During the recent junior infants photography tour of the local schools I congratulated all at Scoil Íde, Curranes National School on their fine new extension.
I promised that, as soon as the mad rush with the juniors’ photographs was done for this year, I’d call back to record the new classroom and its first batch of pupils and their teacher and principal. And Principal Emer Nelligan promised that she’s have a rundown on the history of the school from its earliest days.
We swapped promises last Thursday and not only did Emer have an up-to-date on the school, she contacted former principal, Terence McQuinn and he took us right back to the building of the first school in Curranes in 1869 and across the road from where the school now stands.
First, Ms. Nelligan sets the scene with the opening of the new classroom and what it means to the school, its pupils and teachers and the space it has freed up elsewhere in the building:
History Made at Scoil Íde Curranes National School
By Principal Emer Nelligan
“History was made at Curranes N.S. this September as the first cohort of pupils was welcomed to the new, state of the art classroom extension.
The school has seen a steady increase in pupil numbers over the years and it currently has an enrollment of 85 pupils. Curranes N.S. became a four-teacher school for the first time in its history in 2019, when Órla Stack was appointed to the staff of the school. The school is very fortunate to have a generously sized hall which housed the additional class since 2019. We are very excited to have the use of our hall back for its original purposes again and we look forward to PE lessons such as gymnastics returning to the hall over the winter months.
Four Mainstream Teachers
The fact that the school has four mainstream class teachers is of huge benefit to all pupils attending the school as it means that there is a very favourable pupil-teacher ratio in each of the classrooms. In addition to having four mainstream class teachers, the school also has two special education teachers and two special needs assistants. There is an after-school service at the school, which operates up to 5.55pm each evening.
Engineer for the building project was Teicniúil Priory Consulting Engineers and the builder was Pheilim Fitzgerald.”
Beginnings of Curranes National School
By Former Principal Terence McQuinn
“In 1843, A National School Bill was passed, But the Famine 1845-47 halted the school building programme.
Curranes school was built in 1869. I was told that great voluntary work went on, especially drawing stone from Begley’s Quarry. Horse and donkey carts, wheelbarrows and baskets were the means of transport. Gravel came from the river and lime was burned locally.
The building was a fine solid structure faced with cut limestone, a slate roof supported by strong rafters, all of which lasted 100 years. It was parrallel to the road and faced west, so the room on the south side got the sun in the a.m, noon and p.m.
A Small Square Window
The other room on the north side got very little sun through its small square window. One had to stand on a chair or stool to look out.
Each room had a small cloak room at the front. There were hooks to hang the coats and the fuel, mainly turf, was stored under a large bench. A fire place with a grate was in each room. Parents were very generous with the supply of turf and we were never short. The boys were willing hands to draw in the turf when a load was emptied outside the small gate.
Hatchet Wielded Freely
Boys delighted also on setting and stoking the fire. A small hatchet was wielded freely to cut large sods. There were plenty signs of their prowess on the stone hearth. There was a little ledge at each side of the fire where bottles of milk could be heated on cold days.
On wet days coats had to be dried on a big fire guard. There were no ceilings so there was a big area to heat and the rooms were also quiet draughty.
There was no electricity or running water. The toilets were at the rear of the school at the end of the school yard. A high dividing wall separated the two very basic lavatories.
Present School Opened in 1965
Boys playground was on the left and girls on the right. Playground was rough, just gravel flattened by many feet.
The present Scoil Íde was opened in 1965. The construction went on for two years. It was due to open in September 1964 but work dragged on and finally in December 1965 the parents organised a strike.
No pupils attended and within ten days the school finally opened. What a change it was to come from a dark, cold room to a bright spacious room withe central heating, lighting and running water. Front and back wall windows were to the ceiling.
The floor was high above ground and the view of Laccabawn, Castleisland, Scartaglen and Killarney mountains in the distance was breath-taking.
The large hall and cloak-room separated the two rooms. The coat stands had a radiator underneath as they are today.
Boy’s and girl’s, again, spacious toilets were at each end. All walls painted in a variety of lovely colours.
In the last chapter I tried to give an idea of what it was like for us teachers and pupils to come into Curranes N.S for the first time.
Scoil na gCorrán
Curranes is a small area in Laccabawn. I believe it got it’s name from the many pools in the glen separating the area from Fahaduff. The old school was on the field sloping down to the glen and could likely be called the field of the pools, ‘na corráin.’
So we got Scoil na gCorrán as the first Irish name in the older Roll Books.
As numbers increased a third teacher was appointed, Mrs. Cáit Daly. A pre-fab building was erected and in time a third classroom, utility room or halla, an office, computer room, teacher room and pre-school room.
Change from Hedge Schools
Now we are celebrating the opening of a fourth classroom. Some change from the two hedge schools, one in Portdubh in a cow-house of John Connor’s, the other in a shed of Garret Fleming in Dulague.
Pupils wrote on slate with chalk. There were no books, pencils or desks. These were the centres of education in the area from the famine until 1869 when Curranes N.S was established. Now Scoil Íde is in the capable hands of Emer Nelligan and her excellent team of teachers.
Go n’eirí go hiontach leo,” – Traolach Mac Cuinn.
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