'Northern Catholics had an inbuilt inferiority complex aided and abetted by our dreadful primary education'

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'Northern Catholics had an inbuilt inferiority complex aided and abetted by our dreadful primary education'


Billy Gallagher remembers going to boarding school in Castleknock at age 12. He describes the contrast between life in Strabane with life in Castleknock


Billy Gallagher


Trinity College Dublin




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Billy Gallagher

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Childhood and Early Life


Life Story

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Dublin, Castleknock College

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Going to Castleknock was a profound cultural shock for a very small boy (I was the smallest in the school) from Northern Ireland. Northern Catholics had an inbuilt inferiority complex aided and abetted by our dreadful primary education. The boys in Castleknock were sons of farmers, merchants and professional people from all over the country. It was a very Catholic organisation run by Vincentian priests (17) with perhaps 8 lay teachers. It was a thoroughly good environment for young men of the 1950s. Corporal punishment was meted out regularly for any small misdemeanour including being late for morning prayer (7.15) ' 2-4 strikes of the cane on the hand; smoking (4); breaking bounds (6); no homework (2-4); out of bed (2-4) etc. Punishment was straightforward and without malice, just part of the day's work. In the normal course of events you would expect one or two misdemeanours every week. Always we were sent down to the Dean or the Prefect of Studies (for study related offences) perhaps with a note describing the offence. Being in a year of about 50 others divided into 'A' (good, intelligent, honours pupils) and 'B' (the plodders including a couple of hopeless cases who would never ever pass anything). In those days if your parents sent you to Castleknock and paid ('120 per annum) there was no differentiation between any 'B' class students. I remember one dyslexic individual who never discovered his problem and another poor chap, son of a very strict barrister, who didn't seem able to cope with any subject. We were in class together (20/24 in class); in dormitory together (15 to 20 in each, beds divided by pullover curtains); and at the table together (8 to a table) for mealtimes. Everyone had own bed/table place/desk/place in chapel etc dedicated every year. That was how the Dean could monitor anyone missing.




Irish Research Council for Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences (IRCHSS)

Research Coordinator/P.I.

Dr Kathleen McTiernan (Trinity College Dublin)

Senior Research Associate

Dr Deirdre O'Donnell (Trinity College Dublin)


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