The area I came from had a lot of troubled kids

30th May 2003 at 01:00
Poverty is a big thing and it can affect you. Moira Higgins knew that and was sympathetic

I grew up in one of the roughest areas in Dublin, called Sheriff Street flats. There was a great community spirit, but it had a few problems. I went to St Laurence O'Toole's primary school, a five-minute walk from home.

What I remember most about it was when the school was being renovated and they put us into the church next door. We had classes lined up across the pews and there were statues of Jesus and Mary. It was beautiful. I love the smell of a church.

Then I went to St Laurence O'Toole's Christian Brothers school when I was nine. We used to get sandwiches at 11 in the morning. Monday was jam, Tuesday was buns with raisins, Wednesday was corned beef, Thursday was cheese and Friday was soup.

When I was 13, I went to Strand technical school. We did everything there - metalwork, woodwork, cooking, pottery, art, science, religion, drama, swimming, sailing, canoeing. It wasn't a wealthy school, quite the opposite; it was for kids whose families didn't have lots of money, like my family. Strand Tech was the best. It was an all-boys school and the kids there were crazy. I loved science, it was one of my favourite subjects. I got an A.

One teacher I really liked was Mr Raleigh, the principal. He was a good guy, very fair. All the kids respected him and the teachers looked up to him. He was great to talk to because he would listen to your side of the story before giving out punishment. I was a good student but I did get into trouble occasionally. I remember once we got caught changing a roll book. A zero meant you were absent and a tick meant you were there, so we Tipp-Exed over the zeroes and put ticks in. They changed the way they called the roll book after that.

I liked studying and learning, but I hated homework. My reports would always say "Stephen's a good student but must work harder". I had fun. I took it seriously, but I liked to have a laugh as well.

I always wanted to be famous. I remember practising signing my name when I was 14. The back of my exercise book would be covered in my autograph.

Because it wasn't such a good area where I lived, I was determined to get out and do something, and entertainment was something I loved. I taught myself to dance and I won the all-Ireland disco dancing championship in 1991. I was in my final year at school when I saw an article in the paper about auditioning for a new group. I went along to the audition, I got in, joined the group and left school.

One of the best things about school was acting. I was a lot quieter before I started acting, it brought me out of my shell. My other favourite teacher would have to be Moira Higgins, the drama teacher at Strand Tech. She was down to earth, bright and good with kids. She was lovely, everybody warmed to her. She helped me with my techniques. She was able to communicate with kids and to direct them. The area that I come from had a lot of troubled kids. Poverty is a big thing and it can affect you. She knew that and worked with that. She was sympathetic.

I haven't seen her for years. When I did the V Graham Norton show there were rumours that they were trying to get hold of her for the show. I don't know what she's doing, but I hope she's well. Teaching is a tough job and I admire anyone who can do it well.

I was happy at school, but at my first school I was bullied. Bullying is a shame, it can affect a kid so much later in life. I can't stand bullying.

When I got into secondary school I thought this is a new school, a fresh start. So, on the first day I picked a fight with the biggest bloke in class, won the fight and I was never bullied again.

Singer Stephen Gately was talking to Harvey McGavin

The story so far

1976 Born in Dublin

1981-85 St Laurence O'Toole's primary, then Christian Brothers school

1989 Strand technical college

1991 Wins all-Ireland disco dancing championships with group Black Magic

1993 Joins Boyzone

1995 First Boyzone album, Said and Done, goes to number one in the UK

1996 Words tops the charts - first of four number one singles and 15 top five hits

1999 'Outed' by The Sun; voted Hero of the Year by Smash Hits readers

2000 Solo CD A New Beginning released

2003 Stars in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the New London Theatre

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