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

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Memories - scroll down the page and let these many contributions jog your memory

Memories (1920s) . . My family had moved to Monkton in 1919. In August 1922, I was one of a few pupils sent to St Michael’s College – its total roll then [being only a year old] was 68. Pupils came from North and South Ayrshire.

Our uniform was a long navy blue gym tunic, a long-sleeved white blouse with high neck, black shoes and stockings, along with a special type of hat and school badge. On our way to and from College, girls had to wear gloves. “Ladies are never seen without gloves” was instilled into us with great regularity. We were not allowed to have special friends from among our fellow pupils. However we managed to survive and do well. Perhaps the strict discipline worked!

[After leaving St Michael’s in 1926, Miss Brosnan studied Art and returned to teach in 1931, retiring as Principal Teacher of Art in 1970, after 39 years. The above appeared in the 1991 school magazine. A pupil said: "She could work magic on a drawing, by a bit of shading here and some highlighting there."]

A memory (1940s)

. . Mrs Lillian Devine (nee O’Rawe) remembers, with affection, her inspirational teacher of English, Sister Francis, who read a book entitled When Shakespeare Lived in Southwark to her class in serial form. So fond were Lillian's memories of this educational experience that she recently obtained a first edition copy of this book from the Internet!

Memories (1970s) . .

I still tell anyone who is willing to listen what a sound start I was given by Mr Dickson and by Mr McLaughlin. I remember the enthusiasm with which Mr Dickson taught and the encouragement he gave our small group to go on stage - going to Glasgow University as a spotty-faced 13-year-old to recite “Difficile est subito deponere amorem …”.

I learnt zillions from Mr McLaughlin too. I was also one of the first pupil co-editors of SMART. I recall school thugs giving up their lunchtimes to go to samba and traditional Scottish dancing lessons in the run up to Christmas (probably the most important untold story about St Michael’s) and the atmosphere in the school on the day John Lennon was killed. (Paul McGeown, 1976-81)

A memory – of my friend and I deciding not to go on a school trip. We went to the local café and were sitting enjoying a coke when some of the teachers came in. We wondered why we did not get into trouble. Then we realised that they should not have been there either. Anonymous (1960s)
Memories – all good ones – I made a lot of good friends, some of whom I still keep in contact with. Two teachers were favourites of mine. Mr Murphy (Admin) always kept his eye on you to make sure you weren’t looking at the type-writer when typing and Mrs Penno (HE) was such a laugh when cooking and at embroidery.
Michelle Scott (now Aitkenhead, pupil 1983-90)
“He was lovely” - a 1987 memory . . “I came off the school bus looking through my Christmas cards when I tripped and banged my cheek off the railing. I was so embarrassed and kept walking. Then someone said I was bleeding. Mr Maxwell took me to hospital and I got seven stitches on my cheekbone. He was lovely and I still have the scar 20 years later.”
Melanie McFarlane
A memory – when 6th year boys took their ’revenge’ on Mr Scullion during the annual staff v pupils match, removing the hinges from his office door, placing some chocolates on his desk and re-hanging the door minus the screws. Anonymous (1981)
A tale . . from SIII in the old school: The teacher (M—y W——n) starts the RE lesson. Class tells her there is a boy who doesn’t believe in God (T—y H—). Teacher corners boy and they debate for rest of lesson. Rest of class continue the card school started before she arrived!
A memory . . that will stay in my mind forever was when Mr Allan was talking about the toilets at the new St Matthew’s and the exciting modern facilities it would have – like running water. I will also never forget Staircase C, and all the friends I made there.
Michael Peter Thomas Helley, S2
A thanks (for 1982). . Going on a Classics trip to York, there were not enough pupils for a coach, so Mr Dickson took the mini-bus and his wife took their car. I was in the car and learned so much more than if a coach had been used. I would like to thank him because I have now taken my children to these places.
Marie (Wilson) Doran

