The Building of Scoil Mhuire 1955 -1957
Scoil Mhuire’s story first began in mid 1950’s. With the building of Marian Place, which was dedicated in the Marian Year of 1954, Rev. Dr. W. Moran, the then Parish Priest had the foresight to begin planning for a new school. This was to cater for the growing population of children from the southern end of town. In 1955, Dr. Moran acquired a site from the O’Dowd family of Cormac Street. The O’Dowds had rented the field to the Danns, who were well established in the cattle trade and many neighbours still recall the huge sheds and the ‘pens’ of quality calves on one side. Further down there was a fresh spring, which supplied water to the locality all the year round.
Having started a collection in 1953, Dr. Moran was able to bank £60 per week towards the cost of this new project. Every Sunday, people gave 1d or 2d to help in the building of the new school. Thanks to this advanced planning, the Parish was ready to contribute its share of the total cost of the school. The National Board of Works paid five sixths of the total outlay of £75,000. The Parish paid the other one sixth. Some local societies and private donors also helped.
The Professional Team
The architect responsible for the design of the school was Mr. J. Boyd Barrett from Cork. The building contractor was Mr. J.J. Smyth from Cavan. Mr. D. Moran from Mullingar (brother of V. Rev. Dr. W. Moran, Parish Priest) was the Clerk of Works. Mr. Mulligan from Cavan was the foreman on the project. Molloys of Ballyduff carried out the stonework. Mr. John Lynch from Roscommon did the slating of the roof, and Mr. Christy Courtney of O’Molloy Street, Tullamore, assisted him.
Building in the 1950’s was a very different matter from today. Mr. Joe Hayden, from Clonminch recalled, “ All labour was carried out by local men “. Excavation of the site was done by hand, using wheelbarrows, shovels and picks. Blocks were made on site by a block machine, which was very old. It turned out 200 blocks a day. Windowsills were also made on site, moulded in wooden boxes. The only other machinery on site was a hoist and mixer. All concrete was mixed on site.
Local carpenters, Joe Hayden, Clonminch, Mick Geoghegan, Clontarf Rd., Jimmy Spollen, Tullamore and Paddy Jordan, Marian Place, made roof trusses on site.
Mary Cuskelly recalls that her grandfather built the wall at the front of Scoil Mhuire and that his lunch was brought up to him each day in a silver ovenproof container!
The work was very hard. The men worked a 50-hour week from 8 am to 6 pm on weekdays and from 8 am to 1 pm on Saturdays.
The New School
The school consisted of ten large classrooms, a cookery room, heated cloakrooms, and toilets upstairs and downstairs, an office, storerooms, a staff room and a large Assembly Hall.
The school remains the same today except for the addition of a number of prefabs and a staff room which became necessary over the years.
At last the great day arrived. On April 1st1957 Scoil Mhuire opened its doors and pupils entered for the first time. One pupil who entered that day recalled that…… ” the school looked amazing “…. Mary Cuskelly.
Dr. Moran blessed the school and mass was celebrated in the Assembly Hall at 9.30 a.m. Mother Stanislaus Donnelly, the staff and all the boys up to 2nd Class and girls up to 4th class were present. Class began at 1.15 pm.
The staff on that day were:
Sr. Carmel Kavanagh (Principal)
Sr. Baptist Walsh
Sr. Declan (Kitty Murray)
Sr. De Lourdes Gilsenan
Sr. Philomena Shaw
Sr. Peter O Brien
Sr. Annunciata Dillon
Mrs. M. Brady
Miss Ita Renihan
New Staff who joined the team in the 50’s
Sr. Virgilius Sr. Scholastica
Bernadette Dooley Betty Brew (Daly)
The sixties rolled in with the first men in space, the first heart transplant, the shooting of President Kennedy and in an ever growing Tullamore , there was an ever expanding Scoil Mhuire. When the school opened there were rooms to spare but before the sixties ended two prefabs had been added!
All you past pupils will never forget Beatle mania and “Rocking around the clock” but do you remember your Irish- Cúrsa A, B, C, the headline copies, the transcription and the dictation? The “good” copies were neatly covered and piled on the shelves for the Inspector. The powdered ink was made up by the teacher and poured into the inkwells but despite blotting paper, a blob was to be feared.
Poems, tables, spellings had to be learned “by heart”. Long passages of History or Geography recited aloud, were interspersed by written work. Music was not from a tape recorder but from a tuning fork and the songs such as “An Madrín Rua” had no need for word censoring. For girls, the tacking, running and hemming had to be carefully worked and placed in the sewing copy for the close scrutiny of the Inspector’s disapproving eye. No rouge could accomplish what the Sewing Inspector’s look could achieve!
