School Strike 1969

Newspaper cutting with photo and report of march

Newspaper report of march

This memory is from my secondary school days. wrote the following post for the Facebook page Drogheda Down Memory Lane. I reproduce it here with some edits to add in detail provided by commenters:

The school strike for climate reminded me of the time in 1969 when we set up a secondary students union and went on a march to Dublin. We were definitely influenced, second hand, by Paris 1968. Was it Br. Kilkelly (Killer) who told us about Danny the Red in Religion class? He told us in order to warn us about the dangers of student politics, but we were intrigued. There were boys from CBS Sunday’s Gate and girls from Greenhills involved in the union, though we never had any proper structure or programme as far as I can recall. Seamus Murray (JC or Che) was the chair. I remember us talking about abolishing corporal punishment and homework, though both seemed equally utopian.

We decided to go to Dublin to protest outside the Department of Education in support of the teachers who were then on strike, in February 1969. I think Terry Corcoran drafted the petition which I typed up along with a girl further down the road from me in Ascail a hAon, though I can’t remember her name. We had both learned typing at evening classes in the Tech from Mrs Keane.

Over 30 people said they would go to Dublin and we booked a coach from Mary McCormack’s father. Only 17 of us turned up, the rest having been stopped by their parents, but we went ahead anyway. Someone promised that he would bring over a hundred students from Skerries or Swords to join us, but only one turned up. We got the coach to Swords and walked in from there. Several of us made banners but the only slogan I can remember is the one we all criticised. John Keelaghan had made one saying “Lenihan, the Paisley of the South”. A garda on a motorcycle encountered us at Whitehall and accompanied us the rest of the way into Marlborough Street.

We handed in our petition, did some shouting, then put our posters in rubbish bins and headed off to Trinity College for a meeting with the students union there. I had forgotten about that meeting, but Seamus Murray recalled it in a response to my post. He remembered being hauled in front of the principal, the Gug, when school restarted and the focus of his anger was the fact that we had visited that Protestant den of iniquity. There was a report of our march in the local newspaper, but I think the union must have fizzled out after that and I don’t remember any other activity.

A comment from Christopher Meade on Facebook recalls that students at the other CBS in the town, St. Mary’s, decided to mount their own march when they heard about ours. They made banners and marched through Drogheda but a Garda told them to stop being silly and to go home, and they did!

One response to “School Strike 1969”

  1. Alan O'Hara says :

    Great report. I don’t remember it at all. My friend Silvano told me about it recently. I was in my final year at Terenure as a boarder. Probably the priests took up the slack. Innocent times.

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