140th anniversary of Clohanbeg Primary School, Saturday, 21st, 2019.
Celebration of 140 Years
Fáilte chroíúil roimh ’chuile dhuine anseo inniu, idir chléir agus tuath. I welcome you all on this equinox day as we celebrate the 140th Anniversary of Clohanbeg National School. Welcome to all, to the teachers, pupils, to past pupils, members of the Board of Management, 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 ceatharacha 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 140th celebration of Clohanbeg Primary School. By any standards 140 years is a serious reason to celebrate and shout out loud! From 1879 to 2019. What a remarkable and amazing span of history!
Before Clohanbeg NS was built in 1879 some children from the surrounding area, I believe according to the most attractive and handsome commemorative booklet were educated in Hedge Schools, with the Master being one Mortogh Heartney. How amazing it is to think that this building takes us back to that era of our history.
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. 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 forty 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 and hard times in the farming sector. 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 Brexit and 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. 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
Yet the roots of Clohanbeg National School reach deep down into that unpromising soil and 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 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.
Snatches of History
I read with great interest the lovely feature in the Clare Chamption of last week and also the beautiful magazine produced especially to commemorate the jubilee and also the archive accounts on the school website.
The origins of the school. The hedge school. 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.
One of the things that really caught my eye was the retention of the original fireplace in the senior classroom, a great memory of the original building and as they say a relic of oul dacency(!). There is something very special around the glow of a turf fire and the warmth of welcome around a hearth. What a beautiful photo of the students gathered around it playing trad music and warming themselves around the fire and this is so beautifully reflected in the Article on page 32 of the magazine aptly entitled “School is where the hearth is”.
I thoroughly enjoyed the late Martin Corry’s account of Confirmation preparation on page 28 of the school magazine and an absolutely hilarious account of the misfortunes of Tobias from the Old Testament. Tobias had a most unwelcome substance dropped in his eye while asleep and the reaction and description of one of the pupils of the time is absolutely priceless. I hope you enjoy reading it for yourself, if you have not done so aleady!
I also loved 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’.
They say every day is a school day and I learnt a lot from the Champion account about things I knew nothing about that are bread and butter for the current students here – the participation of the pupils in the Pushkin Project for creative writing, the Escalation Singing Programme under Music Generation, along with more traditional pursuits like trad music sport, mental health, wellbeing, the amber flag projects and no doubt an occasional forray into academic learning to boot!
Importance of Education
This afternoon, 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 Chlochán bheag. 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.
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 An Chlochán bheag. Beannacht Dé oraibh ar fad agus bhur muintir anois agus i gconaí.