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Kilkenny

Ireland



The banality of cruel physical punishment in Irish schools pre-1982


Irish school-crossing sign I was with a friend in Kilkenny when he met a former classmate and they had a conversation about school days.

They had gotten their "leaving certs" (graduated from public education) in the late 1980's.

The notable feature of their conversation was the casual way in which they talked about the brutality that they had experienced at school.

And it's normal in Ireland to hear of beatings and creative brutalities. Everybody who was there tells the same story — pain and fear. Some were lucky — some had parents who had the courage and ability to challenge the religious heirarchy. Most suffered, and accepted.

Somebody was always getting hurt. My friend and his acquaintance talked about the memory of holding the cast-iron leg of a desk to cool a hand whipped into hot redness. You'll heare of wooden chalkboard erasers hurled at inattentive heads... the whipping-strap... the hot radiator....

... These, apparently, are typical school-day memories from before the 1982 abolition of corporal punishment.