BY JACKIE KEOGH
DROMLEIGH National School – a pre-famine establishment that is among Ireland’s oldest schools – will be celebrating its 175th anniversary on the weekend of June 13th and 14th.
Parents and staff at Dromleigh National School in Kilmichael are busy preparing the celebrations to mark the great occasion of the opening of the school in 1840.
The school was set up under what was then known as the new primary schools initiative at the behest of Kilmichael parish priest, Fr James O’Driscoll, and it had a projected enrolment of 200.
Anne Bradley, the school principal today, told The Southern Star that by 1842 the first principal, Cal O’Callaghan, together with his assistant, Mary O’Sullivan, taught 260 children in the 37ft x 20ft one-roomed schoolhouse.
Dromleigh survived the famine, with depleted enrolment. It functioned through the Young Ireland and Fenian rebellions, the Land League, and Home Rule movements, and was central to the game-changing Kilmichael ambush in November 1920. And, in its fearful aftermath, as the British army exacted revenge locally, the principal at that time, Patrick O’Riordan, closed the school for a two-week period.
The structure of the school remained unchanged for well over a century, apart from the addition of a folding partition to divide the rooms in the 1930s. Then, in the early 1980s, there was ‘a wonderful development’ when Dromleigh got piped water and flushing toilets at the end of the yard. The situation was further improved in the late 1980s when a grant was finally made available to build on a toilet block and install a rear entrance to the school.
Dromleigh celebrated its 150th anniversary in 1990 with the publication of ‘Dromleigh – A Country School’ and the pupils and teachers at the school enjoyed a visit by the then Minister for Education, Mary O’Rourke, who unveiled a plaque.
Enrolment grew in the 1990s and Dromleigh finally got permission to employ a third teacher and build on another room and office and the then Minister for Education, Mícheál Martin TD, did the honours at that particular opening. In the new millennium funding was made available for the last extensive addition and the current school is exactly seven times the size of the original edifice. Minister Batt O’Keeffe presided at that official opening.
To mark Dromleigh’s 175th history it was decided to update and reprint the school’s history book. The new edition is called Dromleigh NS Spans Three Centuries and it contains much of the original book’s historical content, but there is also additional material in the way of photographs and developments in Kilmichael over the past 25 years.
The 175th anniversary celebrations will take place on Saturday, June 13th and Sunday, June 14th and will include concelebrated mass in the school, followed by the book launch, the unveiling of a plaque and the raising of the school’s Green Flags for Energy, and its Active School flag.
Refreshments will be served and people will be given an opportunity to examine roll books, photographs and artefacts, and the celebrations will continue on Sunday, with a Family Fun Day in the pitch.