, which is about the mine closing and all the “boys” went off to America to work in the mines there, most ending up in Copper Mountain in Butte, Montana. You can hear the song at

  4. Memories, imagine my amazement when I learned that the convent I went to was now a school for young Arab women…. then Nun’s would be spinning in their graves….me I just laughed! 😉

  5. Hopscotch must be a worldwide phenomenon. I’d almost forgotten it – now I’m trying to remember just how it’s played. I remember drawing the squares, and always keeping a lookout for a ‘good hopscotch rock’…

  6. I love the contrast of you exploring schools from the outside but not wanting to be on the inside! It’s difficult to explore schools here now, they’re all surrounded by fences and not open to the public, in contrast to when I was young and we could go and play in school yards when schools were shut.

  7. Ah, nice post Jean. On my rare trips back to Birmingham I make a point of walking by my old primary school, 50 years on. I’d love to go in but you get locked up these days loitering around schools 🙂

    1. Roy, I guess this is one of the advantages of being female! I must say, though, that I tend to only peer in windows and the like during holidays and at weekends. There’s always that sense of wondering if you’ll be caught!

  8. I think it’s fair to say that every child that attended that school will have happy memories of it and I include myself in that group.

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