School Days in Lislea in the 1940s (3)

The school inspector's visit was feared by all, remembers Hugh A Murphy

One of the most feared visitors to the school in those days was the inspector. Unlike today, his arrival was not normally signalled in advance, except on the rare occasion when the word spread along the 'grapevine' that an inspector was doing the rounds in the area.

Lislea National School, reproduced by kind permission of RoSA. All rights reserved.On such occasions, we all immediately went to action stations. The room was cleaned from top to bottom, the lines of desks were plumbed, unpresentable pages were neatly removed from exercise books and special pieces of reading were prepared for fluid delivery on the big day.

These occasions, however, were all too rare and the inspector’s visits were almost always unheralded, and planned with a considerable degree of care and, I might say, cunning, so as to create as large an element of surprise as possible.

I remember one such occasion especially, during one of the lazier days of summer, as the master relaxed after lunch in his armchair with the newspaper held out before him as usual and we, thankful for this daily period of respite, relaxed peacefully in our desks.

The first indication we had of impending disaster was the soft tingle of finger touching latch in the hall porch. The inspector, a thin-faced, wiry man with a narrow, elongated head, surmounted with a thinning crop of greying hair, whose shape would remind you for all the world of an inverted exclamation mark, bounced into the room. He had, as usual, parked his car, an Austin 7, up the road behind our house and had come down furtively, unnoticed by anyone, along the hedge and in past the girls’ toilet.

I still remember vividly, and with a great sense of admiration, that single, fluid, all-in-one reaction of the master as both hands came together instantly in a circular movement whipping the paper into a ball and straight into the bin, and a pen appeared magically in his hand writing casually on the notepad before him.

He raised his head slowly with mild curiosity at this unexpected, but quite obviously welcome, interruption to his daily grind, as the inspector’s feet landed on the floor and the look of triumph gradually faded from his face.
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