By Martin Gleeson
Dublin-born Paddy Crosby attended St Paul’s Christian Brothers School in North Brunswick Street. Locals always called this school “Brunner”. Years later, when he had finished his studies in St Patrick’s Training College and UCD Paddy taught in St Paul’s until his retirement. Paddy was a keen hurler and handball player.
He became interested in the entertainment world and wrote scripts for amateur shows put on by a tennis club. In 1951 he put on a stage show in the St Francis Xavier Hall featuring himself in short trousers and skullcap. This was the introduction for the public to the song that Paddy wrote: “The School Around the Corner”.
Paddy’s idea of a radio programme where the compere questioned primary school children was put to Radio Éireann in 1954. At Easter that year, pupils from North Brunswick Street CBS were featured in the first radio “School Around the Corner” programme. This radio series was incredibly popular and ran until 1961.
Paddy travelled around Ireland to visit primary schools in every part of the country. Paddy would ask each boy or girl a series of questions about themselves or their families. The child would often recite a poem or sing a song. Some played a musical instrument. Paddy would always ask each kid to describe “a funny incident”. Then the kids would be asked to write down the meaning of a hard word to win a prize of a box of sweets. One boy thought that an Octopus was a cat with eight legs!
Where there would be no correct answer, the sweets would be divided. The programme always ended with all the children singing the show’s theme song: “The School Around the Corner”.
After a run of eight years on Radio Éireann, “The School Around the Corner” was moved to television in 1962. Again, hosted by Paddy Crosby, it ran for four years. The great James Plunkett produced it. It was the most popular programme of Teilifís Éireann in the early 1960s. It made a return to radio in 1966 and 1973.
In 1990 RTÉ revived “The School” on television with Gerry Ryan as the host. People in the Republic might not be aware that “The School” ran very successfully for ten years in Northern Ireland (1995 to 2005) screened by UTV. The host was Frank Mitchell. The participants had lovely Ulster accents. In 2013 RTÉ put on a Christmas special version of “The School” and in 2014 ran a full series. The host was Ray D’Arcy. It goes to show that few things are more entertaining than listening to what kids have to say to us.
And for most Irish people these words of the song composed by Paddy Crosby will never be forgotten:
The school around the corner’s just the same.
The school around the corner plays the game.
It hasn’t changed at all
There’s tables in the hall.
Yes, the school around the corner’s just the same.