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"Whispers of Scabby Lane: Chronicles from a Century-Old School Register" | Limerick Gazette Archives

“Whispers of Scabby Lane: Chronicles from a Century-Old School Register”

Once upon a time, a curious American traveller wandered into the offices of the Limerick Chronicle, seeking the whereabouts of a peculiar-sounding place called Scabby Lane. Intriguingly, he was informed that his parents hailed from this enigmatically named lane, a fact that left him somewhat sceptical about the intelligence behind such nomenclature.

His doubts were shared by the locals, and the visitor eventually abandoned their quest. While no traces of Scabby Lane remain today, the lane did exist, according to one of Limerick’s venerable citizens, who pointed to its location off Broad Street. Further validation came from a school register of the 1850s, discovered at the old St. Johns C.B.S. School on John Street. A building still standing but with the echoes of the past as the school itself has disappeared.

The register, a historical treasure trove, unfolded stories of long-forgotten lane ways and pupils who once trod their cobblestoned paths. Names like Milk Market, Town Wall, Ball Alley Lane, Magdalen Lane, and others painted a vivid picture of Limerick’s past. It whispered tales of Playhouse Lane, named after a theatre that once graced its corner, and explained the origin of White Wine Lane, where farmers gathered to sell milk in days gone by.

Delving into the register revealed a diverse tapestry of pupils, their fathers engaged in a myriad of trades and professions now lost to time. Salesmen, brick makers, carmen, and more—each name told a story of a bygone era. The register meticulously documented the pupils’ proficiency in various subjects, with a special column for “general observations” offering insights into their lives.

Among the entries, one couldn’t escape the poignant realities of life. Young Michael Dwyer of Garryowen was a perpetual truant, as were the Sexton brothers of Blackboy Pike. Some had ventured to far-off lands like America, England, and Australia, while others were noted as “minding their mothers” or, less fortunate, as having lost their parents and running away.

Yet, amidst the ordinary, one entry stood out—the sorrowful tale of 7-year-old John Houlihan of Garryowen, whose departure from school coincided with his burial on September 12, 1859. The register, perhaps blurred by a tear, etched a sombre note in the annals of history.

And so, this century-old school register, a fragile parchment of ink and paper, whispered tales of mitchers, emigrants, and those who departed this world too soon—a poignant and captivating slice of human history.

GERRY HANNAN