The rural Derryclough NS, Drinagh has recently celebrated its golden anniversary, prompting a look back through its history and a look forward to its future. Built in 1968, it has gone from a traditional country school to a modern, inclusive facility that welcomes diversity and celebrates its students varied talents
A RURAL national school is celebrating its golden anniversary in a rather unique way: a parent has painted a beautiful mural across the front of the school.
Derryclough NS in Drinagh now has a mural of two trees painted at each of the two doorways of the school and as you move along the length of the school, from left to right, the trees grow in size from a sapling on the first porch wall of the ‘small room’ – the junior infants to second class – to the largest tree by the ‘big room’, which is used by third to sixth-class.
The last tree has solid limbs and a hollow in its substantial trunk – a nod to adolescence and future adulthood.
Marianne Adams, the artist, said: ‘I have watched my boys grow in stature, confidence and creativity over the last many years. ‘From their warm welcome as junior infants to taking their place as the open-hearted “elders” of the school in sixth-class, they have blossomed, thanks to the consistency, care and commitment of the staff of Derryclough National School.
‘As my youngest departs for secondary school, this year, I wanted this brilliant and beautiful school to be in no doubt about the scale of our gratitude. ‘My parting gift is a mural that depicts the fertile ground from which our lucky children emerge, having gained in depth, height and standing.’
But the mural isn’t finished yet. It is, according to the school principal, Teresa Holland, ‘now a backdrop upon which others will be invited to leave their own mark.’
Each sixth-class student from this year onwards can add a flower, insect, or an animal to represent themselves in a chosen niche within the landscape.
The project is typical of everything done at this friendly and inclusive school – which was built in 1968 – and has gone from a traditional country school to a modern, inclusive school that welcomes diversity and celebrates the varied talents of the children.
Visitors to Derryclough National School have described its rural setting as idyllic, and the grounds – with its pitch, basketball court, and ‘forests’ – as a rich source of stimulation for their physical and mental well-being.
In Derryclough, the children are always encouraged to appreciate the history of the area. In fact, a number of local history projects won many Cork Heritage and Schools’ History Competition prizes.
Teresa told The Southern Star: ‘The traditions of our school and its surrounding area are a great inspiration to our children. We are currently working on a history of our school and it is fascinating to delve into old roll books and registers and to catch a glimpse of life as it was in times gone by.
‘In telling the stories of Derryclough National School through the decades, we acknowledge the great hardships and testing times that families had to endure over the years.
‘Children had few luxuries: They walked to school, often in bare feet. There were no fancy lunch boxes or drinks bottles and Friday was ‘fish for dinner’ not ‘treat day’.
‘Despite this, our school has always promoted the ideal that our pupils can achieve anything they desire in life. Indeed, past pupils have achieved great success in all walks of life, from thriving and industrious farmers to Government ministers, journalists and company directors. And successful careers have taken past pupils to many far-flung places all over the world.’
The school celebrated its official Golden Anniversary in June with a mass in the school and a barbeque garden party that everyone thoroughly enjoyed.
It was a celebration of the fact that there are now 28 children in the school, with two class teachers, a special education teacher and two special needs assistants.
Teresa said: ‘This excellent pupil-teacher ratio ensures that children get the best possible chance to develop and achieve their full potential.
‘Children have the opportunity to participate in many different activities and are encouraged to develop their talents in areas such as music, sport, drama, chess and art.
‘There is something for everyone in Derryclough: the stars of the chess team may not be the heroes of the Sciath na Scol team, and the actor who brings down the house at the Christmas concert might not be the prize-winning artist.
‘But these children are encouraged to never to shy away from a new challenge, but to simply give everything their best shot. That is what makes it so special when different children shine in different ways.’
Derryclough National School made the headlines in 2013, when it had an unexpected windfall from the Irish American Partnership in Boston, after one of its members read an article about the school in The Southern Star.
The money was well spent in developing the school’s libraries and in promoting science in the school. Derryclough has taken a project to the RDS Primary Science Fair on two occasions: one project investigated wind power and the other solar power.
Family support was very important on both occasions as dads were roped in by their children to help with making working models of a windmill and a mini solar-powered water heater.
Teresa said: ‘The level of parental involvement in the school is just one more indicator that this school is well supported – loved even – by its community.’