Bertie Ahern is a great defender of the Christian Brothers


I STARTED MY school days at St Patrick's National School, Drumcondra, Dublin, which was attached to the teacher training college. As a result we always had two teachers in the classroom - the class teacher and a student teacher from the college.

When I was 12 went on to St Aidan's CBS in Whitehall, which had only just opened. However, the school had yet to be built and we had our classes in Larkhill Primary School, which was close by. We then moved into pre-fabs in the schoolyard, and it wasn't until after I sat my Inter Cert that we took possession of the new school.

The new school, though, consisted of terrapin buildings which have a lifetime of only 15 years - and it's only this year, 30 years later, after a long battle, that a new school building has finally been constructed.

I was happy enough at school. I didn't love it every day, but I'm a great defender of the Christian Brothers. They did a good job on me and I appreciate their effort and commitment. There wasn't too much corporal punishment and any there was probably deserved.

Brother Hayes, the principal, who was a tough but decent man, worked phenomenally hard to get the school off the ground. The teachers, who at that time were mostly brothers, showed incredible commitment and spirit and there was a great sense of community, because the boys and the brothers all lived nearby.

Saturday morning classes ended in 1968 - my last year - but the brothers and lay teachers encouraged us to come in voluntarily. We did so, but we didn't appreciate the value of it until just before the start of the Leaving Certificate exams.

While at school, I developed a great interest in economics and commerce, thanks to our teacher Mr Coughlan. He had been a businessman and he gave us a great feel for the commercial world. He worked hard on us and I give him a lot of credit for the fact that I am an accountant by profession and that a lot of the boys in my class went into commerce.

I've also retained a great interest in both geography and history - which was my best subject at school - and I have continued to read history all my life.

When I was 13 I won a national essay competition run by Bord Bainne. The subject was "When I am Taoiseach". I wanted to change the world and believed that whoever was Taoiseach could do anything he wanted. I've learned a thing or two since then, and know that you need a few people to help you!