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  • caldun09


Updated: Jul 31, 2021

I remember that song by The Carpenters with its catchy first line " Please Mr Postman look and see if there's a letter, a letter for me."

I love writing, composing , scribbling , doodling or whatever title you want to call it, but I note in latter years I write fewer letters . The only ones I write now are congratulating someone on retirement or on the occasion of a special birthday. Increasingly I am also writing sympathy letters because someone of my own vintage has died.

In my school days letter writing was very important. It was the main communication system for people .We were taught how to write the letter with the correct address and date on the top right-hand corner. Once that piece was correct you began the letter with the formal address of Dear -----.

You then proceeded to start the letter, so careful to spell each word correctly. Each paragraph had to be clearly indented. The proper thought process had to be correct so that each paragraph was a complete section. Then you proceeded to the next paragraph with the fresh news section to be developed .When the letter was finished there was the signing off and this process was always quite perplexing.

Do I address the person as Yours Sincerely , or, Yours truly ,or other such endearing term?.

When this was complete there was the envelope to be addressed .You had to make sure you wrote the address in straight lines. `This was an imperative . Sometimes I used a light pencil mark to guide my straight-line writing .

Finally, the process was complete, and you had to submit it to teacher for critical arbitration and await the verdict. It amazed me that no matter how hard I tried teacher always found cause to use that red biro and pass some derogatory comment about my snail like scrawl.

In my own teaching career I used Composition and Grammar Parts 1and 2 by Mairéad Ní Gráda . These were brilliant little books for proper writing lessons. I still have my copy of it and now and again I will have a peep inside the cover.

This simple letter writing exercise caused me great distress because in my head I saw no point in wasting time at this exercise when I could be doing my worthwhile Maths which I loved.

Anyway, we had good times in 5th class, except for the dreaded letter writing. I put it behind me as an experience not to be repeated again in life.

I was sadly disillusioned because in sixth year English during my leaving Cert year our English teacher came in one morning and announced that we would be dealing with a very important topic this week ,namely letter writing. He stressed how important it was in our lives. There was a collective gasp as we recalled our earlier days of letter writing in 5th class .

Now however our future lives depended on the famous letter of application. He told us that employers first impression of us would be the letter and no employer would employ someone who couldn’t write or spell properly or lay out a letter properly.

Now we had a new realisation of the importance of proper hand-writing. I went home and practised assiduously and at the end of the week I was pleased to get a commendation for my application letter thanks to my late father’s nightly inputs.

With my leaving cert completed I was accepted in St Patricks College for teacher training.Imagine my horror when I heard we had a professor of black board drawing and writing who emphasised the importance of proper legible writing on the blackboard and each word properly spelt and all written in straight lines . It was all so serious but funny now when you reflect back on it all 56 years later. I am sure that Professor Dignam has a nice scroll written for himself in heaven and proud as punch that he taught so many the craft of using a piece of chalk properly.His dusters were always so clean and he stressed the importance of giving the dusters a few bangs during the day to keep the. blackboard clean.

It is all a far cry from the modern era of whiteboards, laptops ,mobile phone apps, text messages ,whats app, face time and computers and Instagram.

I have embraced all this technology because it has enriched our lives. I could not imagine being without my mobile phone or laptop. .

In this techie world there is something that annoys me a little know .When I write a message to some one and they reply `TKs or cu soon ,or some such code, which is an insult to the English language.

Another irritant is when you take some time, thought and trouble to send someone a letter . You have spent some time checking over the spellings and syntax of the message and then you get an insulting yellow thumbs up sign back in reply. I don’t respond usually to these people . Some weeks later I get a message of "we haven’t heard from you in a while."Impishly I reply with a yellow thumbs up sign .Yes I too have joined the modern era.

Mick O Callaghan

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