FROM 1886 to 1970, the pupils of Drumcharley National School in Tulla walked the winding roads of Thome, Cragroe, Clondanagh, Glendree, Ugoon, Ayle and further afield to get their primary education.
On June 5, past pupils of the school will take a walk down memory lane as the local community prepares to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the closure of Drumcharley National School with a reunion for all its past pupils and teachers.
While many of the school’s past pupils remained in the locality, there are many others that emigrated over the years and it is hoped that the reunion will bring many home to their roots this summer.
Invitations have been sent halfway across the world to Tulla natives living in Australia, America, Canada, East Africa and the UK.
Speaking to The Clare Champion, local past pupils John Minogue, Pat McNamara and Catherine O’Halloran, along with former principal Brian Culloo, recall their schooldays at Drumcharley.
Tulla publican, John Minogue had acquired a number of jobs within the school during his days there in the 1930s. John was in charge of ringing the bell to call the children to school, he collected the role books and he was also the pupil that had to go to the well to get water for the teacher’s cup of tea.
He recalls one experience while the children were playing over lunchtime, that would cause people to think twice today. He explained that there was no yard when he was at school but John remembers that the children would go to O’Dea’s field to throw a weight around.
“One day, they (the pupils) had struck a young lad in the head with the weight and he was carried into the porch of the school. I was the one doing all the jobs that day and I saw him there on the porch snoring. The teachers got him up on an ass and cart and sent him back to Feakle to his mother. There was no transport really in those days and I think she then had to cycle to fetch Dr McDonagh about two and a half miles away. The young lad would have been unconscious for about an hour at that stage. He recovered though. Different times,” John said.
Meanwhile, Pat and Catherine both recall the mode of transport they used to get to school – their feet. It was certainly a messy affair as to shorten their journeys, the pupils would often cross the bog and when they would arrive into school, their socks would have to be hung up to dry and in the summer, many would resort to walking the few miles barefoot.
Stories of the smell of the turf press in the front porch, where the supply of fuel for winter months was stored came to light. Indeed, the blazing fire in the fireplace was also used for warming the children’s cold bottles of milk on freezing days.
For the pupils, school was disciplined – you had to be quiet or you would be in trouble. There was, however, a practical reason for quiet as for many years, the school held the two classes in the one room.
“I remember the principal had the class facing towards Glendree and the other teacher had them facing the other way,” John recalled.
Later, a partition was erected down the middle of the one-room school. The last principal to hold office in Drumcharley was Brian Culloo and he recalls the developments that took place during his term there.
“The partition was built in 1959, I’ll never forget it because it was one of the greatest years we had weather-wise. It was the wettest June you’d ever saw but then in July, it cleared up and we never saw a drop of rain until October. When I came to Drumcharley, I saw that improvements were needed. The school needed to improve its toilet facilities and worst of all at Drumcharley was the yard. It was outrageous, it was pure bog,” Brian explained.
He saw to it that a yard was constructed and subsequently divided into two separate playing areas, one for the girls and one for the boys.
The past pupils at Drumcharley will recall preparing for their First Confession, First Holy Communion and Confirmation at Drumcharley Church 100 yards down the road.
The former pupils are now being invited back to the church this June 5 Fr Ger Nash, also a past pupil, will celebrate mass at 6pm.
The reunion will include tea, refreshments and plenty of chat about old schooldays and t there will be plenty of old photographs, roll books and memorabilia on display to jog the memories.
It will also be a chance to get together and rekindle old friendships, meet former teachers and fellow pupils. The event will be followed by a night of local music, song and dance at John Minogue’s pub in Tulla.
Though the school was disbanded in 1970, the building still remains as central to the community as it ever was and continues to be used as a community hall but this June it gets to come alive again as a school and welcome back its former occupants.
The community of Tulla are encouraged to spread the word to friends and relatives who may have attended the school, whether they remain in the parish or have since moved on. While many of the past pupils have been contacted, the organising committee is anxious that no-one is left out and all those who attended or taught at Drumcharley are most welcome.
Similarly, the committee are eager for anyone who has old photographs, memorabilia or any items relating to the school which they would like included in the display to contact Catherine or Theresa on 086 2586674/086 8634744. Alternatively, items can be dropped into Tim Moloney at St Mochulla’s National School in Tulla and all items will be returned to their original owners.
For more updates see www.tullaonline.com and see the Drumcharley Reunion page.