Irish Christian Brothers


Old school days in Ireland with Edmund Rice's Christian BrothersThe Irish Christian Brothers loved sport, not all sport, mind you, because they hated the foreign game called Soccer from across the water (in Great Britain). True Irishmen played the national sport called Gaelic, according to the Brothers mantra. The Irish GAA were, and still are, the administrators of Irish games called Gaelic football and Gaelic Hurling.

These two sports are what the Christian Brothers loved most in life and heaven help those poor unfortunate boys in their care who could neither kick a ball nor hold a hurley stick properly.  The hurley was made from ash, which is a flexible wood.

Being Good Sports

Being good at either sport was sure to make you an asset to the school and had the added benefit of reducing the number of times you were hit by a Christian Brother in the course of a school day. The opposite was also true, unfortunately, and if you lost a sports match against another CB school it was likely that you would be leathered at every opportunity in the following days. A great incentive to win at all costs was instilled in us at a very young age.

The Christian Brothers founder, Edmund Ignatius Rice, was a native of Kilkenny, who are the best hurling county in Ireland, having won the All Ireland Hurling title on a record 32 occasions. Hurling is known as the 'Clash of the Ash' due to the noise made when the hurleys crashed off each other during play. 

Brothers teaching Ireland's native language Gaelic 

Gael means Irish and Gaeilge is the Irish Language, sometimes shortened to Gaelic as in Gaelic speaking. A Gaeilgeoir  is a fluent speaker. The Christian Brothers taught children Gaeilge but the majority of people in Ireland speak English as a first language and Irish (Gaeilge) must be taught in schools (almost as a second language). Suffice to say the Christian Brothers love teaching Gaeilge and some of them went so far as to conduct the whole day’s lessons in Irish.

Irish Gaelic

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Drumming Education

It was drummed into us so much that many Irish people detest the native tongue to this day. When I say drummed in, I mean that, literally, as the so called loving Christian Brothers had no qualms about hitting young children. It is not a pretty picture to see a young child sobbing, sniffing and snotting their way through a spelling lesson with a big ogre standing in front of them and clouting them for every mistake made.

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Avoiding the Christian Brothers wrath

As mentioned, the easiest way to please a Christian Brother was to play sports (Gaelic) for the school team and if you combined this with speaking to him in the Irish language then you would avoid the leather strapping they were so fond of dishing out. You could emerge from the six year term at the Christian Brother school (yes, it was like a prison sentence) unscathed if you could swing a hurley well or kick a football accurately.

The fact that you emerged just as thick as when you went in was of little consequence. Educating the youth played little part in the bully boy tactics of these Christians dressed from head to toe in their fearsome looking cassock blackness. I do believe that the hearts of Christian Brothers were black too.

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The positive side