Home » Breaking News » Fond memories recalled as Clare school closes after 143 years
Luke Darcy, the only junior infant in Clohanbeg NS, sitting in front of his brother Aidan and ousin Jayden Barrington, during their last week at the school. The school, which dates from 1879, is closing permanently this week. Photograph by John Kelly

Fond memories recalled as Clare school closes after 143 years

THIS Friday will be a poignant day at Clohanbeg National School, as it closes its doors for the last time, after providing education to the people of the area since 1879.

While the school had 12 pupils for the 2021/22 academic year, there would only have been four in September and it will be amalgamating with Cree. 

Principal Pat Comber is retiring after 34 years at Clohanbeg and he said that numbers had been sliding in recent years.

“There’s a lot of history in the school, it’s been open since 1879. Through thick and thin it stayed open, but for the last few years we have struggled with numbers.

“We’re a standalone school out in the countryside and it’s hard to compete with other schools if you have only one or two coming in a year.

“Children don’t want to be in a class on their own, and you wouldn’t blame their parents for not wanting it, it’s easy to understand. It’s the end of an era really.”

The early records of attendance were lost to a fire, but there certainly were times when there was quite a large enrolment.

“The roll books of the school were destroyed in a fire in 1919, so we have no record of who attended the school before that. If you go back to the register from about 1920 on, at one stage there were around 70 pupils attending the school.

“It would have varied up along, at one stage in the 1970s it was a one-teacher school, the teacher at the time was Martha Shanahan, she maintained the school on her own up until the 1980s, up until about 1987.

“Then it became a two-teacher school again. Numbers would have recovered and been back up over 30. From then up until 2015 numbers would have been up, we had 40 at one stage and often well up into the 30s.

“There were bigger families in the area and everyone came to the local school at that stage. Parents are more mobile now, and there are other schools. We lost a lot of pupils one year, a family emigrated and we had eight in sixth class so altogether we lost 13 one year, and it brought numbers down considerably.”

He said he really enjoyed his role, particularly working closely with the children.

“I enjoyed the teaching, seeing the pupils progressing through the different classes. Our pupils always did well when they went on to secondary school and college.

“One thing that struck me was that when children would leave the school, the bonds of friendship persisted. It’s a great thing to see.”

Young people attending had a lot of scope for involvement in extracurricular activities.

“We were involved in a lot of sports, our own school and parish schools, we won a lot of quizzes, got involved in a lot of projects, we had swimming in the school for a lot of years.

“We had music, Josephine Marsh would have been coming into the school since about 2011 and she really boosted the local musical talent.

“Even before that Martha Shanahan would have nurtured a huge number of talented musicians as well. With Josephine we won Féile na hÍnse on a few different occasions.”

He said parents and those who served on the school’s board of management were very helpful.

“We’ve had great support from the parents over the years and huge support as well from the various boards of management.

“The school is in great condition, it was renovated in 2010 and we’ve done various bits and pieces since then. That’s down to the various boards of management over the years.”

A ceremony to mark the closure had been planned for Saturday, but due to the Clare football match will now be on Sunday at 1pm.

“Our preparations are still underway, we’ll have a mass with Bishop Fintan Monahan and our parish priest. Afterward there’ll probably be a few presentations, food served, there’ll be entertainment from local musicians and from children in the school as well,” says Pat.

There were publications to mark the 125th and 140th anniversaries of the school and another one largely focusing on recent years will also be available on the day.

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.