Ireland: My School Kilt

Note: Some visitors to this site have questioned the accuracy of this item. I feel like Ann Landers assuring her readers that the letters are not made up. I know little about Ireland, but the contributor assures me that the detils are accurate. The name of the school was Carmels which he attended from 1981-86.

I'm Irish and attended Carmels, a secondary day school. It was a single sex school up to 1980, and then was forced to become coed with enrollment declined. There was a minumin number of pupils to cualify for govenment grant aid. The Government required the school to be open to both sexes from the middle of 1980. It was a catholic school, but a founding member of the Nuns order who ran the school was from Scotland about a hundred years ago.

My first introduction to the kilt was about 3 weeks before going to the school. I had never even thought about wearing a kilt before. At my elementary school we wore grey shorts in summer, and grey longs in winter with a white shirt and grey sweater. I did not want to wear the uniform. But did not get much choice. The first time I put it on I hated it. t was itchy, cold, and a strange feeling not to have anything between my legs. Mum thought I looked cute. Dad was indifferent. Knowing that other boys had to wear the same helped.

In Ireland, Kilts have been worn for Irish dancing and also in pipe bands. Some school also has kilts as part of their boys' uniforms. Tradition I believe. Generally kilt worn by guys here [Ireland] tended to be a solid color, either plain white, green, saffron, sea blue, and so on. Sometimes plaids for pipe bands are also worn.

Our school kilt was a very dark green, and navy tartan. Our kilt fastened to the right, while the girls fastened to the left. Their kilts were a lighter green, and hung much longer on them. Our uniform was the kilt, dark green sweater with school emblem, white shirt, school tie, dark green socks, and black shoes had to be worn with the above. We did not wear sporrans or the like.

So first day at school, at the tender age of 11, I was cold, and felt so stupid, The other boys I think felt the same. Everyone was quite in class, and generally all the boys were well behaved in the school. The big No No was leaving the school grounds during lunch time. Our school did not have too much of a problem not like the other schools who were pants wearing.

Our uniform was a navy and dark green kilt, dark green sweater with school emblem, white shirt, school tie, dark green socks, The Girls' uniform was a lighter green and navy kilt, a navy sweater, and light blue blouse.

Certainly none of the other secondary schools in our city required kilts. I don't know about the restof Ireland. For all I knew, we were the only ones. There were three high schools in town which were called secondary schools here. One coed technical school, the vocational school, was called the Tech. At Tech they taught the core academic subjects in addition to machnical drawing, woodwork, and metal work. They boys wore long brown pants, brown sweaters, and yellow shirts. The girls wore blue skirts, blue sweaters, white blouses, and blue socks. There was also an all girls boarding school, which was outside town. hey wore grey skirts, white blouses, amd maroon sweaters. Looking back, I think there was a certain unity between the boys in our school and the girls in the other schools, although a little hate in winter because the boys were still in socks and the girls in tights.

At my school, we boys did not rough around too much. Kilts were OK for playing football, but one could loose it easily if someone pulled it off in a tackle, so it was shorts time for sports. Which was OK. The other guys smelled bad after playing football in their uniforms. We were always clean and never smelled of unwashed sweat which was a good thing in summer in class. Although the social benefits outweighed having to wear them.

With time I often forgot the fact I was wearing a kilt, although it was hard on cold days sitting down with the cold air lapping on my knees, there was always interest if we were on school trips, but sometimes we were called sissies by the other boys from the other schools.

So why did we have to wear kilts? The school had Scottish ties, and decided to have the kilt as the boys' uniform. One reason was thought that boys might not attend and even if they did only boys, who wanted to be there, would attend, thus having a better student. I think they got it right, although a lot of boys attended, but there was little trouble. Don't ask me why.

Kilts gave a lot of freedom of movement but you had to be careful how you moved. I know what girls have to put up with, but don't really want to wear kilts every day now. Pants are OK by me. Don't get me wrong after the first weeks, I did not really mind the kilt that much, except after the holidays. It was funny to see a church day with the three schools attended other than the different shades of uniforms. It was hard to tell the girls from the boys. Also a lot of boys developed the same mannerism as girls, like standing with legs together, sweeping the kilts with ones hand when sitting down, and keeping the legs together when sitting, things that girls do when wearing skirts after a while it was second nature.

Kilts were dangerous to wear, because they were pleated they flowed a lot while walking, they were prone to getting caught on things. Our school taught sciences and had a large computer facility, For technical subjects like woodwork and metalwork. We had an agreement with a vocational school across from us, while they used our computer and some of our science facilities, It saved the need for more teachers in either school and a duplication of facilities.

We got a lot of ridicule off the other boys. Even the teacher used to tell us to keep our skirts away from the moving parts of the machines. A number of first year boys tried to get kilts banned for those who did these subjects, but as some girls did the same subjects, and they wore skirts so the plan was thwarted.

I was lucky I had a short distance to walk to the bus. Other boys had to cycle to school. Girls bicycles were designed for use with skirts, boys' bicycles were not. Cycling was cold in a kilt. Mostly tracksuit bottoms were worn to school and like the girls they changed into the kilts when they got there.

Kilts were OK in the summer heat, although lighter socks were worn. As the sporran was not worn due to costs I guess, a pocket was sown into the inside band of the kilt for holding money. The kilts were not totally heavy as in real Scottish kilts. They were a wool and some other material mix, made by a uniform company in large quanties. Real kilts generally cost 300 pounds [US$480]. Our kilts were about 60 pounds. Our kilts were thus more like skirts. But as far as everyone was concerned they were real kilts. After seeing a real kilt, I knew better.

There were times I hated wearing the kilt. Like when my parents picked me up from school to go to the doctor, or If we were going to town. But all in all I got over it.

The school in 1994-95 changed the boys' every day uniform to long navy blue pants. The kilt is still worn, but now only for the school band, irish dancing and so on.

Christopher Wagner

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Created: March 30, 1998