It was the lovely and talented Edna O'Brien of this East Clare parish who popularized the rural reality that August is a wicked month.

I reside today next door to the secondary school in Killaloe and was passing the gates a few August afternoons ago on the day the students there were collecting the crucially important results of their Leaving Certificate examinations.

Those many of you who were born and raised in Ireland know just how huge in a teenage life those Leaving Certificate results are for those involved. That afternoon, when you are 18 years old or thereabouts, seems to dictate the entire course of your life thereafter.

Inside the gates of the school, as I passed, excited gaggles of students were loudly celebrating their results. There were cheers and hugs and an atmosphere of high excitement.

Out of the gaggle though, striding towards me with a grim face and an envelope crumpled up in his hand, came a strong young lad who was clearly not celebrating at all.

I was tempted to stop him as he came upon me and tell him the story about the Mayo lad we will call Tim Dalton here, but thought better of it and stepped aside as he passed. August is indeed a wicked month for rural youngsters but, as he left me behind, I thought not of Edna O'Brien but of the Mayo lad we will call Tim Dalton.

Maybe the young lad will read this somewhere sometime in the future. I hope he does.

Tim Dalton from north Mayo suffered sore through his years in secondary school and would not have known until manhood exactly why his maths teacher in the college so disliked and humiliated him about every day. It was true he was not the brightest lad in his Leaving Certificate class, but that did not fully reveal why the teacher so disliked him.

This was the era of corporal punishment in classrooms, more than 30 years ago now,

and the whole class could see how much the teacher enjoyed inflicting the heaviest slaps possible on Dalton's palms at every opportunity. They also heard how often that teacher declared that Dalton would always be a failure.

When the others in the class were teachers and doctors, said the teacher, Dalton the dud would be lucky to get a job sweeping the streets on rainy days. And so on and so forth.

Dalton did indeed fare poorly in his Leaving Certificate examination. The results were delivered to him by that same teacher who made snide remarks as he did so.

Dalton would have walked out the gates with the same face as the young lad I met last week. Those many amongst you who are Irish born know exactly how vital a life watershed the so-called Leaving has always been.

Pass well, with sufficient points, and there is entry to university. Fail and your world is dark indeed when you are a teenager.

I mentioned here before a ballad I wrote about the exam some years ago. It is called simply “The Leaving,” and my great friend Mai Hernon the balladeer does the classic version of it over there.

The punchlines of the chorus are: For those that teach the youth don't teach them all the truth/ When the Leaving is over/The Leaving is just begun.”

And that is the life truth.

Those who achieve good results and qualify for university education will have to leave their childhood homes within weeks to go to the cities where the Irish universities are located.

And those, like Tim Dalton, who do not fare so well, very often find themselves not just leaving their family homes but also leaving Ireland in a drive to find a career in the far-flung diaspora.

Tim went to Manchester to work with an uncle on the building sites. He was a great worker with a good business brain.

Inside six years he returned home to Mayo to marry his childhood sweetheart, with whom he had always retained contact, with a few shillings in his pocket. It was at the time when Irish local authorities were just beginning to hand over refuse collection services to private companies.

Well ahead of the posse, our Tim Dalton bought a truck, launched a cheap and reliable refuse collection service, expanded his services about every six months, and, within three years, had a fleet of refuse collection and recycling trucks on the roads of the whole region. He was a genuine millionaire before he was 30 years old, much wealthier than the brightest of his Leaving Certificate class colleagues who had qualified to enter the professions.

About 15 years ago this year that class had a reunion function. Tim Dalton, as its most successful member in life terms, actually sponsored the reunion and paid for the dinner in the local hotel.

By then he had learned that the teacher had disliked him so much because his mother, as a young village girl, had spurned the teacher's courting advances to marry Tim's farmer father. There were speeches, of course, after dinner and Tim, when he spoke, warmly thanked his old teacher for giving him such good advice during his schooldays.

Said Tim, "He always told me that I would be sweeping the streets and that is what put the idea in my head in the first place. And he hammered common sense into me about every day as all of you know!"

The old teacher was present. He did not make any speech that evening.

And the loudest applause of the entire event was for Tim Dalton.

I love that true story. The Leaving, as we call it here at home, is more the end of the beginning of life than the beginning of the end.

"The Leaving, as we call it here at home, is more the end of the beginning of life than the beginning of the end."Caty Bartholomew