Saturday, 26 December 2009

Joan's Journey Chapter III. School days in Birmingham and Dublin

In the early years, the school which I had attended was the Holy Family in Small Heath. Sometimes an older girl accompanied us to school, her name was Violet Pretty and indeed she was very pretty. Later the girl went on to win many beauty contests, she changed her name to Anne Heywood and starred in a number of swashbuckling Hollywood films (pictured right).

I had reached seven years of age, time to make my Holy Communion. Thankfully Granny Whelan again came to the rescue and sent me a whitedress with a veil, along with a silver and gold Holy Communion medal. To this day, I still have the medal; at least our granddaughter Lara has it in save keeping. The following year I made my confirmation. I remember the same partner I was with for my Holy Communion accompanied me; a sad story occurred with this young lad. During the previous year, someone pulled his school chair from under him as he was about to sit down. The backward fall damaged his spine, so poor Leonard was confined to a wheelchair. I recall walking along side him in his wheelchair down the aisle to be confirmed.

An unlikely story about the Holy Family church, concerned my brother Kevin, who was an altar boy. It is hard to believe that one of the priests suggested he be sent away to school, to be trained as a priest. I expect the rest of our family would be surprised to learn that Kevin was material for the priesthood. Another little anecdote concerned my 12th birthday and obviously poor Kevin had no money to buy birthday presents, so he acquired a lovely prayer book from the church, which someone had forgotten; it was in the lost property box. I have since treasured that prayer book all my life. Another little story concerns Kevin and the Holy Family church. The boys and girls were separated in Mass, boys on one side, girls on the other. Coming to the conclusion of the service, the last hymn was being sung and a solo voice was heard over everyone else. It was my little brother singing his own version of the last hymn; it was a popular song of the day entitled ‘You are my Sunshine’. He was not sure of the hymn, but knew the popular song very well. Obviously everyone associated Kevin with me, and I was most embarrassed.

I was quite intelligent in class, so the school entered me for my 11 plus. My parents wanted me to enter the King Edward exam in Handsworth, which I did, but all the other girls in my class entered for Saint Pauls Grammar School and I believe most passed the examination. My teacher at the Holy Family was not at all happy with me for entering the King Edward Grammar examination, because it was not a Catholic school. It may have had some influence regarding me not receiving a place at King Edwards. They wanted me to sit for Saint Pauls but for whatever reasons my parents were quite adamant in their choice and, after all, it was their decision. My next school I attended was Saint Michaels, located in Digbeth. However I was not to remain there for very long.

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