tell your secrets!
It's been more than 30 years since Derry woman Frances
Gallaugher stood up in front of a classroom to give a good
telling-off to one of her mischievous pupils.
But as Frances prepares to celebrate her 90th birthday later
today with family and friends she can still remember with
a chuckler her glory days of teaching, a profession she
dedicated her life to.
I have many happy memories of my classroom teaching
days, said Frances. In particular I remember
what devils the children could be when they were in a mischievous
My job was to ensure the children were ready for college
and I did that by being tough on them and making sure they
learned their lessons.
I think a lot of the pupils thought of me as a Big
bad wolf because I was so strict but that was the
only way I could make them study and get good grades. They
could be very naughty at times.
Contrary to what most people think, we didnt
use the cane back then. It wasnt allowed. I would
have been sacked if I had tried it.
In my opinion a sharp tongue is as good as any cane.
And the punishments were harsher than the cane, such as
detention of extra homework.
And with a smile Frances tells us her tongue is as sharp
as ever and we mustnt get the spelling of her unusual
Frances was born on August 30, 1912, daughter of the late
Mr and Mrs Sam Gallaugher, Monglass, Bogay, County Donegal.
I was part of quite a large family, recalled
Frances, with five sisters and one brother. I grew
up on a farm in the countryside which I suppose is a very
From the beginning I was a very studious child and
from the moment I walked through the school doors my parents
encouraged me to read and revise as much as possible.
In between times my sisters and I helped out on the
farm doing our daily chores. I mostly helped my father with
his herds of cows and helped out with the dairy produce.
The only thing I refused to do was milk the cows, I couldnt
Frances first school was Crossroads Primary however,
she later moved on to Londonderry High School at the age
of 11 to improve her education.
My sisters were boarders at another school but I chose
to remain living at home and travelled to school every day
for my lessons, she said.
My parents were an instrumental part of my education
and were always on my back making sure that I learned my
In fact Frances education progressed so well that
she ended up being one of the few women of the 1920s who
secured a place at university.
Looking back I can see that I was very lucky to get
a place at university when so many other young girls had
to go into the shirt factories and earn money to help support
their families, she said.
But at the time I didnt look at it like that.
I was just a girl who wanted to please my Mum and Dad and
they wanted me to go to University.
Frances spent several years studying languages in Magee
College, Derry before moving on to prestigious Trinity College,
Dublin where she took her final exams.
I studied French and Latin at university, said
Frances. During my college days I was lucky enough
to meet many people who had travelled from Britain and the
Republic of Ireland to take classes.
It was hard work but we always made sure that we left
enough time to enjoy ourselves. Once the revising and homework
was done, we went into Derry for the dances.
Unfortunately because I lived in the country I always
had to do a Cinderella act from the dances and leave when
my lift came.
Derry was very different back then and the young ones
didnt swan about in cars like they do now. We had
to rely on people we knew with cars to get us home before
our curfew expired.
However all that changed when Frances moved to Dublin and
lived in student accommodation in Trinity where she finally
got her freedom to attend all the dances she wanted to.
I got very interested in sport during those times
as well, she said. And learned how to play
tennis and badminton. I kept these sports up for a large
part of my life. Even in those days I knew that exercise
was good for me because I spent so much time sitting down
during the day.
Frances left Ireland in the 1930s to take up a position
as governess to the Marsden family in Yorkshire.
The family I worked for were quite rich, she
recalled. Instead of sending their children to school
they preferred that they should be educated at home. Their
children were lovely, John and Joy.
I didnt live with the family but with their
great aunt. She was very lonely and they wanted someone
to stay with her to keep her company so that duly fell on
me. Every day I would walk to the house to teach the children.
During World War II Frances decided to return home because
she missed her family and sisters.
Back in Derry she quickly secured a local job as a governess
for the Crawford family in Ardmore House.
Later she taught at Bangor Collegiate school before taking
up a post at Coleraine High School in 1956, a position she
held until taking early retirement in 1971 when she returned
to live with her sister Veda at Aberfoyle Crescent.
Now living in Edenballymore Lodge Frances says she has lived
a very happy life and is delighted to still be alive
and kicking to recall it all.
And her secret to a long life: I dont tell my
secrets, she said.
Courtesy of Derry Journal