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The Chief Invigilator’s Story by Peter Reilly

I began my yearly visits to St Michael's in the late 50s, when I was asked to invigilate exams in the old school on the invitation of Canon O'Connor, Parish Priest of St Mary's in Saltcoats and the Bishop's nominee to the Ayrshire Education Committee. I had little hesitation in accepting this request and for over twenty years I was to be found in the exam hall as various teachers went about their duties: Mr Leahy to his Science Room; Sister Pauline conferring with Canon Walker; Mr Medine; Sister Eugenius; Miss Whiston; Mr McCutcheon; Miss Higgins; Mrs McGuinness; Miss Brosnan; Mrs Barkey; Father Burke and Father Flynn.

The main duties of the invigilator were to hand out the papers and collect them at the end and ensure there was as little noise and distraction as possible for the candidates. The commotion of classes changing near the Art Rooms prompted Mr Campbell to charge out, demanding someone read his fine notice requesting SILENCE. He was under the impression that many pupils could not read. Musicians blowing their horns with doors left open appeared not to induce concentration in the candidates in the new Hall. However, Gymnastics behind the stage did not disturb. Sister Pauline thought pupils were used to that. Beside the exam hall the Secretary's typewriter caused upset to a few candidates. Not so, the invigilator's squeaky shoes, either in the old school or the new!

Fine sunny weather usually arrived at the examination time and a little diversion among the candidates were the sights of birds nesting by the roof gullies of the old school and the squabbling of the starlings for the crusts thrown away by pupils. Usually the curtains on the high windows in the new Hall had to be drawn to keep the sunshine from lighting up the candidates' desks.

The good weather, from time to time discouraged some from attending the exam at all. Several boys, due to take the written woodwork paper, did not appear. An invigilator despatched to find them had no success, so an attendance sheet with all marked ABSENT had to be posted!

During the cookery exam eggs were being prepared. Fortunate it was, that the egg, put out on a windowsill to cool, did not hit a distinguished member of staff, passing close to its descent. To Father Crawley it did not occur to entertain the Sisters with his magic. Producing an egg from behind someone's ear was not in his repertoire, so an invigilator had to supply the appearing and disappearing ball from an eggcup.

It happened, one day, that candidates requested a clock. This was provided. That it was upside down and showing the wrong time gave the paper a good start!

On discovering that I invigilated at exams in St Michael's one local businessman enquired as to what happened when cheating occurred during an exam, the answer was not what he expected, for none was to be found.

Peter Reilly

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