I was always a bright intelligent child even if I say so myself. Precocious might even be a more appropriate description. As the oldest of six children there was possibly more responsibility put on me and I became pretty good at looking after the children and helping out in the house. I also learned to cook and iron at an early age.
When I was eleven I became seriously ill and needed an emergency operation. An earlier operation had resulted in adhesions developing and it was now a life or death situation.
I was lucky and survived but I was advised not to take my eleven plus as I wasn’t sufficiently recovered. I was adamant that I would go ahead and refused to wait for the sick exam as I believe it was called in those days. I passed with flying colours. I know it was flying colours because I checked when I started working in the examinations branch of the Ministry of Education.
I started grammar school and my family had great plans for me. My dad was a university graduate and it was expected that I would follow in his footsteps.
However, it didn’t work out that way. I wasn’t a good scholar, got mediocre results in my exams and hated studying. Many nights saw me ‘studying ‘ at the kitchen table with Jackie ( a pop magazine ) under my books.
I was more interested in what was top of the pops or what novels I could read under the covers with a flashlight. Brighton Rock by Graham Green was the first adult novel I had ever read. Newspapers with all the scandals were sneaked into the bathroom and I read with awe what was happening in the outside world.
I scraped through my junior and senior certificates. My headmistresses
comment on my results were ‘Ah bien, ma chère’ ( Ah well , my dear. ) My geography teacher send me a picture of St.Jude, the patron of hopeless cases.
By this time I had met Gordon. This added a further complication to my education. I had gone back to do A levels and repeat some O levels but the romance was frowned upon by our families due to our religious backgrounds. He was one of them and I was one of us, so any further education was abandoned, I applied for a post as Clerk in the Civil Service and left home at 16 to live in Belfast.
You can read my exploits over the years in my memories on YouTube or in this blog under memories but fast forward to 1994 when I made the decision to do a degree. Gordon had finished his PH.D and I thought it’s my time now. If I’d don’t do it now it will be too late.
I remember my first day walking into the university for our induction day. I’m here after all these years , I thought, fulfilling what my dad wanted for me and he’s no longer here to see it. The grandeur of the great hall, the quadrangle, the common rooms, things I never thought I would be part of. Pictures of Educating Rita flashed in front of me. Although I never came across a Michael Caine I did meet some lovely lecturers. The late Rick Wilford was one of those.
Fast forward again to the summer of 1999 and it was my turn to walk across the stage in my gown and receive the award of B .A.( Hons) in Humanities. I was so proud. My husband , my daughter and my son were there to witness it. It was also the last graduation where Senator George Mitchell presented the awards.
It wasn’t easy. My mother had a stroke, my mother in law developed dementia and I had to drop out for a term but I persevered and I got there and that moment walking across that stage made the late nights finishing essays worthwhile and made it one of my proudest moments.