Childhood at the turn of the 20th century
Childhood at the turn of 20th century involved in some interesting extracurricular activities. For a period of at least six years from 1909, under the guidance of Rev William O’Leary, the students of Mungret College used a seismograph to measure the size and distance of earthquakes. In 23 April 1909, they recorded an earthquake 1340 miles from Limerick, which lasted 63 minutes and 30 seconds. They later discovered that epicentre near Benavente (Spain), was the largest crustal earthquake in the Iberian Peninsula during the twentieth century. The college also recorded an earthquake that hit Iceland on the 22 January of that year reached Limerick with such intensity that the seismograph used was not capable of recording its full force and was ‘thrown out of gear’. In April 1911, there were 179 boarders and 15 professors in Mungret College. Of the students, eleven were born in the USA, three in England and one in Australia.
It was not all fun and games for children a hundred years ago. Many had to leave school at a very young age to help with the family finances. In 1911, the four surviving five children of Michael Nash and Mary Nash nee Rourke of 12 Island Road were working in Cleeve’s toffee factory. Their children were, Margaret, 16, Teresa, 15, Sarah, 13 and Agnes Mary who was only 12 years old. Their eldest daughter Madeline also worked in Cleeve’s before her death in 1909 of T.B., she was only 16 years old. Madeline was buried in Mount Saint Lawrence cemetery.
The hazards of every day live were very apparent for children at the turn of the last century. On 16 June 1896, Joseph Toohill age 30, a labourer of 3 Palmerstown (Seymour’s Lane) rescued twelve year old Kate O’Brien, of Fogerty Lane. Kate was playing by the quay fell into the Shannon, which was at high tide. She was sinking fast and Toohill jumped in, pulling her to safety. The Committee of the Royal Humane Society, London, later honoured him for gallantry.
On Tuesday evening the 20 June 1899, was an exciting day in the Crescent College school calendar as it was their annual college sports day in the Market’s Field. One of the competitors was eleven-year-old Patrick Joseph Keating, the eldest son of Richard Keating and Julia Keating nee Connolly of 2 Alphonsus Terrace. His mother was only seventeen when she married the thirty eight year old Richard in St Michael’s Church in 1887. Patrick had arrived at the Market’s Field early that day at half past twelve to exercise his cob, a sturdy, short-legged horse.
When the animal, which was standing, slipped and fell on its side and landed on its rider who sustained an injury to the brain. He was rushed to the County Infirmary (today this building is LCFE) on Mulgrave Street when every effort was taken to save him but he passed away four hours later. He was buried two days later in his mother’s family grave in Mount Saint Lawrence cemetery. Despite this tragedy and the inclement weather the sports day continued. Francis Vincent Monsell, Lady Emly of Tervoe and Rev Gill distributed prizes. These included awards for J Halpin won the first division ‘One Mile Bicycle’ race while H Spillane won the second division ‘One Mile Bicycle’ race. W Spain receive the gold medal in the sack race. J Halpin won the 100-yard race; J Spain took the top spot in the 220-yard race and finally the 400-yard race won by P Kennedy. The event concluded with music from the Cheshire regiment and a fireworks display.