Sesquicentennial Celebration of Rineen Primary School, Saturday, June 1st, 2019.
Celebration of 150 Years
Fáilte chroíúil roimh ’chuile dhuine anseo inniu, idir chléir agus tuath. I welcome you all as we celebrate the 150thAnniversary of Rineen National School. Welcome to all, clergy, past and present, members of the Board of Management, to the teachers, pupils, to past pupils, to those who have travelled long distances to celebrate this occasion. Education in this area has a long and established tradition. Go deimhin tá stair agus tradisiúin fhada ag an scoil seo. Céad caoga bliain ó bunaíodh í, bail ó Dhia uirthi.
What a great celebration today as we mark not a silver, golden, diamond, platinum or centeniel jubilee but the sesquicentennial celebration of Rineen Primary School. By any standards 150 years is a serious reason to celebrate and shout out loud! From 1869 to 2019. What a remarkable and amazing span of history!
Before Rineen NS was built in 1869 some children from the surrounding area, I believe according to the most attractive and handsome volume Rineen Rememberswere educated in Hedge Schools. How amazing it is to think that this building takes us back to that era of our history. Roll number 9435 (echoes of Jean Val Jean in Les Miserables). Rineen in the parish of Kilmannaheen, in the Barony of Cormomroe, the place name as Gaeilge “Rinnín”meaning “Small Point” beside the Rineen River which gives rise to Tor Hill. I am fascinated with the fact that because the river forms the boundary with the parish of Kilfarboy in the barony of Ibrickane, the school being on the Rineen side of the boundary is in the parish of Kilfarboy. However, though built in the Galway Diocese Rineen is under the Patronage of the Killaloe Diocese. I’m thinking the ambush of 1920 was not the only ambush that might have happened here! I know Bishop Fogarty who was bishop of Killaloe at the time of the ambush had his own run ins with the Crown Forcesand was well capable of standing his ground and even ambushing if necessary!
I note there is no sign of the bishop of Galway here today. Perhaps the less said the better!!! However with the Bishop from Waterford of Lismore, Alphonsus Cullinan here today, whose Dad served here as a teacher and head master for 11 years – we’d better watch out in case he might be getting notions of ambushing and extending his territory, due to his paternal claim on the place!!!
Background of the time when the school was founded
In 1869 Rineen National School was built at a time of great turmoil in and change in our nation’s history, in post famine times, with the land war and all that was associated with that. Internationally it was a significant time of unrest in the years prior to the First World War. It is difficult for us now, looking back at this well maintained and modern educational facility, to imagine the poverty, the hardship, the unrest of the time in which the original school was built. Is deacair a shamhlú sa lá atá againn inniu an saol a bhí ag ár sinsear fadó. Tá an saol athraithe chomh mór sna blianta sin.
When you consider the time one hundred and fifty years ago when emigration and going away was uppermost in the minds of people, it would be very difficult to picture the economic situation of the day, despite the current economic recession. The mode of transport would have been much simpler, perhaps a few bicycles, the pony and trap would have been a sign of comparative wealth. Those wearing shoes would probably have been the exception. The first pupils to arrive in the shining new double desks with their luxury ink-wells would have to bring their sod of turf for the fire.
Reality of Emigration
While we speak of European Union today and Brexitand all associated with it, people of the time looked to England and America, to where so many of their relatives had emigrated. At Christmas the “American parcel” brought with it the promise of a Christmas beyond the ordinary.
Education 150 Years ago
In the early years of this school the teachers worked under British rule where Irish was not taught as a subject in the school curriculum. Neither was there any second level schools in the parish at that time. For the majority of the pupils primary education was all they got. It was their final preparation for a life of work and in most cases that meant taking the boat, be it to America, England or Scotland. Times were not easy. We remember all these people today and pay tribute to them. As a community they stood together in a bond that created a great place to live. They succeeded where others have failed and successfully passed on to this day our culture, faith and tradition and everything that makes you the close knit and committed community that you are today.
Desire, need and commitment to Education
Yet the roots of Rineen National School reach deep down into that unpromising soil and support given by the proud tradition of the people of Kilmanheen Parish. The determination, foresight and courage of the founders of this school leaves us spellbound. Good things are much more resilient than is often supposed. For what we celebrate this morning, among other things, is that human hunger for wisdom and instruction which has here, as in so many places, proved stronger than the most dismal circumstances. It is a glorious appetite and it is essential to what makes us distinctively human.
