Many students of the Thurles CBS Sixth Year A and B Classes who did their Leaving Certificate examinations fifty years ago, in the Summer of 1963, will meet again for a nostalgic reunion in Thurles, next August 3rd, at a venue to be decided upon. It is hoped that past pupils now in South Africa, Britain, the United States of America and, of course, all over Ireland will respond positively to the invitation to the event.
Nostalgia was in the air as a small group of those past pupils met to commence preparations for the Golden Jubilee event, the first ever get together of those classes since they left the famed Thurles academy, the school around the corner from Liberty Square, a school renowned as a top hurling nursery. And good luck to the young men of Thurles CBS who have advanced to the Quarter Final of the Dr. Harty Cup (Munster Colleges Senior Hurling) against Castletroy College, Limerick.
Some of the students of 1963 will recall walking to the school through the Fair in the Square on the first Tuesday of every month. Those who were not walking through the Square cycled into school (to park in the bicycle shed, an unofficial smoking room for some). The Country lads came from as far away as seventeen miles and were always on time, incidentally.
The organising group hopes to make contact with all surviving members of the two classes and will also remember with affection school mates who have died in the intervening years (Ar Shli na Firinne go raibh said).
The group of organisers to date who may be contacted by any past pupils interested in attending the event, which will be a quite unpretentious one with the emphasis on renewing old acquaintance and going down memory lane, are: Michael Dundon (0504) 21321; Tom Ryan (0504) 45105; Michael Kennedy (0504) 22011; Dr Jim O’ Shea (0504) 23875; Patrick O’Gorman (086)8543833 and Andy Moloney (0504)44135.
The students who comprised the A and B classes of Sixth Year at Thurles CBS in 1963 and their addresses in that year comprised: Joe Fewer, Sliabh na mBan Road, Patrick Carley, Iona Avenue, Liam Bowe, Suirside Place, Michael Kennedy, Sean Treacy Avenue, Diarmuid Collins, Sean Treacy Avenue, Leonard Commins, Littleton, Matt Fanning, Dovea, Patrick O’ Gorman, Abbey Road, Eamonn Ryan, Cabra Road, Sean Ryan, Ballycahill, Gerry Hogan, Liberty Square, Pat Murphy, Loughtagalla, Tom Ryan, 11, Fianna Road, Jim O’ Shea, Clonmiclon, Grange, Stephen Shanahan, St. Endas Terrace, Bothar naNaomh, Noel Spittle, Butler Avenue, Andy Moloney, Graigue, Thurles, Willie Reynolds, Mitchel Street, Lorcan Bourke, Cathedral Street, John Cantwell, Ballyerk, Moyne, James Freeman, Coolamore, Windgap, Christy Kerrigan, Ardnacroise, Conor Semple, Butler Avenue, Aidan Cunningham, Abbey Road, Francis Darcy, Iona Avenue, Michael Murphy, The Bungalow, Cabra, Joe Doran, The Heath, Cormackstown, John Purcell, Ardnacroise, Joe Ryan, Cloneyharp, Ballycahill, Conor Ryan, Garraunmore, Clonoulty, Eddie Shanahan, Drumboe, Horse And Jockey, Tommy O‘Connor, Rossa Street, Noel McGrath, Ballyboy, Upperchurch, John Fanning, Cathedral Street.
The Principal in that year was Brother JV Hutton and prior to that Brother Wilson was the Principal. The men who were boys in those far off days will remember a host of teachers in various classes down through the years who helped shape their lives in various ways. They included John O’Grady, who was in goal for Tipp Senior Hurling All-Ireland winners of 1958, Jack Maher, Clongour, Jackie Ryan (Andy), Sliabh na mBan Road, Kevin Maher, Friar Street, Brother Maguire, An Brathair O Cathain Jack Gardiner, Dublin Road, Bernie McCarthy, Mr Cahill and many others.
Some of the teachers had nicknames, of course, and so had many of the boys (enough said about that!) And hurling was the game to take lads away from the academic world of Latin, Science, Irish, Maths, Geography, History, English and Religion.
To the more joyful and exciting realms of hurling heroism, whether on wet Wednesdays in the Railway Field where the wet ball was a lot heavier than it is today and a not much in favour with some lads who were much more used to belting rubber balls on the roads and streets (even Liberty Square! In practice for the famous Street Leagues of Thurles at the time.
