From an early age I seemed to stand out from the crowd. I didn’t think that I was that remarkable, but for some reason I was known to most of the teachers at my school. My reputation was as someone who played by the rules and was a natural follower.
I also think that I was quite pathetic at times, as I was very good at messing things up. And this included getting into trouble.
In my day, the first and second formers were on a different site from the rest of the school. The most impressive thing about the Bishop Street site was the old majestic main school building with the church in the middle and the rather large school bell. This old fashioned bell was rung by hand to denote the end of each lesson.
One day, I decided during lunch that it would be a really good idea to ring the bell a few minutes early to see what mayhem would ensue. So, three of my friends and I snuck into the main school building and crept up to the top floor to where the rope was.
The corridor to the rope went past the head of second year’s classroom, this wasn’t a problem as he must have been on early lunch. So the first part of my diabolical scheme worked and then we hit a snag. Everyone was afraid to ring it.
As the brains of the outfit I didn’t think that I needed to actually ring the bell, my job was done getting there. Stevie, Barry and Conor were the grunts and they started arguing amongst themselves saying why someone else should do it. The rope it seems, had become a poisonous snake of the first magnitude.
More out of frustration, and thinking that if we had dithered much further we were going to get caught anyway, I gave the rope a couple of hard yanks and rang like the clappers towards the stairs.
As I was in mid-clappering, the head of the second form bolted out of his classroom and shouted “Stop” while effectively cutting off our means of escape. Like in any good silent comedy the four of us skidded to a stop, made a mess of it, and crashed together with random arms and legs strewn along the corridor.
At this point, the head of second year gave us a glimpse of our immediate future, which would involve us doing the worst jobs imaginable around the school during our break and lunch times. He also wanted to know whose idea this crazy escapade was, as he had a very special job reserved for that young boy.
Being good first years, we didn’t say a word I think more out of terror rather than any sense of loyalty to the remainder of the group. I lasted about ten whole seconds, but I gave in and admitted that it was my idea and that I was the one who rang the bell. The reaction shocked me.
“Master McGowan” the head of second from said, “this isn’t something that you would come up with. I find it barely believable that you would be involved in this in the first place, and I think that you are covering for one of your friends.”
“But I’m not” I replied, “it was my idea.” At this point Stevie, Barry and Conor all joined in saying “It was Emmett, sir.” While listening to the four of us whine the head of second form snapped.
“That is enough. Emmett, get out of my sight.” With this I was dismissed, with my three soon to be ex friends watching in disbelief. The three of them didn’t seem to be around much for the next week. I don’t know why. I didn’t even get into trouble with them, as there was no way I was a snitch.
The college had a tradition where you went back to the Bishop Street site for an evening at the end of the upper sixth. I did regale this story to the head of second form when I bumped into him that evening. He laughed at me saying “I’m still convinced that it wasn’t your idea, Emmett.”
See I couldn’t even get into trouble properly.