Latin Speakers
. . Winning the West of Scotland Junior Latin Speaking Trophy in 1972 were Robert Mann (now a priest), Martin Jack, Charles Martin, Josephine Finn (Mrs Hunter), Ann Bennett and Julie Forbes (primary teacher Mrs Breen).
A memory . . A teacher of English, a nun who will remain nameless, was so determined to preserve and protect our innocence that she covered over any sexual allusions in the works of Shakespeare with white sticky paper. It goes without saying that this strategy aroused our curiosity, and some pupils, boys in particular, were to be seen holding the pages up to the light in order to try to decipher the forbidden words. Anonymous
Memories (from the 1960s – all anonymous)
* Sr Francis came into our English classroom – one of the huts in Irvine. It was a very hot day. “Tell me”, she said, “Why are these windows so shitely tut?” The class erupted in laughter. Being a woman of class, she turned on her heels and walked out, returning only when the laughter had died down. She opened her Shakespeare, pointed to different people, “You will be Puck, you will be Bottom,” etc.
* We hid the sweets that big Jim had bought for his children. We wrote clues on the board which he had to solve in order to retrieve them.
Mr McFarlane’s piano being carried out to the playing fields. When he found it he sat down and started to play a tune.
A memory – of favourite teacher Miss Leckie, Maths teacher 1943-52, and hockey player.
John O’Connell (in 1947/48)
A memory . (non mea culpa . . ) of not being allowed into the class of a certain diminutive Maths teacher – “You’re not getting into my class. You’ve got a cheeky sister.” (The said sister had been cheeky to the Maths teacher after church on Sunday.)
Fr ——
A memory . . of a gold watch for R.E. while a prefect in 1961-62.
Francis McGurk
[In 1961, Francis won the Special Prize for Religious Knowledge (First Place in Final Religious Examination), presented by Very Rev. Dermot Canon O’Reilly, P.P., Kilbirnie, and the ‘Catenian’ Prize for Scottish Catholic History.]
A memory (Passion week)

My friend and I had missed the school bus and so had to catch the service bus. We sat laughing and giggling throughout the journey. On arriving at school we were given a row by one of the teachers. “Don’t you know, girls, that it is Passion week? You have no right to be smiling or laughing.”

A memory . . The scene: SIV French in the old school. The teacher (Gertie McGeough) has set a task; completed answers are to be taken to her desk for correction. A long line forms, allowing the boys at the rear (Aiden McKellar & Francis Finnegan) enough time to take the hinges off the door, leaving it carefully balanced. We await the teacher’s exit. Unexpectedly, Mother Pauline is touring the school with an Inspector. The door has a small glass panel and we see her feeling for the handle whilst talking over her shoulder to the H.M.I.. The door starts to tilt and ends with an almighty crash on the floor! The parents of the culprits were summoned! A memory . . Half-way through my ‘O’ Level art exam our female model took ill – only to be replaced by a male model in a football strip (Paul Donohue). Amazingly I still managed to pass my ‘O’ Level. My favourite teacher was wee Harry McFarlane – he was brilliant!
Maria Doyle (1973)
Different days . .

From the 1962 magazine advert for Irvine Knitters Ltd: “To all girls leaving St Michael’s College, Knitwear Manufacturing offers an interesting and profitable career.”

From the 1966 magazine advert for T F Campbell’s record shop in Bridgegate, Irvine: “Get Your Top Pops From The Official Radio Caroline Shop For Irvine And Kilmarnock.”

From the 1968 magazine advert for the different bars at the King’s Arms Hotel in Irvine: “Public Bar – Here we have the ‘Man’s Bar’ where ‘He’ can get away from it all.”

A memory . .

On the 2004 trip to Arran with Mr Coxhead, we were gorge walking and all the pupils were allowed to jump off a tall waterfall into a large pool of water. One of the pupils was scared and was taking quite a while. Mr Coxhead decided to go for it – he ran as fast as he could and leapt over the big rock, fell about 20 feet into the pool and came out smiling.