There were excursions by steam engine driven train or by bus to Dr. Harty Cup matches or Dean Ryan, Croke Cup or Rice Cup games. And some were on debating teams and took on schools like Ursuline Convent, Thurles, Presentation Secondary school, Balllingarry, and Rockwell College.
And some were members of the School Unit of the FCA (now Reserve Defence Force) and learned how to use a bayonet and a Lee Enfield .303 rifle down in the FCA Hall in Sliabh na mBan Road and about lines of trajectory for the mortars. Some had innocently romantic friendships in those innocently romantic times with the girls from the Ursuline Secondary School and others had equally innocently romantic friendships with the equally charming young ladies from the Pres. Some of those romances were to blossom into more enduring relationships as time went by.
Indeed, friendships for a lifetime were frequently forged. All of these students had escaped from the harsh realities of school life by going to the Capitol Cinema (The One Above) or Delahunty’s New Cinema (The One Below).
And, if you could arrange to meet a girlfriend in the back seat or beforehand, outside Josie Fitzgerald’s sweet shop and actually bring the girl to the Friday 6.30 pm matinee show you were, as they used say, “elected”. If you had a name as a hurler or rugby player you had a better chance of succeeding in this romantic sphere. But, truth to tell, many guys in those days were a bit on the shy side and of, course, fortune favours the brave, adventurous or the downright bould.
And what better movies to kindle romance than the popular family movies of the day such as “Seven Brides For Seven Brothers”, “Oklahoma”, or ”High Society”. And who did not fall in love with the beautiful Grace Kelly singing “True Love”. That’s, of course, if you had not already fallen for Doris Day in “Calamity Jane” or Marlyn Monroe in “Some Like It Hot” or “The River of No Return” or Niagra” or anything else for that matter.
The heroes of the day were the Tipp hurlers such as Jimmy Doyle, Sean McLoughlin, John Doyle, Liam Devanney, Mickey (“The Rattler”) Byrne, John O’ Grady (now “Culbaire” of the “Tipperary Star”, Tony Wall and many more.
The boys of ‘Sixty three” will recall local shops like Gleeson’s and Mrs Roche’s of Rossa Street where the conversation was always interesting and where certain indispensable goodies were purchased with what very little cash boys had in those days. And what a wise and kindly way Mrs Roche had in the matter of understanding young people and encouraging and advising them in various ways. A very kind and decent lady loved by generations of students from various schools in Thurles. En route to the Capitol, some popped into Peg Kennedy’s in Cu chulainn Road or Bertie Connaughtons’ in Liberty Square or, if going down to Delahunty’s Cinema, stopped off in Mrs Fitgerald’s in Sliabh na mBan Road or Molly McKennas in Fianna Road. Or, maybe, Dick Quinns’ or Lambes ’of Friar Street. In Lambe’s you could play pool and maybe even win the price of the cinema or a bar of chocolate or a couple of Woodbines or the price of a bun and tea in the intimate and cosy Glenmorgan House where you might meet a “moth” to walk home -even some of the way. Or you might, if cash was plentiful go up to Joe McCormacks for a bag of delicious chips or over to Gleesons in Parnell Street which had a juke box of a Saturday night. Just like in the movies with Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Cliff Richard and The Royal Showband, with Brendan Bowyer and Tom Dunphy, the hit parade heroes of the time. Some very popular tunes were “Stevie Gonzales” or “Going To Go Fishing on a Saturday Night”
Some guys did a little bit of flag hopping from one house and avenue or street to the next, as one teacher put it, cogging ekkers and maybe doing a few comic or book swaps into the bargain- the real reason for the nocturnal coordeeks, apart from maybe meeting some guy’s sister, by accident, mar dhea and helping her with her studies! Mar dhea!
After school some might escort the girls on their bikes out the country in gallant fashion and others just chatted around the Square hoping to persuade some girl in uniform, that the “flicks” were well worth viewing at the weekend. Or maybe, looking for support from girls of whatever school for your hurling, soccer or rugby team that would be in action the following Sunday.
Everybody in those classes will have a thousand memories, surely, and it will be nice to share a few memories and also enjoy a light meal, perhaps.
It’s hoped to have as many of these lads as possible together again in Thurles, which for many years was virtually the entire world for them as they raced up the avenue in the mornings, perhaps anticipating a leathering for being late or climbed the metal stairs and put the final touches to a feeble and often futile attempt at a tricky Science problem at which the late Leonard (“Gabby”) Commins of Littleton was only brilliant. And he was such a fine hurler, too. (RIP) This column will keep everyone up to date on the re-union arrangements as they become available.