The schools are shutting down for summer, the nights are getting longer and the kids are bored senseless. 2 months off school for the young ones presents a challenge to many a mother and father who still have to work throughout the summer.
‘Back in the day’, mum and dad brought me and my four brothers to the local youth club summer scheme that was just up the road. With five kids, it was hard for them to keep us entertained, but Clann Eireann for them was a godsend.
Mum would have equipped each of us with 20p each morning; a pound in total for all of us – and we had just enough to buy a freddo, an ice pop and a few jelly sweets. And at half 12, we would have rushed back down the street again to eat our squished ham sandwiches that mum had made in the morning.
2 o’clock came, and we would be standing at the front of the queue where we had been for the past 30 minutes. We used to arrive as early as the staff and patiently awaited the front doors opening so we could be first in line for a game of ‘long-shots’. After all, it was ‘winner stays on’, and bragging rights were very important to us.
Each day was another day of freedom and fun in a place that brought so much happiness to everyone that was there. It is incomprehensible how important 3 long wooden blocks were to us all back then; because the excitement that bolted through our bodies when we peered in to the office to see Marie Hoye getting the sticks out of the drawer resulted in a stampede of kids running towards the pitch out the back for our favourite game.
Each and every day was one in which we used to constantly pester Aideen Lavery and Avoureen Coleman about when the lists would come out for trips to Lisburn pool and Shannaghmore; “Is my name on the list, is my name on the list”?
In the meantime, we would have had pool competitions upstairs, played FIFA on the PlayStation, got involved in arts and crafts activities, played dodgeball in the hall downstairs, and pretended we were Charlie Shanks on the handball courts.
We’d have thought we were Picasso when we seen our decorated paper plates on the walls of the art room; and there was a such a feeling of achievement that we couldn’t wait to get home to tell everyone all about our work of art that was just about holding together with pva glue.
We played the ‘parachute’ game without a care in the world, and when we got bored, we would have ran up and down the banks of the pitch even though Mario Kearney and Stephen McNally told us a hundred times not to.
And when we heard Roisin McCarron shouting ‘DODGEBALL’, we sprinted to the hall in the hope we would be the last person standing and the winner of a £1 mix up.
We went home at the end of the day with green grass stains on our sparkling white GAA shorts that daddy would have just bought for us, and grazes on our knees from falling after chasing each other despite being told not to run inside.
And we patiently awaited for three whole weeks to find out if we would have to hoke out our old trainers for going bouldering and cliff diving at Shannaghmore.
We learnt a lot from going there. It was not just a club; it was a community. It was a safe place where children could grow up in a loving environment that encouraged involvement and having fun. It was a place that welcomed children and families from all walks of life. It was a family.
Back in the day before Facebook and smart phones were a thing, many of the young people of North Lurgan longed all year for the three weeks in the summer when they went to the Clann Eireann Summer Scheme. Instead of living life through a lense, we lived life in the moment, not having a care in the world.
Clann Eireann was such an important part of our lives and always will be. The people who work there care so much about building the foundations for your children’s futures, and I can testify that it had such a massive impact for us as a family.
If you would like your children to have a fantastic summer, here are the dates, times and prices of this year’s summer scheme.
* Monday 3rd July to Thursday 20th July
Monday – Thursday 10:00am to 12:30pm & 2:00pm to 4:00pm (break for lunch in between).
£1.50 per day (reduction for families)
* Registration on first morning
Name, Address, DOB and Emergency Contact Name and Number
* Age range
* Costs of additional trips extra