Kilsaran National School to celebrate 125 years

Educating local children

Áine Kenny

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Áine Kenny

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ainekenny96@gmail.com

Kilsaran National School to celebrate 125 years

Kilsaran National School to celebrate 125 years

Scoil Mhuire gan Smál in Kilsaran are celebrating 125 years of educating local children this month.

To mark the celebration, the school are holding a dinner dance in Bellingham Castle on Friday the 16th of February.

Ruairí Mac Dónaill, the principal, says that the school has a rich history. “I was reading a book about the local area and there was a ‘chapel school’ here as far back as 1822, I am not sure who that was run by, most likely a religious group who taught some reading and writing,” Mr Mac Dónaill says.

“In 1893, a school was built under the National School name, and that’s who we are,” he explains. “That new school was built for £1000, and a teacher’s house was also built.”

“The school separate boys and girls, there was two pathways, separated by a wall so we assume that boys went one way and girls the other,” Mr Mac Dónaill says. “This building was used well into the 1950’s and 60’s, and it was added to,” he continues.

“In 1986, what you would call a ‘modern school’ was built, with more classrooms. This was constructed behind the old school, which was eventually demolished.”

Scoil Mhuire gan Smál is also pioneering in its special educational needs (SEN) classes. In 2010, four purpose-built classrooms were built for the Rainbow classes, as they are known. Three of the classrooms are for children who are on the autism spectrum, and the fourth classroom is for children who have profound or severe disabilities.

“In total, we have 24 pupils in our SEN classes, and the maximum per class in six,” the principal explains. “We introduced these classes back in 2003 or 2004… we would often have visitors from Leinster and even European countries to look at our facilities and to see how we run the classes,” Mr Mac Dónaill reveals. “We had visitors from Lithuania recently.” There are 200 pupils in the school in total.

The dinner dance at Bellingham Castle is nearly sold out, with 150 people already attending. “All of the local community and businesses have gotten behind us,” Mr Mac Dónaill says. “Past pupils, current pupils and staff, local families, and retired staff are all attending.”

Mr Mac Dónaill also mentions how it is fitting that the event will be held in Bellingham Castle. “In the 1830’s, and application was made by the old chapel school to the powers that be, I am not sure who they were at the time, and this was supported by Sir Arthur Bellingham,” Mr Mac Dónaill reveals.

Scoil Mhuire gan Smál are also hosting other events to commemorate their anniversary.

“In April, we are putting the school records on display decade by decade, we have records that date back to 1893,” says Mr Mac Dónaill. “People can trace back their family members on the role books.” Mr Mac Dónaill also says that the school has a record book of ‘corporal punishments’.

“There is also a role book for cookery and laundry classes, which was taught to girls in 1915. “I can actually go back to this date 100 years ago and see exactly what food was made,” he says. This historical display will happen after Easter.

The school also has plans for the new academic year in September.

“The Archbishop of Armagh is paying a special visit to the school on the 30th of September to say a celebratory mass. Also, in November we are planning a concert, that is in the early stages,” Mr Mac Dónaill admits.

“We have an idea that the children could perform a piece of music from every decade, from 1890 up till the present decade,” Mr Mac Dónaill explains.

Scoil Mhuire gan Smál will certainly be celebrating their 125  years for a while to come.