My old uniform

Deirdre Purcell - Writer


My school was Gortnor Abbey in Crossmolina, Co Mayo, where I boarded from Dublin for four years on a scholarship. It was run by the order of Religious Jesus and Mary nuns, who were wonderful, in a beautiful old white house on the shores of Lough Conn. I was one of three Dublin girls in the school.

Our uniform was green and beige; a green pinafore tunic with a beige woollen jumper and on Sundays the same tunic but with a beige woollen blouse. It was the same summer and winter and the underarms of the jumpers were felted – as you can imagine. We wore stockings with suspender belts and indoor and outdoor shoes. We also had a green gabardine coat and a green beret which we had to wear outdoors – in church it was folded over on the belts of our uniform. We were fined one penny if we were found without the beret.

The uniform wasn’t ugly, but we wore it from the beginning of September until Christmas so it never got washed. We took uniforms and everyone wearing the same for granted. Today, of course, uniforms are so much better and I think it’s a good idea – particularly for girls as they are great levellers and avoid competition. The school is now a big co-ed comprehensive.

The photograph of me was taken in 1959 holding a cup for elocution – Ode on a Grecian Urn – at Ballina Feis.

In conversation with Deirdre McQuillan

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