Nicole Allan & Eliza Biondi 405

“Sorry I’m late, miss”
The scene is Mrs Duffin’s French class in the huts in Irvine. A boy (T McC) slips out of the window, goes round to the door, chaps politely, enters, and says “Sorry I’m late, miss.” Lesson continues. He slips out of the window again, goes round, chaps, enters, apologises, “Sorry I’m late, miss.” Lesson proceeds. He slips out a third time, goes round, chaps, enters, apologises, “Sorry . . .”. Imagine an utterly confused Mrs D., lost for words, “But . . You’re in . . But . . You’re already
present . .” (Anonymous)
Breaking news . . As we went to press, Mrs Buchert and Mr McLaughlin agreed with each other on something FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER!
A memory . . of Miss Wade being reduced to tears when we judged Portia to have been heartless in her treatment of Shylock. We decided that Shylock was entitled to his pound of flesh. (Anonymous, 1960s)
A memory . . I know Hamlet from cover to cover. I should! I studied it in Third, Fourth and Fifth Year, simply because Miss Wade forgot that she had already taught it to us! Anonymous
A memory . . The scene: behind the music dept in the new school. The head boy (Sam Martin) has sent prefect Aiden McKellar to corner the boys smoking, playing cards and generally misbehaving. Some time passes, so the head boy goes to determine progress. He finds the prefect dealing cards. When questioned, the prefect tells him there is no misbehaviour or smoking – 2 out of 3 ain’t bad. Sounds like the cue for a song!
A few past clubs . .
Chess – organised in the 1970s by Art teacher Mr R A Smith and more recently by Mr P Carmichael
Debating Society – resumed in the 1950s, popular in the 1960s-70s, and continuing into the 1990s
Camera Club – founded in 1965 by Mr Sean Pentleton
Bridge Club – organised in the late 1970s by Miss F Murphy (History) and Miss A Lennon
A memory . . The lights were low; twenty pairs of eyes were fixed on the video; Robert Redford was on screen as the inimitable ‘Gatsby’ and all was quiet. Until, that is, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a shape, with arms grasping for something (thin air?) to hold on to. I watched as Mr Jenkins – as though in slow motion – realised that nothing was going to prevent his chair from collapsing. I watched his painfully embarrassing attempts to thwart his rapid collapse onto the classroom floor and I cried with laughter, as did the rest of the class, when he eventually did land unceremoniously, legs and arms flailing, onto the polished tiles. (GMcQ 2006)
Another memory . . Miss Wade deciding to study The Canterbury Tales instead of the Prologue, with her S5 class. There were no complaints from these good Catholic pupils as they read one bawdy tale after another.
A memory – First Science lesson in August 1955, with teacher Jimmy McKinlay entertaining (and teaching) us, only yards from the beautiful statue of Robert Burns.
Michael Murray and Patricia Murray (nee Reid)
Memories – many and varied – from The Legion of Mary and religious ‘retreats’, to school hockey, volleyball & athletics, to the discos, and the clothes we used to wear, and not forgetting my shock and amazement at being chosen as Head Girl! And I remember Mr McCutcheon offering me the facilities of the PE department for training when I was involved in competitive athletics. I enjoyed being at St Michael’s so much that I went on to become a teacher myself. Thanks to all staff, past and present.
Karen Doherty (1978-84)
A memory . . back in first year, one morning Mr McCulloch was reading the bulletin. He stood up and started to walk around. He began talking about the Aviemore Ski Trip and at that point sat down on one side of an empty table. As he did so, the other side collapsed. He began to slide (ski?) down it, hands and feet in the air! His face was bright red for ages. He still goes red when you mention it now. Monica Grant S3 A memory . . Coming to St Michael’s has been one of the best years of my life. My most famous memory of St Michael’s is when me and my friends did the X Factor talent show – unfortunately we didn’t win but me and the girls were winners in our eyes. Nicole Blair

An Industrial Awareness Day group being led by former pupil Andrew Donnelly
Unforgettable . . .
(from the pupils)

Mrs Brown’s gym skirts,
Mr Jenkins “so bad, they were funny” jokes,
Miss McCourt’s (Mrs McArthur’s) leathers,
Mr Cassidy’s ‘Rupert’ trousers,
Mr Semple’s eye-catching, dazzlingly colourful ties,
Mrs Taylor’s multi-coloured, multi-functional jumpers,
Mrs Buchert . . simply unforgettable.
A memory . . By far the best memory I have of my time in St Michael’s was when I travelled to Murrayfield to see the Pope. I was representing St Michael’s and was carrying the school banner. This meant that I got to stand very close to the Pope, about 10 to 12 feet away, as I remember. Being there with the school and thousands of youth was mind blowing. Thanks, St Michael’s.
Nandra Weideger, 1982

