Teri Murray, a past pupil of our school, is a poet and now lives in Limerick City. She fondly remembers the years she spent attending school in St. Louise’s Primary School until she was 8 years old and moved to Crumlin. She recently published her fifth anthology of poetry entitled Under A Linnet’s Wing. Below is her poem Saint Louise’s, Ballyfermot, which captures her memories from her days in school.
Saint Louise’s, Ballyfermot
Even now, the smell of newly hewn wood
And Mansion House Wax Polish
Brings me back to little school.
Sunlight pouring through the glass panels
In the doors, pools of green, indigo and orange
Shimmering on the floors.
The nuns quietly pacing the corridors,
The Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul,
With headdresses of purest white
As the wings of butterflies already in flight.
For weeks we had been preparing,
Then one day in June, when the bees were dozing
Among the roses, Sister Marie came
All the way from Paris, tall and slender,
As if a rare orchid had been transplanted
Into Ballyfermot soil.
Enthralled, as her long Gallic fingers plucked words
From the air, held our breaths as she told us,
In faltering English, of the foundress of the order,
Saint Louise de Marillac and the mother house
On Rue du Bac.
The only houses most of us knew, were given
To us by Dublin Corporation, yet in my mind’s eye,
I saw a huge one, shaped like a woman
With an apron flapping from her waist,
Overlooking the River Seine
quicksilver, pulsing through Lutetia,
Flanked by parks, galleries and mansions for the rich,
Bricks melting like bronze in the evening sun.
One of the older girls played the notes
On a tin whistle, as we from Miss Mac Fadden’s
First Class climbed onto a small stage,
I looked down at the hornpipe shoes
That my Mother had trudged around Meath Street for,
Then, the line of Black Patent leather clad feet
Took our first steps.
The wooden floor resounded to the rhythm,
Silver Buckles chuckled,
Our bodies took on a kind of ancient beat
That brought us back to the Race of Parthalon
Milesians and Celts, to the origins
Of the music of our people.
We danced until our hearts were ready to burst
With pride, the head-nun’s voice resounding
“You are every bit as good as the girls
From Saint Louis’, Rathmines“,
And for that moment we believed that we were.
Sometimes on summer evenings at dusk,
I glimpse a flapping of wings
And my eyes follow the path…..
I think of the nuns, headdresses of purest white,
As alive in my memory now as butterflies in flight.