In 1964 Sr. Baptist Walsh took over the helm. This was the decade when Physical Education was introduced into our Primary Schools. Scoil Mhuire was one of the first schools to pilot this venture. The young and athletic teachers donned their tracksuits and undertook the intensive training courses. Soon the new skills were being practiced on the anxious pupils and the results displayed for others to see. A new era was beginning.
Sr. Kitty (Declan) led the way with her usual flair. She formed a school band which won First Prize in the Offaly Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Eireann Competition.
1969 had one of Scoil Mhuire’s proudest moments. A special class was introduced to cater for children with special needs. Sr. Scholastica was the first teacher of this special class. This year also Sr. Baptist made history by becoming the first nun to join the INTO.
New Staff in the Sixties
Nuala Ward Phil O’Connell
Patricia McGrath Rita Griffin
Olive Corbett Eileen Healy
May Dowling Bernie Costello (Foster)
Bernie Fox (Mc Caffrey) Catherine Forde
Bridie Baxter (Dunne) Ann Barry (Maher)
Sr. Xavier Madge Holloway (Whelan)
Some of our present parents and teachers were not yet born in the seventies. Tullamore was continuing to grow and the staff and pupil numbers of our school continued to grow. Several teachers transcended the decades, others moved on and were replaced and others still came and took up new appointments.
To set this era in perspective we must remember that in this era the first Jumbo Jet landed in Heathrow, the new English language Bible was launched and sold one million copies in the first week and much could still be bought for half a crown.
The new Primary School curriculum was launched in 1971. Arts and Crafts was a pleasant inclusion and the Irish filmstrips were an interesting challenge to teachers and pupils alike. Nature Study was new and the teachers, who knew little of leaf identification, not to mention the birds and the bees, had plenty of homework to do too!
But decimal currency was only around the corner and children no longer had to divide the pence by twelve and the shillings by twenty to do “money sums”.
1971 and the new currency led to a book price increase. Shocked parents had to shell out 6p for “Day by Day” Primer 1 and a massive 28p for Day by Day Senior! Workbooks for all classes reached 7½p.
This was a period of real “number inflation” for our school which necessitated “building inflation” also and the addition of two new prefabs as the decade turned. This was also the year that Ireland joined the E.E.C. and maps of the ten E.E.C. countries became the focus of every senior class.
With Sr. Baptist, a kind, understanding but very enthusiastic and hardworking Principal we had our very first fifth class added in 1973. By the following year, the lunch hour was shortened and we had a full school which included 6th class and a Remedial Teacher.
The glory for the first half of the seventies rests, principally, with Sr. Baptist. The second half, however, belongs to Sr. Xavier. Everything grows or dies, it is said, and under Sr. Xavier’s direction the already fully grown and nurtured Scoil Mhuire went from strength to strength. With Sr. Xavier came a new Manager, Fr. Michael Lynn, and in the same year our first Board of Management was formed.
New Staff in the early seventies
Bernie D’Arcy (RIP)
Marian Byrne (Cunningham)
Sr. Maeve (Mark)
Máire Geraghty (Mc. Redmond)
New Staff in the late seventies
Sr. Xavier (Principal)
Esther Guinan (Lambe)
Angela Frend Periera
Sr. Margaret Burke
Sr. Concepta O’Brien
Rev. M Lynn Sr. Gemma Bennie Bracken Sr. M. Xavier Denis O’ Connell Sr. Genevieve May Dowling Paddy Lowbridge.
The year in which De Valera died was a very ‘living’ one for Scoil Mhuire. Our first Board was instrumental in developing Scoil Mhuire. Soon we had sinks in every classroom. We got tape recorders and projectors for the new Irish Programme and we thought we had it all when we got our first computer – a Commodore 64! . From nine teachers on the staff in ’57 we had grown to sixteen.
During the seventies too a ‘New Religion Programme’ was introduced. It was an interesting change, to come from the rote learning of………”We should pray with a humble and contrite heart, with attention and perseverance, with confidence in God’s goodness and resignation to his will”…to the more child centred approach of. “So Sam played skipping along with Pam And Pam played football along with Sam For every game is so much better When we are friends and play together.”
During that year period we shared accommodation with our neighbours, Scoil Bhride. “Go raibh maith agaibh.”
In 1976 teachers and pupils had a sponsored silence for three hours on a Saturday morning and with the generous support of parents and friends we raised enough money to pay for dark blinds for all the windows. Summer that year was a scorcher.
The following year was again a year of change for Scoil Mhuire. School started ten minutes earlier in the morning and closed on June 30th. An important development also took place in 1978 with the introduction of a Special Class for Travellers.
