A quiet start

Jun 4th, 2008 | By | Category: Personal Columns

The day has come.

Junior and Leaving Certificate examinations in our house. Morning of the first day, English Paper I.

“Odd that the examinations begin always with English and not the first national language”, I observed as we drove to the station.

“Everyone does English, not everyone does Irish”, Michael responded with the usual impeccable logic. That was the end of that conversation opener, back to listening to the strains of Lyric FM and pondering English Paper I.

I did English Paper I. Joint Matriculation Board, English Paper I, 9.30-12.30, 4th June 1979.

English had been a favourite subject, except that by the time it reached A Level, all the fun had gone out of it. English meant English Literature and the surgical dissection of texts. Nothing was read for enjoyment; it was for analysis.

The reading list was not exactly one to excite teenage boys, which was probably why the class was overwhelmingly female.

Hamlet and King Lear were the Shakespearean element. I didn’t like Hamlet. It wasn’t that I didn’t like Hamlet the play, it was I didn’t like Hamlet the person, while King Lear was just depressing.

Jane Austen’s Emma was the novel. It was superlative, nothing in the world could match it for boredom.

Poetry included Gerard Manley Hopkins and William Blake, (only years later did I discover that Blake hadn’t written the music for Jerusalem), and Chaucer.

The other drama included Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead and Sean O’Casey’s Three Plays. Stoppard was probably a step too far for the rustics like myself and O’Casey loses a lot of its power outside of Ireland.

English Paper I was Shakespeare and Austen – it was a bleak start to the examinations. My tutor’s prediction of an ‘A’ grade ended up as an ‘E’, a bare pass, when the results came through the following August, and that was only after an appeal.

I retreated into the other subjects; economics had a beauty about it, a poetry of its own, while history was filled with a gritty reality.

English Paper I.

Perhaps listening to Lyric and looking across Killiney Bay is the best response.

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  1. Ian, I’d give you an ‘A’ for your memory! 😀

    I’m just off to collect the verdict on L.C. Paper 1!

    Here’s to Lyric FM!

  2. June 1965 now seems like another world. I remember very little of the day.

  3. Steph,

    You are, of course, assuming my recall is correct. I once argued with someone that Joe Corrigan had been goalkeeper at an England match in 1978. I knew, I said, because I was there! I was there, but Corrigan hadn’t played.

    There seemed general contentment with the English paper.


    You must have done your A levels at primary school.

  4. Ah I remember taking the exam alright but not necessarily what was in it. My school didn’t have a hall at the time and we had to take what we call he Higher School Cert. at another school. Very nervy. I did King Lear for the Shakespearian component but can’t remember the novels to save my life! Good luck to the kiddywinks. Especially the ‘leaver’. Lot of pressure put on year 12.

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