BY LEO McMAHON
IT WAS an end of an era recently at a mass and ceremonies to mark the closing of St John’s Boys’ National School, Kinsale, and the graduation of its sixth-year pupils.
Guests were welcomed by principal Alice McCarthy and happy memories came flooding back at what was an emotional gathering of past and present pupils, teachers, staff and members of the board of management and parents’ association. Events began with a most interesting slideshow by local historian and former principal Dermot Ryan.
Kinsale’s long history and tradition of education, he said, dated back to the opening of the first national school by the Half Wall (Ramparts) for boys only in 1840. The original St John’s NS was run by the Presentation Brothers, known locally as ‘The Monks’, from 1895 to 1970 (with infants taught in the convent). The current school, which was officially opened in 1978, was of a modern design with a courtyard and spacious grounds.
He remarked it was a shame that the 35-year-old building on spacious ground was being levelled instead of extended or that the site was used to accommodate the fast-expanding community school nearby while a new purpose built co-educational school could have been located on county council land adjoining the facilities of Sáile Sports and Leisure Centre. At the conclusion of the slide presentation, Alice McCarthy made a presentation to Dermot.
Mass was celebrated by Fr Robert Young PP, assisted by Fr Mariusz Placek O Carm, while prayers were also led by Canon David Williams. Music was provided by teachers Ciara O’Connor, David O’Leary and Emily O’Regan and there was full participation in the ceremony by the past and present pupils. It concluded with the oldest pupil Darragh Crowley lighting a candle and passing it on to the youngest Aaron Courtney in the presence of Alice McCarthy and the principal of St Joseph’s Primary School, Susan O’Hanrahan. It symbolised a new chapter in education in Kinsale with the amalgamation taking place next September into Scoil Naomh Eltin, which will be based on the convent site before moving into the new 16-classroom facility currently occupied by St John’s NS.
A presentation was made after Mass by deputy principal Norah Kenny to Fr Young in appreciation of his valued support as a member of the board of management.
Chairperson of the board and past pupil from the old school at St John’s Hill, Tony Greenway, said he and many others felt quite emotional. Kinsale owed a huge debt to the religious through the Mercy, Presentation and Carmelite orders and parish clergy and acknowleged the input of the Church of Ireland through St Multose’s NS.
He also praised teachers, staffs and successive boards of management and parents bodies, before looking forward with joy to the new St Eltin’s school and wishing the project every success. Graduation scrolls were presented to sixth-class pupils Conor McCarthy, Brian O’Neill, Ernestas Gudauskis, Darragh Crowley, Keith Scannell, Jozef Macuga and Daniel O’Hanrahan by teachers Dara Ann Neary and Emily O’Regan.
‘This day is one of sadness and joy’, said principal Alice McCarthy. ‘Our boys here are our pride and joy. You need only cast an eye around the school to see the very best of their work and photos encapsulating how they receive a holistic and Catholic education in every way. This is the end of an era but St John’s spirit and legacy will live on’. She thanked all of the above-mentioned who supported it plus clubs, Sáile and the local community.
Former principal Margaret Canty recalled fond memories of teaching in St John’s and said the time was now right for amalgamation. She believed St Eltin’s would be a fantastic school for Kinsale and the community.
Gift presentations were made by Alice McCarthy to Tony Greenway, former board chairman Dan Cummins and Triona O’Neill of the Parents’ Association while Dara Anne Neary, in making a presentation to Alice, spoke of her energy, drive and dedication as principal.
An emotional Triona O’Neill, on behalf of the parents, spoke about the trojan work of the association in fundraising which enabled numerous extra-curricular activities such as folk dance, tennis and music lessons, parties, school tours and even a visit by an ice cream van. She said it was always a pleasure working with the staff and also thanked the business people of Kinsale including SuperValu for the cake and Tracy McCarthy-Wright for the food at the reception later.
On behalf of the parents, Deirdre McCarthy presented flowers to the principal and Caroline Scannell a gift to Norah Kenny for her and all the other staff. Sixth-class boys themselves presented a special Christy Ring hurley and gift to their teacher, Emily O’Regan.
There was great entertainment from the talented 60 pupils in songs, dancing, poems, reflections and gymnastics followed by an audio-visual presentation compiled by Dara Anne Neary about school activities. The final act was for sixth-class pupils to ring the school bell (originally at St John’s Hill) for the last time, after which refreshments were served by the parents while the boys were treated to goodies and ice cream.
The staff of St John’s NS comprises Alice McCarthy, Norah Kenny, David O’Leary, Dara Anne Neary, Noreen Daly, Ciara O’Connor, Niamh Murphy, Emily O’Regan, Gillian Twomey. Auxiliary staff are Marian Wright, Carmel Mouroz, Phyllis Murphy, John Jeffords and Anne Marie Kingston.
Guests included Mary Cottrell, Dunderrrow NS; Fiona Giles, St Multose’s NS; Cllr Kevin Murphy and Cllr Dermot Collins, Ann Murphy of Sáile, Sisters of Mercy, parents and friends of St John’s NS.<