Clohanbeg NS Closes after 143 Years

Ceremony to mark the closure of Clohanbeg Primary School, Sunday, 26th of June, 2022

Marking the closure of Clohanbeg NS

Fáilte chroíúil roimh ’chuile dhuine anseo inniu, idir chléir agus tuath.  I welcome you all as we gather for this poignant and nostalgic occasion to mark the closure of Clohanbeg National School after 143 years of service to the community. Welcome to all, teachers, pupils, past pupils, members of the Board of Management, those who have travelled a distance to mark this sad occasion.

It seems like just yesterday since we gathered in June of 2019 to celebrate the 140thanniversary of the school.  So much has happened here in Clohanbeg since and globally with the pandemic we have had endured during those years.

Education in this area has a long and established tradition in this location.  Go deimhin tá stair agus tradisiúin fhada ag an scoil seo.  Céad ceatharacha trí bliain ó bunaíodh an scoil, bail ó Dhia uirthi.

By any standards 143 years is a tradition and a half for any institution!  From 1879 to 2022.  What a remarkable and amazing span of history!

As is the case in so many rural areas – and this has been backed up by the figures from the recent census just released this week – numbers of people living in the countryside is sadly continuing to decline.  One hundred years ago, pupil enrolment here was robust and healthy with over 70 pupils.    However, last year the school had just 12 pupils and there were only 4 enrolled for next year.  With such a stark reality it seemed inevitable and wise to amalgamate with Cree NS and we wish everyone every blessing in that transition – in coping with the loss here and in the amalgamation of the two traditions of Clohanbeg and Cree.

The loss of key services and the presence of either a school, a presbytery, a Garda station, a post office, a pub, a doctor’s surgery, a shop is always like a bereavement in a rural community.  The loss of this facility will no doubt be dearly missed from this weekend on.  It’s important to name that loss and sadness today.

Every good wish and blessing to Pat Comber, school principal who retires after 34 years of service to the school.  Similarly we wish Rena O’Flaherty the deputy principal the same.

In this week’s Clare Champion, Principal Pat reminisces on the bonds of friendship that exists between so many generations of past pupils and the many that benefited from the many extra-curricular activities down through the years, music, art, sport and other things.  It was great to hear the special mention on Clare FM during the match between Clare and Derry yesterday that the past pupil footballers got.  Praise was given for the many alumni, who subsequently used their talents and skills in such a sporting way.

Background of the time when the school was founded

In 1879 Clohanbeg 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.  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.

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. Second level education was a rarity and exception.  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

The roots then of Clohanbeg National School reach deep down into the indomitable spiritand support given by the proud tradition of the people of Kilmacduane Parish.  The determination, foresight and courage of the founders of this school leaves us today deeply impressed.  Good things are much more resilient than is often supposed.  What we are remembering today, 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

Today’s closure, no more than when we gathered three years ago is an opportunity to look back, remember, thank and celebrate the achievements of those who have gone before us, who have invested heavily in this school.   We need memory so that the experience of our ancestors is not ignored to our very great peril.  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 are at times inclined to lose that sense of history and forget when things were difficult.

Snatches of History

When we gathered three years ago, we recalled snatches of history.  The hedge school that predated the current school.  The founding.  The condemnation of the early building, closure followed by reopening and then  the disasterous fire a hundred years ago, the destruction of records, accounts of the fundraizing bazaar on Independece day in 1920 and many other snippets of school lore and stories.

The Hearth

One of the things that really caught my eye then and I have recalled it many times since was the retention of the original fireplace in the senior classroom, a great memory of the original building.  There is something very special around the glow of a turf fire and the warmth of welcome around a hearth.  I recall the clever title of an article I read around that time “School is where the hearth is”!

Again on this occasion, yet again, I just can’t let it pass without recalling Tom Considine’s reminiscence from the school website and to quote him directly:

It might help the younger generation understand the mood of an earlier time to recall the formality that existed in society. For example, in preparing for confirmation nothing was left to chance. I recall that the appropriate answer if the bishop were to ask ‘who am I?’ was:
My lord, you are a holy man, well educated, consecrated and blessed by God’.


Importance of Education

This afternoon, we mark with respect the importance of a place of elementary learning which is as essential to our society as any university.  Crucial to our society are schools and education.

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”.

W.B. Yeats reminds us that ‘Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.  That fire that was was lit 143 years ago that was burning brightly until this week is about to be let go and lose it’s guiding light.  We surrender it with heaviness of heart, sadness, regret, nostalgia, but with such positive memories.  We give thanks to God what has been achieved here and pray that the fruits of all that labour will be sown for an eternal harvest.  We pray God’s blessing on all who continue the great tradition of education in the new reality which will merge with Cree National School.

Celebration / Time for savouring memories

Today we mark the completion of almost 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.

Beannachtaí Deire

Comhghairdeachas le chuile dhuine a raibh baint acu leis an scoil seo.  Buiochas speisialta leis na daoine a d’eagraigh an ócáid bhrónach seo.  Rath Dé ar chuile dhuine atá bainteach leis an scoil seo, Scoil An Chlochán bheag.  Beannacht Dé oraibh ar fad agus bhur muintir anois agus i gconaí.