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Laghy Sunday School Excursion

THE SUNDAY SCHOOL EXCURSION.

By

Margaret Graham nee Browne.

The National Schools in the parish of Laghy were very closely connected with the Sunday School. We went to the National School during the week and Sunday School on Sunday morning. Nothing has changed to this day.

The Excursion was the highlight of our year. To the “socially deprived” children of the 40s and 50s it was the only day out we had for the whole year. We looked forward to it and could talk of little else at school in the weeks beforehand. There were new summer clothes, a dress or shirt and trousers and maybe sandals – the little brown ones, if we were lucky.

It was always held in June with no guarantee of a good day, but we did not care. We went on the train, an adventure in itself. The train left Donegal station in the morning stopping at Laghy and Ballintra stations on the way.

We were all there, bright and early, waiting on the platform at Laghy station straining for the first sight of the smoke in the distance, barely able to contain ourselves with excitement. The boys were down on the track with their ears to the rails to catch the vibrations from the approaching train, with their mothers screaming at them to get back up on the platform before they got killed. We would see the train first as it approached McGinley's gates and watch while it rattled into the station, with black smoke billowing from the steaming engine. Children were hanging out from every window, waving and greeting their friends.

We all piled aboard and immediately joined our friends at the windows, ignoring the possibility of a piece of coal in the eye - a very painful experience. The coal flew back when the engine was stoked up.

When we reached Rossnowlagh, we all piled out on the platform and raced along the road below the station, turning right, down a very steep narrow lane to the beach. We came on beach just below the cliffs, and walked along it to the Sandhouse, a small establishment in those days. We usually had about 2/- to spend - It went a long way in those days. The Tea Rooms was the usual venue, because it sold everything you could possibly want. We bought buckets and spades, windmills (to hold out of the train windows on the way home), lemonade to drink with the sandwiches we brought from home. Laghy Parish did not provide food for their children. The Donegal children were given a bag containing sandwiches and a bun and were provided with tea. How we envied them.  We played on the beach, the little ones making sandcastles and the bigger ones paddling in the ocean with their trousers and dresses rolled up, there were no bathing costumes. There were organised games on the dunes, with jumping and running races.

On the wet days, the mothers sat on the veranda in front of the Tea Rooms’ like a row of wet hens, with miserable whining babies, and wished it was time to set off for the station. The rain never bothered us in the slightest. When it was time to go home, we trudged dejectedly back to the station. The train was usually there waiting for us. We boarded the train for the journey home, tired and very, very happy. The children of today, who are used to outings every day of the week, would never understand what it was like for us. We are the ones with the happy memories.

THE FIRST CHRISTMAS PARTY.

Margaret Graham nee Browne

Christmas parties are now held every year for the children of the National School and Sunday School. It was a different story when we went to school in the 40s and 50s.

During the thirty years when the Reverend Sheldon was our Rector we never had a Christmas party or for that matter any other kind of party. We were never presented with Sunday School prizes or presents of any kind from the Parish. Santa Claus visited some lucky children on Christmas Eve; others were not so lucky. The lucky ones got a small gift, dolls for the girls and drums for the boys, for example. One lucky boy [Malcolm McMurry, actually] got a Mecca no set one Christmas; he was the envy of all. Ludo and Snakes and Ladders were the popular board games. The unlucky ones got a sod of turf or nothing.

When the Reverend Sheldon retired and before the arrival of the Rev. Noel Jackson in 1954 the parish was without a rector. Some of the parishioners got together and decided to have a Christmas party for the children.     It was an unforgettable experience for everybody connected with it, it was planned with great care and detail and everyone connected with it carried out their tasks with real enjoyment. Miss Hamilton collected the parents and children from Copany and Moyne, in her van and left them home again after the party.

Maggie Deane says she will never forget coming into the village and seeing this horse drawn sleigh with Santa on board coming up the street.

Mrs. Florrie Browne played the part of Santa Claus, that year. Dressed as Santa and with a huge bag of presents she boarded the rail bus at Drumbar and travelled to Laghy. It was a rare treat for the passengers. When the rail bus reached Laghy station, Joe Thompson, the driver, hugely enjoying himself, assisted her unto the platform. The station was packed with children and adults - waiting for the big moment. Tommy McClay, Gardrim, had a horse drawn sleigh covered in decorations waiting outside the gate. Santa boarded the sleigh and was driven through the village to the Orange Hall preceded by Victor Browne and Gore Johnston playing the bagpipes and followed by practically every child and adult in the parish. The sleigh stopped outside John and Maggie O’Connor’s house and Santa gave a present to little Margaret O’Connor she was thrilled to bits. The procession then proceeded to the hall where everything was in readiness. A huge spread was laid out in the “Wee End” ready to be served when the games were over. A large decorated Christmas tree sat on the floor in the front of the hall with prizes and presents underneath, in readiness for the presentations. Games were organised for all the children, the Grand old Duke of York, In and Out of Windows, Here we go gathering Nuts in May” were all ‘ popular and everyone joined in. After everyone had eaten to bursting point, Santa presented the prizes to the Sunday school children and gave a present to every child in the parish. It was an unforgettable day. There have been Christmas parties every year since but none could touch that first one for originality and fun.

Unfortunately, I was too old for a present.

 

 


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