St Patrick’s National School (then known as Drumshanbo Central School) first opened its doors to pupils (189) and teachers in November 1974. It was built on church land donated by the parish. It followed a pattern, happening all over the country at the time, of closing small schools and centralising them in towns and villages. It represented an amalgamation of Drumshanbo NS ( now called Áras Pádraig), Aughagrania NS, Corderay NS and Cormongan NS. Philip Fee was the contractor in charge of the building. The first manager of the school was Fr. McHale.
There were 6 classrooms and 6 teachers, to begin with. The principal was Patrick O’Keeffe (retired 1997). He was appointed on July 1st in the summer of 1974 but, because the new building was not ready, he taught in Drumshanbo NS until November. With him was Mrs. Bríd McMorrow. She was appointed as vice-principal in the new school. Mrs. Nancy Woods was principal in Aughagrania NS until the amalgamation, when she joined the teaching staff of the central school. Mrs. Sarah Doyle was principal of Cormongan NS until it was amalgamated into the central school. Both Mrs. Doyle and Mrs. Woods were the only teachers in their respective schools. Corderay NS had two teachers before it closed – Mrs. Peggy Lynch was the principal and she worked with Ms. Minnie Conway. Both women joined the teaching staff of the new school in November 1974. These six teachers established a commitment to high standards of education, and, most importantly to the well-being and happiness of the children in their care. It is not surprising then that the motto of the school forty years later is ‘friendship and learning’
Paddy O’Keeffe recalls that the teachers met on November 11th and that the school opened to receive children on November 12th. The teacher had met during the summer to standardise book lists and to allocate classes. (The inspector, Pádraig Lynch was involved in class allocation)
We can only imagine the mixed feelings of the local community, teachers and the pupils – on the one hand they were probably proud of a lovely new school and excited to be part its opening. On the other hand, no doubt many were saddened by the closure of the small, local schools which generations of the same family had attended. Many children would have travelled to the new school for the first time on the bus – a new adventure.
Drumkeelan NS joined a year later in 1975. The principal in 1974 was Mrs. Foran. She was due to retire the following year and was reluctant to leave her school when she had only one more year to teach. Therefore, when the school closed in 1975, the second teacher from Drumkeelan NS, Mrs. Sheila McMorrow, became the seventh member of staff. The school was already too small, having only 6 classrooms, and Mrs. McMorrow taught in the staff room – now the resource room.
The next appointment in 1977 was Mrs Elsie McWeeney, replacing Ms. Conway who retired. When Mrs Sheila McMorrow retired in March 1978, she was replaced by Mrs. Nora McGovern. Both Mrs. McWeeney and Mrs. McGovern were resident in the town but had been teaching in Greaghnafarna NS, Arigna.
Numbers continued to grow and there followed in 1979 the appointment of Mrs. Pauline McGonigle and Mrs. Úna Brennan. By this stage an extension had been built to accommodate the growing numbers, comprising of 2 classrooms and an office. Mrs. Brennan was appointed as a remedial (learning support) teacher, which was an important development for the school at the time.
The next teacher to be appointed was Mrs. Patricia O’Connor in 1981. She recalls that there were 290 on roll at the time and she was the 11th teacher to be appointed. Patricia retired in June 2015.
When Mrs. Doyle retired in 1982, she was replaced by her son, Des – who went on to become principal. Mr. Doyle had been covering a maternity leave in the school when he was appointed in a permanent capacity. Ann Barrett was also appointed in 1982 (now teaching in Barna, Galway) again because of growing numbers and when she left after a year she was replaced by Máirín O’Keeffe in 1983.
At this stage the hall had to be used as a classroom as the school was overcrowded. Eventually, the old town school was reopened to accommodate junior and senior infants. Máirín O’Keeffe returned for a year at this time and then moved again in November 1991 because of falling numbers. The sad and sudden death of Pauline McGonigle occurred in June 1990. She was only 39 at the time of her death
After 15 years of teaching in the school, Mrs. Nora McGovern retired in 1993.
In 1994 Des Doyle was moved to Killenummery NS due to falling numbers in the school.
In 1995 the special needs class was established and Patricia O’Neill was appointed as teacher. This was a very important development for the school. The class was eventually replaced by the Autism Spectrum Disorder Unit (2009) which is currently in the school.
Nancy Woods retired from teaching in 1996 but has since put her unfailing energy into the Joe Mooney Summer School which has proved such a success for the town. Orla Kenny was appointed as her replacement and worked in the school from 1996 – 1997.
After 23 years of dedicated work, Paddy O’Keeffe, the first principal of the school retired in 1997 and Des Doyle was appointed.
The death of Patricia O’Neill occurred in 1999. Patricia had a long battle with cancer. Those who worked with her recall her with great affection as a teacher and a friend.
Bríd O’Keeffe was appointed to the Special Needs class in February 1997. She moved to Ballyfarnon NS in May 2000 and was replaced by Melissa Higgins.
Elsie McWeeney & Bríd Mc Morrow retired in 2000. Úna Brennan then became the vice-principal. Pádraig Kenny and Ruth McLoughlin were appointed to replace the retired teachers. Pádraig worked in the school until 2002 when he was appointed as principal of St. Hugh’s NS in Dowra. Ruth is still working in the school.
In September, 2003, Orla (Scollan) Walsh was appointed and she is still a member of staff, currently working in learning support. Orla has a post of responsibility in the school.
Regina Mc Loughlin was appointed in 2006 as the teacher for the special class. She is now the resource teacher in the school.
Peggy Lynch retired in 2007, the last remaining member of the original staff of six. Úna Brennan retired in 2011 and Ruth McLoughlin was appointed as Vice-principal. Úna regularly still helps out in the school when we call upon her.
