from "St Michael's College and Academy - A Celebration 1921-2007",
published June 2007

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Interviews with five former pupils (pages 20/21/22 & 86/87)

four immediately below - click here for Mrs Kathleen Fraser further down the page

Mrs Garrett
(pupil 1949-1955)
Mrs Isabel E Garrett (nee Platts) taught at St Columba’s, Kilmarnock, St Peter’s, Ardrossan, and St Mary’s, Saltcoats, and was Head Teacher at St Brendan’s, then St Anthony’s, Saltcoats, retiring in 1999.
Mary McArthur
(pupil 1966-1972)
Mary is daughter of Peter McCourt (APT Maths to 1979). She returned to teach Modern Languages in 1979 and also served as APT Guidance 1982-1993. Her extra-curricular interests include drama.
Tony Ross
(pupil 1979-1984)
Tony returned at age 20 on his first Teacher Training placement, and later as a teacher of Physics, but now serves as a PT Guidance, and takes football.

Ms Donnelly
(pupil 1988-1994)

Ms Donnelly is a member of the Business Studies department, and also takes an S1 ICT class

What was your first impression of St Michael's?
IG: The playground was vast, but I was not impressed by the huts which seemed to be heated by one small stove. Mr Craig (Latin & Greek) usually stood in front of this warming himself while we froze! MM: On the first day, pupils I didn’t know shouted “Are you Old Stoorie’s daughter?” - the chalk dust from the board always clung to my dad’s cloak and looked like ‘stoor’. I remember going to the hall and being placed in class 1Alpha. TR: It was much bigger than primary school, the pupils were so much older and the teachers didn’t know your name. TD: I was very frightened of being pushed down the banking.
Who was your favourite teacher?
IG:  Sister Francis (English) and Eddie Mellan (French & Spanish). MM:  Jim McCutcheon (Latin) was larger than life in the classroom and I still remember his greetings in Latin. Rose Ann Mitchell (English) stood out for me, especially in fifth year – 36 years later, I can still recite most of ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’. TR:  I liked most of my teachers; I had no favourites. TD:  Mrs Boyd, a teacher of English, impressed me as did Mrs Dorrian and Mrs Middleton.
What were your favourite subjects?
IG:  History of Art with Miss Brosnan. MM:  No particular subject. TR:  Maths and Physics because I was good at them. (I do miss teaching my subject but prefer Guidance.) TD:  I liked P.E. and O.I.S. because I was good at them.
What subjects did you most dislike?
IG:  Maths – except when we had Mrs McGuinness. MM:  I wasn’t that keen on Maths; I did it only because I had to – I achieved a B in Higher. TR:  Technical – we didn’t do enough practical work. TD:  Home Economics. My cooking always was and still is a disaster.
What did you think of school dinners?
IG:  School dinners were not memorable. MM:  I can’t even remember them. TR:  They were awful. Once I waited in the queue for 20 minutes but the smell was so bad that I put it in the bin. The canteen has improved. TD:  I liked school dinners. I enjoyed the banter with the dinner ladies.
Do you have a favourite memory?
IG:  Taking part in a play in the very small staffroom in which we pretended to be teachers. We were in Sixth Year and the humour was gentle and the staff took it in good part. MM:  I suppose it would be when I was Dux Medal winner, although I always felt it should have gone to Doreen McNairney. TR:  We used to try to get the belt from certain teachers as a sort of rite of passage and we kept the scores. Some teachers were ‘better’ than others. Keep fit in 2nd year French!! TD:  Our retreat to Langbank in S6 and the school discos. I remember having a bet with Anne Marie Harkins as to the number of boys we could kiss. She won as she managed 27.
Tell us something you'd rather forget
IG:  I would rather not reveal it. MM:  Sitting in room 15 without a teacher, being fed up, we jumped out of the windows, ran under the English classroom windows, and back to class. Also, being put out for talking (by Miss McGeough) and standing in the corridor when Sr Pauline came, so I confidently strode upstairs and returned once she had gone. TR:  No, I’d rather forget it. TD:  Miss McCourt going mad with me on a Classics trip to York. I signed a visitors’ book with the word “sh..”. I wondered how she knew it was me. I had been stupid enough to sign it!
What extra-curricular activities did you take part in?
IG:  Because we were bussed to St Michael’s, these were few. I remember playing hockey on a Saturday. I also took part in the Burns Federation Compe-tition – singing and reciting – and, at the instigation of Sister Francis, took part in the Ayrshire Festival. MM:  I played hockey very badly – they always put me on the right wing where no-one would pass to me, so I sat on my stick and watched. I was marginally better in the netball team. It has always annoyed me that they didn’t let me into the chorus of ‘The Gondoliers’ - I was put on make-up. TR:  Trip to Holland; Football ‘B’ team (I got into the school team in 5th year, once all the good players had left; Theatre trip to see ‘Hamlet’; Murray-field to see Pope John Paul II; 5th year retreats to Dumfries with Fr Flynn. TD:  I played basketball for the school team as well as netball. We were very good.
Were your schooldays the happiest days of your life?
IG:  I enjoyed my time at St Michael’s, especially from Fourth Year onwards. The friendships I made then have remained over all these years. My mother attended in the time of Sr Mechtilde Joseph, so there was a family connection. MM:  No, I’ve had more memorable times since. TR:  No, not really. TD:  Amongst the happiest.
What are your thoughts on the closure of St Michael's?
IG:  Very sad. It is a backward step for the many pupils who will have to travel just as I did many years ago. Is this progress? Small is beautiful. Schools with huge rolls mean that children/ pupils receive less attention and supervision. I feel that a school should be at the heart of the Catholic community. MM:  I’m looking forward to a bit of excitement – new faces, new building – at the ‘tail end’ of my career. It’s a shame the community is losing the link with tradition. My mother brought the statue of St Michael from Italy – the next generation will lose those traditional ties, especially the St Michael’s name. TR:  I always expected my children to go to St Michael’s – my dad, my sister and her family had been, so I am disappointed about that, but St Matthew’s should provide better opportunities for my children. TD:  Very, very sad.
How did you feel about returning to St Michael's as a member of staff?
<n/a> MM:  My father was still teaching here and Mr McCutcheon offered me a position. I intended to stay for a year or two. The staff made me welcome and I soon forgot they had been my teachers. I stayed at the school because I liked it. TR:  Difficult as a student teacher – quite intimidating. Good to go into rooms I had been taught in and to recall the pupils/teachers in them. I do find it strange that I now teach the children of those I went to school with. TD:  I felt very apprehensive. However on my first day I met Mrs Brown and Mrs Middleton in the car park. Mrs Brown gave me a big hug. Mrs Middleton said, “I don’t do hugs.”
Did any teacher inspire you to become a teacher?
<n/a> MM:  No. I didn‘t want to be a teacher. I taught in the University of Amiens for a year and discovered I liked it. TR:  The teachers I had for Highers were ‘good’ teachers – Mr McNulty, Mr B Walsh, Mrs McArthur and Mr Jenkins TD:  Mrs Brown and Mrs Middleton.
What is the most significant change since you were a pupil?
<n/a> MM:  The demise of the blazer. TR:  Teaching is generally better. Teachers get to know the pupils more now. Teachers wore cloaks then. Mr Campbell (Art) lined us up – one floor tile each. TD:  There is more low-level indiscipline.
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Interview with former pupil Mrs Kathleen Fraser (page 22)

