Agnes Carty (nee Sweeney)

Mrs Carty was born in 1901 in Helensburgh in The Ridge (part of what Helensburgh people refer to as Struggletown). She lived there all her life except for two years when she lived at Coalcliff. She attended St Joseph’s (now Holy Cross) from 1908 to 1914.

Her memories of school days are as follows.

“We walked everywhere in those days. The Ridge was a dirt track. Up we’d go to school or town, and down we’d come – a struggle to get up and a struggle to get down again!

“School was in the church then. The Altar was curtained off and the rest of the church was divided into four classes. I remember Sister Placid, but she was anything but placid. She was a good teacher though. She got us learning our lessons. We learnt everything off by heart and plenty of homework.

“I started school at the convent when I was seven and stayed there until I was thirteen. You never went to high school. My mother had railway boarders and I helped her until I was sixteen, then I went to David Jones in the city as a dressmaker and stayed there for ten years until I got married.

“I remember being frightened to walk past the Public school on my way home. I had to go straight past it. They used to wait for us. Both sides were bigoted, you know. The boys, even the girls, used to have fights and say things to each other. The feuds never stopped. It’s better now I think.

“I don’t recall much about the lessons at school. I liked needlework. We used to do drills with clubs and dumb-bells. We would have a routine and it made a nice show. We didn’t have a uniform. You just wore whatever you could manage. Everyone had big families. You always got the cane if you needed it or if you missed Mass.

“Friday afternoon we cleaned the school to get ready for Sunday (church). We had lots of bazaars and concerts for the school. It was good fun. You knew everyone and they were neighbours, good neighbours. It was a good social life.

We used to miss a bit of school too, for one reason or another. The nuns accepted that we had to have a day off for washing day sometimes. When the tanks were dry in the summer we took the washing to the creek. We’d take kerosene tins to boil the water. We’d take potatoes and onions for lunch! Throw them on the fire until they were black and then eat them. They were beautiful! We’d have thrown them out if we’d been served them at home! Sometimes we’d catch crawchies too. It was a hard day’s work though. You’d have to drag the load of washing back up the track to the house and put it on the line. It was all day on dry days.”

An extract from “The History of Helensburgh School – The Early Days 1886-1920” by Anne Baxter (10 October 1983)