Clare McLoughlin was appointed in 2005. She now teaches fifth class. She is the secretary for the Joe Mooney Summer School and works closely with Nancy Woods in this regard.
In 2007 – in the middle of the Celtic Tiger era – a sudden increase in numbers caused the appointment of 3 teachers on the one day – Jeanette Reynolds, Stephen Keane, Louise Brennan all of whom are still working in the school. Jeanette teaches fourth class, Stephen teaches second class and Louise teaches Senior Infants.
Aisling Brennan/Kelly who currently teaches in third class was appointed in 2009. Maria McMorrow who teaches Junior Infants was permanently appointed in 2011. John Molloy was also appointed in 2011. He is a learning support teacher in the school and he also covers some hours in St. Brigid’s NS, Drumcong. Fran Battle was appointed in 2012. She is the teacher in the ASD class.
In 2014, after 17 years of committed service to the school, Des Doyle retired as principal of the school. His legacy is evident in the atmosphere of friendship and learning in the school, in the warmth and inclusiveness of the school community and in the modern well-maintained facility he has left behind. Máirín O’Keeffe was appointed as principal from September 1st 2014. She was a pupil in the school when it opened in 1974, forty years ago.
Mrs. Patricia O’Conner retired, after many years of diligent service, in June 2015.
Of the current teaching staff in the school, Ruth McLoughlin, Clare McLoughlin, Orla Walsh, Stephen Keane, Jeanette Reynolds and Máirín O’Keeffe are past pupils. Maria McMorrow is a past pupil of Mr. Doyle – from the time he spent in Kilenummery NS.
The school has benefitted greatly from a committed and skilled caretaker – Maurice Cullen, helped now by his son Andrew – a past pupil. Maurice was appointed in 1997. The pride he takes in his work is evident throughout the building and grounds. The McGovern family have been cleaning the school for many years – another key part of the team that makes up the school community. Raymond is a past pupil of the school. The way in which the school is maintained and is constantly being updated and improved, is always commented upon by those who visit as well as those who work in it.
When the school opened, it did not have a secretary – hard to imagine now – but eventually the role was assumed by Mary Doyle and is carried out now with supreme courtesy and efficiency by Caroline Flynn – another past pupil of the school.
The appointment of Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) to the school has been another significant development in the life of the school. Again, it is hard to imagine how the school could manage without them. The first to be permanently appointed was Mrs. Jo Cox in 2001. ( She had been working in the school since 1996) Three have since been appointed, Mrs. Donna Flynn (2005), Mrs. Julie Durkin (2006) and Ms. Deborah Kehoe (2012). They are involved in every aspect of school life and provide immeasurable support to pupils and teachers alike.
Mrs. Cox retired on September 1st, 2017 after 16 years of dedicated service to pupils and to the school.
Over the past 40 years the school community – like every other school community has experienced it share of joys and sorrows. The joy of the school is in the daily interactions of the children and the staff. Everyone who has worked in the school has fond recollections of stories told, songs sung, pictures drawn, matches played, plays, concerts, tours, ceremonies and parties. Visitors always comment on the lovely, welcoming atmosphere in the school.
But there have been sad days too. The death of Kevin Gilchriest, a pupil in fourth class, in September 1990, was one of the saddest and most shocking events, remembered with great sorrow by all who taught him and who worked in the school at the time.
In 1993 Martin and Mary Kate Reilly were killed in a road accident outside the town, leaving 20 children orphaned, many of whom were pupils and past pupils of the school. It was a time of great sorrow for the whole community. The family had been an integral part of the school but was scattered after the death of their parents and never returned. All those who taught them have very fond memories of the children and their parents.
The death of Mary Doyle in 2009 saddened all who knew her and worked with her. Mary worked side by side with her husband, Des for the wellbeing and betterment of the school. She was the secretary of the school before such a post even existed. The staff and pupils mourned her loss with Des. She is commemorated in the little garden at the front of the school.
The school has lost many members of its community over the last forty years – parents, past pupils, board members and teachers. The photographic records so well displayed, remind us of many friends that we have lost, but that we still remember.
The school has reflected the changes in society over the past 40 years. When the economy flourished the population of the school grew, at times exceeding 300. In harder times, the school population dipped to under 130 – in the early 90s. The Celtic Tiger years saw a sharp increase in the school population with many emigrant families returning to bring up their children in Drumshanbo. During these years the school welcomed newcomers from many parts of the world. This diversity has broadened the school experience for all who share it.
The developments in technology have had a profound effect in the school with the interactive whiteboards replacing the blackboards and chalk. The Internet has brought the world into our classroom. In the late 1990s and up to 2007 a new curriculum was introduced with increased funding to help to resource it.
Now in 2014 we are looking to an update in the curriculum and we look forward to the changes it will bring.
This short history of the school was compiled with the help of many of those who have retired from teaching in the school. Sincere thanks to them all.
August 2018 – update
The past four years have brought a number of changes in our school. In June of 2015, Patricia O’Connor retired. Patricia was first appointed in 2015.
In September of that year, Fr. Burke was moved to a parish in Ferbane. Fr. Burke had served in the parish and on the Board of the school for 21 years and oversaw many of the changes during his tenure. Fr. Murray came to our parish and to our Board, also in September 2015.
In June of 2017, Jo Cox, the first SNA ever to be appointed to the school, retired. She was appointed in 2001.
In September 2017 a second Autism Class was opened in the school and 6 junior infants joined us. A new teacher was appointed to teach in the second class- Sinéad Gilmartin. A number of new SNAs were also appointed – Samantha Cullen, Sinéad Dolan and Anne Flood. They were joined by Olive Murphy in September 2018.