What was your first impression of St Michael's? I was slightly awestruck.
What subjects did you like best and why? English, French, Latin. I found them easy.
What did you think of school dinners? Good but portions too small.
Have you unforgettable memories of St Michael's?
(a) The school was burned to the ground when I was in Sixth Year which meant for those sitting Highers there were no textbooks – Parnassus, large Maths textbooks, French and Latin textbooks, had all gone up in smoke. We first thought it would be great – no classes – but the harsh reality was different. We had to use St Mary's Primary School and go to Irvine Royal Academy for Science.
(b) One afternoon whilst we were sitting the Higher Latin Exam, two bombers flew over. We all sheltered under the desks and cheated like mad. Boys are so quick to take advantage and texts were brought out. Poor Charlie (teacher) was flapping his arms from place to place to stop it all but to no avail. A break came when a bomb dropped some distance away and Shakespeare's bust fell off the window sill and smashed in two. This caused great merriment among us as this was the second time it had fallen. The first time a flying ‘sandshoe’ (today’s equivalent is a trainer) hit it and it smashed in two. One of the boys took it home and his mother glued it together and made it look good. It took her (his mother) three days to set it and we realised nobody had missed it. There was a definite camaraderie in our Sixth Year ‘all for one and one for all’, so we were always sad when one of the boys were killed during the war as many of them joined up almost right away. We had a reunion in the King's Arms hotel in Irvine circa 1943 and some came in uniform.
Tell us something that you would rather forget? Six crosshands from Sister Joseph.
Were you involved in any extra-curricular activities? Netball and hockey.
Were your schooldays the happiest days of your life? Quite happy.
What are your thoughts on the closure?
Sad to see the closure of a school where discipline was strict, but religion was taught and we all developed, each in our own way, into the future to pass on to families the creed which we learned from nuns and lay teachers, to respect others. I was always proud to say I had been a pupil of St Michael's College - there weren’t many colleges then.
Looking back on the solidity of that era, to the ever changing present world, the school motto is more relevant than ever. Aeterna Non Caduca.

P.S. The advent of boys coming to St Michael's from Fourth to Sixth Years – I think I was in Fourth Year – shocked Sr Mechtilde Joseph. We were given a lecture by her on how to treat these interlopers. ‘Treat them like desks’ was her cry. There were some very nice desks.

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