Saturday, November 12, 2011

St. Malachy’s Camp

Posted by Peter Noel Oakley, LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND -- When I was given employment by Liverpool Education Authority as a Probationary Teacher in the late 1940s, I was posted to St. Malachy’s School -- a school that just recently closed its doors for good. While this is sad, the school represents countless wonderful memories for those who attended and those who taught there over the years. One I have is of St. Malachy’s camp. But first let me tell you a bit about the school itself.

When I began there the main building had no electricity, but had gas mantles for lighting, and was heated by open fires with large fireguards. The rooms were galleried, holding about 56 kids.  Despite the ramshackle state of the building, which was first condemned in 1911, it was a good school, largely due to the dedication of the staff.  And St. Malachy’s camp on the  Isle of Man was always the highlight of the school year. It was both a production and an adventure with the advance party sailing on the Thursday to put up tents, dig latrines and manhandle the Soya Stove and Field Kitchen into position. The main party sailed on the Friday, accompanied by a Curate from the church, who said Mass at the camp.

The Island was notoriously wet and windy at anytime of year. So my particular job at camp was to fell trees, and chop wood to fuel the stove and kitchen. In addition, everyone on duty was expected to repair damage to tentage caused by wind and rain. These camps were arduous, but enjoyable, and later in my career I met former campers who spoke about the lovely food at camp. Memory is a funny thing, as the food mostly consisted of stew, and scouse butties. In short, the food was lousy. But I cannot recall any occasion upon my weary return from camp when I was not brought into somebody’s house and fed very well, before catching the bus home to Garston.

“Pete” Noel Oakley is now retired and continues to live in Liverpool. He writes stories about growing up in Liverpool during WWII, his subsequent experiences as a teacher, and later as a headmaster in schools with some colourful and notorious characters. He is Social Shutter Editor, Deirdre Oakley's Uncle.

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