Sister Mary Josephine of Fright ~ Part 1

While reading a recipe last March at Not Junk Food a minor detail brought the memories flooding back…… Using a Roux* method of thickening a sauce had me back in the Domestic Science classroom of my old school. It was an all girl school run by an order of nuns.

Sister Mary Josephine of Fright (not her real name, but you knew that) was our teacher for that subject. Domestic Science was considered a very important subject for young ladies about to embark on the adult world in the early 60s. Sure we needed to be prepared for when a strapping healthy Garda, a Teacher or perhaps a Doctor masquerading as a rugby player turned our thoughts to tripping up the aisle and a lifetime of wedded bliss in our own kitchens! :roll:

Domestic Science covered three areas, cooking and baking (90 minutes per week), sewing (45 minutes per week) and hygiene and basic biology 45 minutes per week), the latter was all covered in one book and we in fact spent half the class at our sewing. I could draw the elementary canal in my sleep and also was an expert on the heart and lungs. But the other two chapters on the reproductive parts of the body were never opened or talked about in class. Sister Mary Josephine of Fright would blush and move us on to something else. Thanks to growing up in a house full of fellows, I knew all about the dangley bits and was never embarrassed by them. I felt sorry for my peers who came from all female families or where modesty was taken to a prudish level!

Now the sewing part was where I fell down.  Big time!  Sister Mary Josephine of Fright did not know how to cut out a pattern properly, mind you we never discovered that in year one.  The masterpiece that we were to produce for that year was a pair of bloomers.  They were blooming awful with a diamond shaped gusset, and large enough to fit my mother, grandmother and myself all into one leg at the one time!  Everyone in the class was required to use the same pattern. To this day I wonder if it was the pattern used to make nuns knickers!  Elasticated top and bottom, we were allowed the extravagance of a little trimming of lace at the leg ends.

My fabric was slub silk – an ample sized sample that had been in the house for some time and no longer of use to my father.  The fabric was what I called ‘slippy-slidey’, so perhaps not the best for an early sewing class.  The garment was to be made by the method of hand- stitching!  We used a run and fell method for all four seams and the gusset! A deep hemmed top and bottom with a channel for elastic was used to finish them off.  It took a whole year for me to finish my specimen, since I was only working on it in school.  Mammy was not a ‘stitcher’ so there would have been no advantage in taking it home to work on, or for guidance.  It was eventually completed with much criticism and ridicule from Sister Mary Josephine of Fright for my effort.  Once home Mammy, granny and I had many a laugh about it.  It is a pity that it was thrown in the duster pile, because today, it might find pride of place in the Tate Modern!

Alas, I don’t have a picture, but a similar pair featured in an earlier blog post

The pair first left in the photo come closest!

Now I am tired at the thought of all the effort, blood sweat and tears involved in making them, so I need to go lie down in a darkened room for a couple of hours!  The cooking will have to wait until next week…

Stay tuned!