I was a member of the Legion of Mary in the 60's. I remember sitting repairing rosaries to be sent to Africa, knitting squares for blankets, selling new rosaries, holy pictures and medals etc at interval and lunchtime, weeding the convent garden and visiting the sick in Ravenspark Hospital. On one visit I gave an old lady a chocolate which she had trouble swallowing. I was scared that I would be responsible for her choking to death.

The nuns at the school in Irvine were very concerned about our moral welfare. One non-teaching nun would come into the playground and give us a row if we were caught daring to talk to a member of the opposite sex.

At school dances the nuns would come round with a ruler to ensure that there was plenty of space between all the girls and boys.

A member of the maths department, on hearing the fire alarm ringing, rushed out of the class leaving us seated at our desks. A moment later she rushed back in, grabbed the mission money and rushed back out.

My days as a boy: On my first day at school we were taken to the assembly hall and listened while our names and classes were read out. After all the girls had left I was left alone among all the boys. I put up my hand to ask why and was told off. After all the boys had been allocated classes I was still there. I was asked my name. “Giovanna Delgreco”, I answered. “You are down as Giovanni” came the reply – and so I remained until I left.

I am not a former pupil. However, my dad, John Mitchell, taught at St Michael's for many years and, for my sisters, Gillian and Roslyn, and I, it was a great treat to go there with him during the summer holidays. The idea was that we would 'help' him carry out whatever chores required to be done. In reality, we had hours of fun in that magical place – St Michael's Academy.

We would take turns at 'birling' on the swivel chair in my dad's office, and then, probably so that he could proceed with his work unhindered, we were allowed to run around in the quadrangle outside his room. The fun we had! Games of mystery and imagination proliferated in that overgrown shrubbery, along with the usual 'Hide and Seek' and 'Tig'. I distinctly remember a stone bench with the figures 65 beside it. The school had opened in 1965 - hence the numbers.

Once, however, I had a very frightening experience; I went into the School Office where my dad was talking to Mr and Mrs McCutcheon, when suddenly what seemed to be the Hound of the Baskervilles came bounding towards me, barking loudly. This was, in fact, Marky, the McCutcheon family pet, and he was merely welcoming me in true canine fashion. However, at that time, I suffered from cynophobia - an irrational fear of dogs, so I screamed equally loudly and ran away. Eventually, I was pacified, but could not be persuaded to pat the friendly beast.

When my dad retired in 1999, there was a celebratory evening in the Assembly Hall. Needless to say, before we joined in the festivities of the evening, we had a few final 'birls' on that magic chair!

Hilary Conetta (nee Mitchell)

Miss Wade opening the windows on a hot summer’s day to let the Holy Spirit in to inspire us.

Unscrewing the board from the wall and hiding it in a cupboard. We told the teacher that we had put it on the railway track.

We placed a bucket of water on top of the door to surprise our Maths teacher. Unfortunately we were so noisy that the teacher from across the corridor came to investigate and got soaked for his trouble.

My friends and I running down the banking on the moors in Irvine and waiting until our more athletic friends returned from their cross country run before joining them and pretending to be out of puff.

Miss Whiston passing our cookery class. She came in, smiled and said, “What a lovely smell. The lady who makes my Christmas cake has just died. Could you bake me one?” I did not dare refuse. That was the first of 33 Christmas cakes I baked for her.

Dogging school one day. As my friend and I walked along the street Sean Pentleton passed by in his car and waved. The next day we stood under the clock to await our punishment. Sr Eugenius walked by, patted me on the shoulder and said, “Vanna, you are a good girl. Go back to class.” My friend was not so lucky.

My friend and I messing around in class. I bit him and he screamed. Mrs McKinley put us both into the corridor. Big Jim appeared. We knew what to expect, so we told Mrs McKinley that we had been told to go back in. At the lesson end, my friend told the truth. We each got 300 very long lines to write.

(various Anonymous sources)


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