Remembering the Past
This great milestone occasion is an opportunity to look back, remember and celebrate the achievements of those who have gone before us, who have invested heavily in this school. Temptation to forget or fail to remember our past can be very great, particularly in times of relative prosperity. We need memory so that the experience of our ancestors is not ignored to our very great peril. We must remember and try to understand. It is important that we today would appreciate the heroic efforts by those who have gone before us and have made our comparatively comfortable lives possible. A sense of history is very important for us if we are to remain realistic and keep our feet on the ground. Perhaps in very recent times we were inclined to lose that sense of history intended to forget the times when things were difficult.
For many, as recounted by Canon Seamus Mullin in his Focal ón gCanónachat the beginning of the outstanding book Rineen Remembers 1969-2019the reason Rineen is famous is for the ambush during the war of independence on September 22nd, 1920 in which an RIC patrol was attached by a local IRA column, resulting in a number of fatalities and many serious injuries. It has certainly gone down in the folklore of the locality and nation, perhaps best captured in the ballad writted by Paddy Kenny, Principal here from 1911-1953
“For God and Holy Ireland,
Her martyred sons cold in the clay,
Their spirit shall with us abide
To strike for liberty today”.
Past pupils – Sean Phádraig Ó Conaire…
Among many famous and distinguished alumni or past pupils is the great writer of our Gaelic Tradition Sean Phádraig Ó Conaire… How many of us were given a deep appreciation of story, rich vocabulary, musical language, colourful characterisation and much more with Ó Conaire’s Scoth Scéaltaand the beautiful stories in M’asal beag dubh. One of the finest pieces of drama I have ever seen is Diarmaid de Faoite’s one man show on Pádraig Ó Conaire in which he finishes powerfully and is mentioned on page 97 of Rineen Rememberswith the sad fact that Pádraig died a young man on his own in a hospital bed with his only possessions being a sixpence and an apple! No doubt Rineen played its part in the creation of the influential and creative genius that Ó Conaire became.
Mo Scéal Féin – Peadar Ó Laoghaire
Talking of giants of Irish Literature I love the description of an tAth. Peadar Ó Laoghairein his classic Mo Scéal Féin that captures the delights of education and learning at it’s best…
Bhí an-saol againn, agamsa agus acusan, mise á múineadh agus iadsan ag foghalim uaim, agus aoibhneas aigne orainn ar gach taobh. Ní dóigh liom go bhfuil aoibhneas le fáil ar an saol seo a d’fhéadfadh bheith níos aoibhne ná an t-aoibhneas aigne sin a bhíonn ar mhúinteoir agus ar lucht foghlama nuair a bhíonn siad ar aon aigne san obair, nuair a thuigeann siad féin a chéile, agus nuair nach mbíonn de bhun ná d’aidhm acu leis an obair ach onóir do Dhia agus tairbhe don chreideamh. Bhí an t-aoibhneas sin againne an uair sin, agus bhíomar ag dul ar aghaidh leis an obair go buacach.
Importance of Education
This morning, we celebrate a place of learning which is as essential to our society as any university. Crucial to our society will be schools and education. It is in small, well equipped schools like this, with dedicated staff, Board of Management, Parents’ Association that the battle will be fought and won. It is here that, working with a sense of history, we will be in a position to build a brighter future. I have often quoted a Chinese proverb which states ‘if you plan for a year plant a seed, if for ten years plant a tree, but if you plan for 100 years then educate the people”. In the words of W.B. Yeats ‘Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire. That fire that was lit 100 years ago is burning brightly today, thank God. Gabhann muid buíochas le Dia as ucht an suim agus spéis a bhí ag muintir na háite in oideachas anseo sa Rinnín. Oideachas a chur chun cinn an oiread sin rudaí atá luachmahar agus tabhachtach duinn – teagasc Chriostaí, tradisiúin na tíre seo, ceol, cultúir, ceardaíochta, teanga, chomh maith le rudaí eile nach iad.
Celebration / Time for savouring memories
Today we mark the completion of a centenary and a half of education in this school. Former pupils of this school have taken their place and become leaders in our society here at home, across the country and in the countries to which they have emigrated. Today is a time for memories but for the Christian memory and hope will always be related. We thank God for what has been achieved in the past, and recognising our dependence on the Lord, we look to the future with confidence and hope.
I love the remark of Ann O’Brien, the chairperson in her address in Rineen Rememberswhen she says “Teaching kids to count is fine, but teaching them what counts is best”. A lot of that has taken place within the hallowed walls of this place.
Comhghairdeachas le chuile dhuine a raibh baint acu leis an scoil seo. Buiochas speisialta leis na daoine a d’eagraigh an ócáid iontach seo. Go maire an scoil seo go ceann i bhfad. Ní céad caoga bliain eile ach mórán le cois air sin! Rath Dé ar chuile dhuine atá bainteach leis an scoil seo, Scoil Rinnín. Beannacht Dé oraibh ar fad agus bhur muintir anois agus i gconaí.