All in all, the Seventies were years of great significance for Scoil Mhuire, a time of great change , great renewal, much progress, a decade of which we are truly proud.
In 1988 when my retirement was approaching, I looked around, in search of a little corner of the vineyard, where I could perhaps sow a seed, water a plant, or encourage a little growth, here or there. With this in mind I wrote to Sr. Xavier and before too long I was informed that there was a place for me in Scoil Mhuire, with a title no less- Home School Liaison Officer. I would be a little link between the school and the families.
I was made very welcome by the staff and pupils and I enjoyed doing whatever services presented themselves during the eight years. Often it would be a little help for a pupil, taking home a sick child or supervising a class. The Parenting Programmes brought me into contact with a lot of parents and relationships were formed which are both on-going and life-giving.
I put a lot of time and energy into children’s Liturgy and while we enjoyed many good celebrations, I would hope that here, too, seeds have been sown for the future of these children.
The eight years I spent in Scoil Mhuire was a very good experience, as not only did I get to sow a seed and water a plant but I was renewed myself and bloomed again.
The year 1980 marked a new milestone in the history of Scoil Mhuire. In this year our first secretary Mary Berry and our first caretaker Donal Kearney were appointed jointly with Scoil Bhride. Sr. Xavier gave over her office and Mrs. Berry got a typewriter – secondhand and manual – but a typewriter ! And away she went and she is still going to this day. The caretaker, as well, was never a minute idle, unblocking toilets and replacing broken handles and erecting shelves. We wonder now how we ever managed without them.
In 1981 Scoil Mhuire won a Savings Award for the success of the 5p saving stamp
scheme. That plaque is still proudly displayed in the school. The highlight of the Eighties was most definitely the Silver Jubilee of the school. The musical “ Babette” was staged to celebrate the occasion. The cast was representative of the entire school.
The nineties, just like the decades before had its own special highlights. In 1991 we hada visit from the then Minister for Education, Mary O’Rourke. She came to visit some new pre-fabs which had been built for the Special Classes. Her visit was a memorable occasion.
In the Nineties we were living in a very competitive world and the pupils of Scoil Mhuire were very busy achieving success in many fields. Sports such as Camogie, Basketball and Athletics brought them, both happy times and many trophies. The children were successful in Handwriting, Art and Talent Competitions and they always performed creditably in the Cadbury’s and Credit Union Quizzes. Many times also the children learned the valuable lesson that taking part was much more important than winning.
We were specially proud of our Child of Achievement Award winners, Orla Dempsey in 1991 and Sarah Maye and Janet Gill in 1992. This public recognition was very well deserved.
In 1969 the first Special Class found a place in Scoil Mhuire and down through the years they have contributed much to the life of the school. However 1992 was a special year for them. They were justifiably proud when they scooped an Environmental Award, run by the E.S.B. and St Patrick’s Training College for their effort in maintaining a garden in Scoil Mhuire. The children and teachers enjoyed travelling to Dublin to receive their £300 prize.
In September 1993 life in Scoil Mhuire took on a new colour. On the first day of this school year the children arrived in their new school uniforms. Green check skirts, with green trousers for boys, red shirts and green jumpers with a red stripe, became the order of the day. In this same year our Manager, Fr. Gerry Boyle, left us for pastures new and Fr. Willie Cleary arrived. He carried on the great work of his predecessors.
Computers were part and parcel of life in the Nineties and Scoil Mhuire was as usual, to the forefront. Information Technology was first used in the Special Classes to help children with physical disability but soon spread to almost every class in the school. In 1993 the Minister for Energy and Communications, Mr. Brian Cowen, opened the first Midlands Computer Fair in Scoil Mhuire. This was a great success and marked the beginning of the Technological Age which has continued in the school to the present day.
New staff in the Nineties
Richard O ‘Mahony
Mary Clare Leonard
The New Millenium was heralded with great fan-fare and ceremony in Tullamore and we in Scoil Mhuire were not found wanting in this regard either! Children created their own time capsules which were filled with memorabilia from their lives. These will give a picture of life in Ireland for future generations.
Our pupil enrolment continues to grow and we are now proudly multi-cultural.
School life is enriched hugely by all our new friends from different cultural backgrounds.There has always been keen interest in our environment and there were great celebrations in Scoil Mhuire when we were awarded our first Green Flag in 2003. Our hard- working GreenTeam under the careful supervision of Geraldine Mc Donald did not waste a minute and in 2005 Scoil Mhuire was awarded its second flag for energy awareness . Water conservation was the next project and in 2008 we were awarded our third green flag. We are very proud of this achievement and we
hope to achieve much more in the future.