‘AND then when the headmaster found out, he beat the shite out of us!’ laughed local man Declan Harkin, regaling his mates with another tale of what he has convinced himself was a hilarious childhood.
Like most of Harkin’s anecdotes about his time at primary school, his latest knee-slapper involved equal parts of innocent boyhood mischief and intense cruelty, physical abuse and psychological torture from a senior figure, usually a teacher or priest.
Now in his early forties, Harkin has stories that straddle both sides of the regulation of corporal punishment in Irish schools, from the halcyon days when pupils would be beaten with whatever the teacher had to hand, onto the mid-eighties when they had to find new ways to terrify and control kids without ‘leaving a mark’.
“Ah, it was gas altogether,” said Harkin, tears of laughter and possibly fear in his eyes.
“Me and the lads were about six or seven, and we broke a window in school with a football by accident, sure it was only gas altogether. The laughs we had, as the headmaster lined us all up and went one by one past us, swishing a cane in the air in front of our faces until Jimmy, ha ha, Jimmy, sure didn’t he piss himself in fear ha ha ha!”
“We were all bawling crying, and then the headmaster knew it must have been us so he battered the shite out of us with a belt, ha ha! And then we went home crying to our parents, and they battered us too. Ah, them were the days. It was sad when Jimmy killed himself ten years later, but we have the fun days to look back on. No, they weren’t horrific, they were fun. I’m laughing now, aren’t I? So, there you have it. Good times”.
Harkin went on to tell stories to the people around him in the pub, where he has been every night for the last ten years.