Jul 18 2011

The end of an era

Published by at 9:38 pm under News

(Clcik on photo to enlarge)

We just lived around the corner from Saint Joseph’s School for deaf boys. As young children growing up in the shadow of the school we knew it only as the Deaf and Dumb.  It was a large redbrick building not too unlike something we’d see in a horror film on the Cabra Grand Picture House.The large wall surrounding the school was a daily reminder to us ‘outsiders’ to keep out. We would often sneak over the wall and rob some rhubarb or apples and run in fear of our lives if we ever saw one of the Christian Brothers or gardeners that worked there. There was little or no contact between those inside the wall and those outside the wall. As a matter of fact we were very much afraid of the children belonging to the school. Nobody ever took the time to explain to us why they were there and what the purpose of the school was. In our childhood ignorance and innocence we made fun of these young boys, not realising that they were in many ways just like us. We generally referred to them as ‘Dummys’ but only because that was what the older boys in the neighbourhood called them.

The school had a shoe repair shop where my father often had his shoes soled and heeled. Before a proper church was built in Cabra West my parents would attend Sunday Mass in the little chapel in Saint Joseph’s School. One time, families living in the Annamoe area of Old Cabra received a card from this school explaining to the householders how to communicate through sign language with the young boys as they passed through the neighbourhood. As far as I know the people in Cabra West never got anything like that. One time a young boy from Lower Killala Road was robbing some rhubarb with my brother and their pals and as they were making their get-away the young boy ran out onto the road and under the wheels of a great big cattle truck. In later years the school decided to build a swimming pool and open it up to the people of Cabra and the general public. It was located on the Navan Road side of the school grounds. You had to pay into it of course and it was much cleaner than the Cabra Baths. Anyhow, a few years later after the cost of the swimming pool was covered it was closed to the public.

I had a foster son who had to attend Saint Joseph’s full time back in the 1980s. He was housed in the main building in a long dormitory with two house-mother. Each boy had his own little bed and locker. Now its all changed, no more shoe repairs, no more free rhubarb or apples and no more chases from ‘Mad Mary’ who lived in the little gate-house near Drumcliffe Road. A Muslin School and a Girls’ School are being built on the site where the old buildings are being pulled down. I suppose all this change will seem a bit strange to the people of Cabra at first. For me it’s just another bit of memory lane slipping away into the distant past. Well thankfully, I have some nice photographs of the school that I took in recent years to keep alive my memory of what used to be.

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