They may not be as hectic as the preparations at Scoil Muire Gan Smál this time 50 years ago but they are every bit as well planned and meticulous as those for the official opening of the new school on February 1st or St. Brigid’s Day in 1966.
Plans are at an advanced stage and a Golden Jubilee Book is rolling off the presses at Walsh Colour Print at present. I believe there are some highly entertaining accounts of life in the school from pupils down through the years.
The special anniversary cake has been ordered from Moloney’s and the talented Donegans have volunteered to play on the occasion in memory of their late aunt, Sr. Rita Donegan who passed away only last St. Stephen’s Day.
The school may have been opened on Friday, February 1st all those years ago but the celebrations will be held on Friday, February 5th. To this, there is an open invitation to anyone who would like to be there on the special occasion.
A mass will be celebrated at 6-30pm in the Nano Nagle Hall and this will be followed by a tour of the school with the old roll books on display. Then all will return to the hall for the cutting of the cake and the launch of the book – copies of which will be on sale on the night. The future plans for the school will be discussed before all will be invited to take the floor to the sound of the Donegans.
The opening of the school was a huge occasion in the Castleisland of 1966. It had been in preparation for several years and Sr. Margaret O’Brien told me this week that she recalls years of ‘Silver Circle’ collections to raise the funds to enable the building to go ahead.
Barrack Street based building contractor, Johnny McSweeney had the contract of the building and that meant a huge team of local men were employed on a big project in their own locality.
Contact with the School
There isn’t a family in the locality which didn’t have some contact with the school and the Presentation Convent in particular.
As a child I remember the girls working in the convent kitchen placing a huge tray of sandwiches in a hall-way off the main yard. Anyone hard up just went in there and took what they needed at lunch-break and there were no questions asked and no fuss made.
A generation before that again found that the doors of the convent were open to them in times of hardship which we can now only imagine. The industrious ethos and nature of the sisters at the time coped for their own and for the sake of many in the community they served.
Best wishes to all in the school today and may their upcoming celebrations of a glorious past put them on a path of continued development well into the future.
The importance of the opening of the new school in 1966 was reflected in a detailed report in The Kerryman a couple of weeks after the event.
A report in The Kerryman 19-2-1966
An ultra modern new school, with accommodation for 488 pupils, was blessed and opened in Castleisland last weekend.
The £70,000 school was built on a one and a quarter acre site by the Presentation Order, who have now been in Castleisland since 1846 and whose first school was built in the town in 1878.
The school, which is dedicated to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, contains an assembly hall that cost £10,000.
The Department gave a substantial grant towards the cost of school which has eleven classrooms, a special domestic science room fitted withn the latest electrical appliances, two music rooms, cloakroom, a principal’s office, staff room and an oil fired central heating system.
A feature of the school, which is a one-storey building with a flat roof, is that it has low ceilings with sound-proofing.
The architect was Mr. Patrick O’Sullivan, Tralee; the quantity surveyor was Mr. Sean Cuddy, Limerick and the contractor, Mr. John McSweeney, Castleisland.
The school, which the new building has replaced, will be repaired and converted into a secondary school in place of the one now being used for that purpose.
The school was blesse by Rev. Fr. Danial McSweeney, C.C., Castleisland, who celebrated Mass in the assembly hall which was crowded with pupils, parents and Sisters of the Presentation Order.
It was the first dialogue Mass in Irish celebrated in the parish of Castleisland and it was the first time also that Mass was celebrated with the priest facing the congregation.
It was also the first time in Castleisland that the Epistle of the Mass was read by a layman – Mr. Sean Mac Gearailt, Assistant Secretary of the Department of Education, who represented the Minister for Education and who performed the official opening ceremony.
Having formally declared the school open, Mr. Mac Gearailt thanked the Reverend Mother and the Community for the privilege of being present at the opening of the school.
He paid tribute to the late Parish Priest of Castleisland David Canon O’Connor, for the great interest he displayed in the establishment of the school and expressed regret that he did not live to see the opening of it.
Mr. MacGearailt also paid tribute to the nuns for the tremendous work which they were doing , work for which they did not receive any recompense, other than the immense satisfaction they got from a job well done.
Each new school in Ireland, Mr. MacGearailt said, represented a substantial investment in our future, both spiritually, socially and in a temporal sense.
Mr. Mac Gearailt also stressed the importance of having an assembly hall attached to a school as the cultural activities carried on in it, he said, were no less important than the formal instruction given in the class room.
To the parents, Mr. MacGearailt spoke of how necessary it was for them to co-operate with the teachers, not in the sense of haranguing the children about their lessons when they went home but by encouraging them and advising them in ways to co-operate with the teacher.
Mr. Mac Gearailt paid tribute to the architect, the quantity surveyor, the contractors and the workmen who in the construction of the new school had, he said, done an excellent job.
The attendance included Rev. Fr. T McMahon, C.C., Castleisland, the architect, the quantity surveyor and contractor, Mr. Sean Mac Tiernan, District Inspector of National Schools, and Mr. Eamon MacAougusa, Inspector of National Schools.