AFTER months of preparation, Drumcharley National School pupils returned last weekend to their refurbished school for the reunion of the school’s closure 40 years ago.
A huge crowd of past pupils and teachers converged on Tulla last Saturday to commemorate its closure in 1970 and to be reunited with old friends.
Now a community centre, the building was transformed back to its days as a national school, when stories of days spent learning, playing and writing came back to life.
The event, which began in the adjacent Church of the Immaculate Conception, was part of a huge community effort to commemorate a lifestyle that is now just a memory of a happy, carefree time.
Chief celebrant, Fr Gerard Nash, also a past pupil, reminded the congregation that it was in this church the grouping received their First Holy Communion.
He expressed regret that Brian Culloo, the former principal of the school, serving there from 1956 until its closure in 1970, died just before the reunion. He also welcomed Annie Corry, sister of the late Brian Culloo, at the Mass, who is the only surviving former teacher.
The choir, led by Kathleen Moloney, was also made up of past pupils, who sang traditional hymns in Irish and English. The choir was enhanced by solo performances from Vincent Griffin and Mary MacNamara, also past pupils. Meanwhile, Margaret Lynch gave a brief history of Drumcharley school, its closure and the efforts made in preparation for this event.
Presentations were made at the end of the Mass to Annie Corry and Ann Culloo on behalf of Brian Culloo. Tim Moloney also received a presentation in recognition of his mother Annmarie Moloney’s contribution to education at Drumcharley School. Mrs Moloney was one of the last two teachers to hold positions at the school.
At the mass, Sr Patricia McMahon brought the past pupils on an emotional trip down memory lane, providing her vivid recollections of her own first day at school. She reminded those present of the poems learned in Irish and English, the anticipation of the visit of the inspector, the preparation ahead of receiving the blessed sacraments, the hurling matches and sports days which took place in Lar O’Dea’s field. Also recalled was how families brought turf to the school to help keep the place warm during the winter and how Miss Culloo (Annie Corry) and later Mrs Moloney, would put bottles of milk inside the fireguard near the turf fire to warm them for the children in the winter. When that failed, she recalled that the students would run down O’Dea’s hill and up again to get their circulation going.
Following mass, the gathering returned to the old school house led by piper Patrick Murphy, a member of St Patrick’s Pipe Band in Tulla.
Past pupils were enthralled by the large photographic display, which comprised of school group photographs dating back to the early 1900s from Drumcharley, Knockjames and Glendree schools, collected by Tim Moloney.
Also on display were schoolbooks, roll books, blackboards and other memorabilia. A register of all pupils attending Drumcharley National School up to 1964 was also displayed, along with school magazines published in the 1960s.
Adding to this collection was copies of foclóir collected by the Foclóir Commission in 1937/38. At that time it was decided to ask pupils in 5th, 6th and 7th class in all schools in Ireland to interview their grandparents and record this interview in copy books provided by the commission. This collection turned out to be one of the largest collections of folclóir in Ireland and the original documents are in safe keeping in University College Dublin and provides an insight into what life was like in Ireland in the mid 1800s.
Up to 30 children attending Drumcharley and Glendree schools in the years 1937-38 collected folklore in their little jotters. Dr Eilís O’Dea of Drumcharley, a lecturer at Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick, made copies of the jotters of 11 of the children who attended Drumcharley and Gleandree schools in 1937 and 1938 and presented the copies to the surviving members of this class.
The celebrations continued in Mingoue’s Bar in Tulla, where everyone relaxed and enjoyed a night of music, song and dance.