Scoil Naomh Fiachra



Two schools, spanning one hundred and sixty-six years, provided the focus for a celebration on July 24th, 2004. Past-pupils of Balleen, founded in 1838 and Clontubrid, (which replaced it), founded in 1932, reunited to relive the ‘old days’.

It was a wonderful, joyous mixture of old and young. Mass was celebrated at 5 p.m. The gathering outside the church, before the Mass, provided an opportunity for the guests to seek out school mates they hadn’t seen for years. No one was late for this Mass. We sought the faces of children in the faces of grown-ups from teens to eighties. It was amazing how quickly friendships were renewed and animated conversation filled in the gaps left by years of separation.

After Mass, all visited Clontubrid School. There they continued the conversation and looked for their young faces in the photographic display mounted in the school. The oldest photo of the pupils of Balleen School 1927, was admired by all. 63 pupils and their teachers, Hannah O’Connor-Maher and Katie Dunne-Holland were all identified for us by our oldest guest, Mrs Elizabeth Dunne. Seventeen of the 63 pupils are still alive.

A plot, adjacent to the school grounds was donated by the Campion Family. This was converted into a millennium garden by Pat Tallis and his enthusiastic team of volunteers. Bill Campion planted a tree and Fr Pat O’Farrell blessed the garden. Pat Tallis looked forward it being used as a place of relaxation, where one could just sit and meditate, read a book, read or compose a poem or just converse with friends. The garden would also help the children appreciate nature as they nurtured and renewed the shrubs and flowers growing there.

Over 270 sat down to a delightful meal in the Springhill-Court Hotel. School-days were recalled, stories exchanged, experiences related. Humour, sadness, joy and sorrow embellished the stories. The older ones among us realised that we were of a generation that had seen accelerated change in humanity’s way of living. Travel had shrunk from six days to cross the Atlantic to six hours. Emigrants were no longer cut off from their families and friends by distance. Air travel, television, telephone(land and mobile) and the internet made possible daily and even hourly communication among family members living anywhere in the world.

Chairman, Peter Tallis welcomed the guests. Having welcomed the past pupils, he welcomed the surviving teachers and priests who had served the community in the past. Mrs Kitty Doheny , Mrs Maureen Lyng and Anne Brennan were able to renew old friendships with past pupils. Fr John Brennan, Fr James Carrigan, Fr John Condon, Fr James McEvoy, who served in the parish in the past, and the present Parish Priest, Fr Pat Brennan and Fr Jimmy Nolan concelebrated the Mass. Tommy Maher, Principal of Clontubrid N.S. helped the committee with his research into the history of the two schools and by providing a roll-call of all past pupils. The other teachers in the school, Mrs Mary Maher and Ms Mairead Dowling helped to make the occasion a great success.

The committee which organised the event did so with enthusiasm and competence. It was a mixture of ages led by Peter Tallis as chairman. The other members were Betty Bowden (Secretary), Maureen Bergin, Anne Bergin, Reenie Fitzpatrick, Marion McArdle, Mary-Beth Walshe, John Joe Brophy, Tommy Maher, Paddy Dunphy, Larry Hamilton.

All involved agreed that it was a wonderful occasion, well worth the effort. Some of us met people we had not seen for fifty years. One past pupil, on seeing another he hadn’t met since 1946, walked up to him and said “Welcome, Francy Murphy!” Francy showed little evidence of wear and is still the lively individual he was all those years ago when he was the life of the party at school.

– by Larry Hamilton.