Changing Times at Toonagh

Clare Champion, Friday, 9th July 1999

A long and distinguished chapter in Clare education which has made a lasting impression in the academic, cultural and sporting fields was brought to a close recently when Frank Custy retired as principal of Toonagh National School. During a period that spanned nearly forty years, Frank Custy was the driving force of the small school, and for the next school year he has handed over the reigns to Joe Carmody, who formerly taught in Ennis. All the local community have wished Frank well in his retirement and wished Joe all the best in his new challenging post of principal.

The old school in Toonagh dates from 1845 when it was built by the local landlord. This beautiful stone building served the community up until 1966. It is now incorporated into the local parish hall. The hall covers what was the playground area of the school and was opened in 1971.

The present school in Toonagh was originally built as a two teacher school. It was extended in the early seventies following the closure of Dysart National School. All the while, Frank Custy presided over the school's development. He first came to Toonagh in 1961 as principal. Teaching numbers were enhanced in 1965 when Mary Marrinan joined the staff, while Eileen Barry arrived after the closure of the Dysart school.

Down through the years the school became renowned for its promotion of traditional Irish music and singing. This dedication to music was both during and beyond school hours. Sean Conway and Mary Custy are just two of those who learned their craft at the school while Sharon Shannon also learned her trade during the classes organised outside school hours.

Then there are the considerable sporting achievements at the school. Cyril Lyons, who was a Munster and All-Ireland medalist in 1995, is a past pupil as is the late and much lamented John Moroney, who gave such sterling service to Clare hurling in the eighties and early nineties.

In addition to the hurling, football has not been forgotten in Toonagh. In recent times, the exploits of the girls football team has been one of the biggest success stories of the school as in the last years two major league victories have been achieved.

Meanwhile, Toonagh National School remains as one of Clare's strongest schools for handball as the numerous national honours won down through the years testify. It seems that these sporting exploits will continue as the new principal, Mr. Carmody, is known for his keen interest in games.

Retiring teacher Frank Custy on one of his
last days at work in Toonagh N.S.
Niamh O'Loughlin solves a maths problem
on the blackboard at Toonagh N.S.

Photographs by John Kelly, Clare Champion.

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