1987 – Rang a haon – The pink door

The list wasn’t in alphabetical order. Ours was listed last. Hand written in black marker on an A1 sheet of cream paper. Hung on the back wall of the classroom, right next to an illustration of Jesus sitting under a tree, spinning yarns to little kiddies. The townlands of the parish were listed according to worth.

She was older than Mammy and younger than Nana. I knew that because I had counted and compared her wrinkles to their wrinkles. She liked children whose Daddies were farmers or accountants, whose Mammies were nurses or worked in the bank. She didn’t like us.

“Would all the children from Coill Beag stand up?”, she’d say, through fossilised teeth.  Three of us would stand, all of us in the front row where she could keep and eye on us.

Before I told Dada what was happening each week, I used to look down at the bristled, red carpet underneath her court shoes whilst she dictated her speech. Sometimes, I’d cast an eye towards Patrick Fahy to my right or Seanie Mac to my left. Their heads were down too.

But then, Dada gave me his speech and I never looked at her ugly shoes again.

She’d grimace at us before she delivered her soliloquy.

“Would all the children from Coill Beag stand up? Now, where shall I start this week. The boys!”

“Patrick Fahy, his father is only a bus driver. Isn’t that right Patrick?”

Obligatory mumble.

“And Sean McSweeney, your father isn’t even working. The poor divil! Your poor misfortunate mother!”

Second obligatory mumble.

She turned her wire-haired head in my direction. I looked at the bridge of her nose, like Dada told me.

“She’ll think you’re looking her right in the eye, but you’re not. So you won’t get scared”, he said.

“Well, aren’t you brave, little black haired Isobel Nolan. Usually, all I’d see is the top of your head, girl! And your father. He’s only an electrician, is he not?”

“Yes Miss”, I said, grinning.

I could hear Dada’s voice inside my head,

“I don’t want to see that head down ever again, do you hear me? You just remember this, Isabel Nolan, you can’t buy class!”


I am a stay at home parent to a beautiful little girl. I am also an aspiring writer. I am currently working on a few projects; a novel that is set in Guernsey, post WWII and a children's book set in Ireland. I write two blogs; www.irenehalpinlong.com and www.hervoicefromthekitchenwindow.com. I also love to play the piano and flute (badly!) :) And I love, love, love to read, watch reality tv shows and do easy level Sudoku.

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