A Haven of Learning

Clare Champion, Friday, 21st January 2000

To have been a haven of learning and education for a hundred years is no mean achievement. People in Annagh are indebted to successive generations of teachers at the local national school for their dedication and commitment to the welfare of children.

Eventhough Annagh National School celebrated its centenary in December, the history of education in the area began much earlier, however. The Irish system of education, as we know it today, began in the mid 1880's and a school opened at the Crosses of Annagh around that time.

Schools like this, from the beginning, suffered from a lack of proper state funding. Over the years the community, though desperately poor, had to supplement state funds, in order for the school, to function. This led to huge classes, little or no equipment, no back up services, and poor hygiene facilities. From Inspectors reports, we know it was cold, dark and damp.

By the end of the 1800's, the clamour for better school accommodation in Annagh began to grow. Rev. James Cahir P.P. purchased a site from Mr. Daniel Fitzpatrick. The Dept. sanctioned a grant of 318. 13s. 10d. The total project cost 478. 0s. 8d. It was built in December 1899 and opened for pupils on the 1st October, 1900.

The previous school had been a mixed school. Now there were two separate schools with one room each. Mr. Daniel Morrissy was appointed principal of the boys school. Ms. Mary Meade, who had replaced Mrs. Moroney, was appointed principal of the girls school. On the first day there were 52 pupils in the boys school and 42 in the girls school.

In 1906, Ms. Mary Ann Crehan was appointed as the junior assistant mistress. In 1908, Ms. Ellen Haran filled this position and in 1914, Ms. Margaret Hehir became the junior assistant mistress.  In the 1920's the schools amalgamated, with Mr. Daniel Morrissey as principal, and Mrs. McNamara (nee Meade) as the privileged assistant. Mrs. Margaret Doyle (nee Hehir) continued as junior assistant mistress until 1926. The only visible sign of the amalgamation was the breaking out of a door in the wall between the two rooms.

In September 1923, Mr. Martin Crehan became principal.  Martin was the father of the legendary musician Junior Crehan, who was a past pupil, as was his wife and all their family. On the 1st January 1937, Ms. Tessy Walshe was appointed when Mrs. McNamara retired.

During the 1930's, the effects of the economic wars were felt throughout the country. The government came up with the radical solution of introducing a marriage ban on female teachers in 1934, and enforcing the early retirement of married female teachers in 1938. Ms. Margaret Meade, who was appointed 2nd assistant in 1940, fell foul of this law in 1945 when she married Mr. Tim Donnellan.

On 1st January 1942, Mr. Timothy Maloney was appointed principal. In the 40's electricity came to the school for the first time. On the 28th June 1966, Mr. Patrick Meade became principal.

Ms. Tessy Walshe herself was appointed principal in 1975. Mrs. Rose Hillery (nee Ryan), formerly principal of Doolough, which was by then closed, became the privileged assistant in Annagh. In 1980, Mrs. Hillery became principal and Mr. Sean McMahon was appointed assistant.

In the mid 1980's, a clamour arose from the community, once again, for improvements to the school. A grant was obtained from the Department and Fr. Tom Ryan, Chairperson at this time, sought and received funding from his friends in Northern Ireland. Flush toilets were built, the floors were concreted, the old fireplaces were blocked up, a storage heating system was installed and the yard was tarmaced for the first time.

In 1990, Mrs. Caroline Tubridy O'Dea was appointed assistant, when Mr. Sean McMahon became principal of Mullagh N.S. In 1994, when Mrs. Hillery retired, Mr. Michael King became principal.  In January 1999, Mrs. Ita Looney, Kilcullen was appointed 2nd assistant. Ita, herself, is a past pupil.  Since 1997, Annagh share the services of Mrs. Geraldine McMahon, as support teacher with the other four schools of the parish.

Over the last six years the school community has been further improved with a two room extension plus a strongroom and a new storage heating system. They have recarpeted and rewired the school and retarmaced the yard. The school has two phone lines, one for Internet access and a number of modern computers. Before Christmas, pupils took part in an E-mail Project on the West Clare Railway, organised by the Clare Education Centre.

In 1997, our girls had a memorable and historic win when they amalgamated with Scropul N.S. and won the Division 2 County Final. Their coach, Mr. T.J. O'Loughlin, deserves great credit for this achievement and for all his coaching work with the school girls in our parish. In 1999, four of our boys received county final medals when they amalgamated with the other schools in our parish under their coach, Mr. Patrick Murrihy. Great credit is due to Patrick for his coaching work with all the boys in our school.

At the Centenary Mass, Bishop W. Walsh complimented the standard of instrumental music and singing of pupils and said he wished he had such an opportunity when he was in school. Swimming classes at Sea World, Lahinch over the past three years have proven very popular. It is heartening that at this stage many of our pupils can now swim.

During centenary celebrations, pupils buried a time capsule. They were allowed to write about anything they felt that pupils in 100 years from now might be interested in. The extent and breadth of their interests were quite astonishing.

"If we were to begin to thank everybody individually for their contribution to our school over the years, we would still be sure to leave somebody out. However, from all our community effort over the last 150 years, we get a true sense of what our school community is all about.  Our community is not marked by boundaries on a map, but instead we think of it as a chain, stretching back over 150 years. It's a chain of friendship, which has been forged over the years, and to which new links are added each year, when new families come to our school. The strength of this chain can be seen by the number of parents and friends who chip in when needed", said principal, Michael King.

Noreen Cleary and Louise Walsh
at work on their posters.
Aisling Talty tying her friends
lace during break time.

Photographs from The Clare Champion.

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