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The 8 smells of Irish primary school

Eau de Senior Infants.

THE IRISH PRIMARY school experience has several very distinct aromas.

They weren’t particularly nice smells – children are not the most fragrant of creatures – but the memories they hold are much more important than, y’know, a pleasant scent.

Sit back and recall these smells particular to your younger years.


The warm plastic scent of marla is probably the ultimate Irish primary school smell – the visual representation of which is the brown shade you get when all the colours mixed together.

shutterstock_65113801 Shutterstock Shutterstock

Sour milk

The source of this stink would often be traced back to one of those small cartons of school milk, gone off and leaking in the depths of some poor sod’s bag. A more thorough investigation could also reveal some spoiled sandwiches. Unpleasant.

sourmilk Press Association Press Association


Some of the children were nervous about being in a room full of strangers, far away from their parents. And when those children got nervous, they let it all out. All of it.

crying kid Shutterstock Shutterstock

A fresh new pencil case

September: you’re starting first class, and your mum’s bought you a shiny new pencil case to ease your transition into the numbered classes. The smell of the new plastic every time you lovingly unzipped it to sharpen a pencil made it all worthwhile.

pencilcase Flickr / morebyless Flickr / morebyless / morebyless

Old books

As you moved up in the ranks, you may have been permitted some quiet reading time after big lunch. You were sent to the class “library” to choose a book, usually one so ancient that the pages practically crumbled to dust in your hands, emitting that sweet, mildewy smell.

shelf of books Fickr / nist6ss Fickr / nist6ss / nist6ss

PVA glue

And its close cousin the Pritt Stick. Their gentle, rubbery aroma (and the sheer joy of peeling the dried glue from your fingers) were an added bonus your youthful artistic endeavours.

pva glue Flickr / ronijj Flickr / ronijj / ronijj

Poster paint

Speaking of art, was there anything better than the chemical stink of the non-toxic poster paint as you squirted it onto your tray?

poster paint Shutterstock Shutterstock

Chalk dust

chalkboard Flickr / Licklefluffyclouds Flickr / Licklefluffyclouds / Licklefluffyclouds

There was no escaping the heady smell of chalk dust if you were sent to clean the glantóir – it hit your nose and got right up there. Sneezing was imminent.

sneeze PhotoBucket PhotoBucket

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