May 14 2012
My memories of Dualla national school are of a very happy time in my childhood. I started school there in April 1954 following three brothers & a sister who were already on the roll. Before I left two more brothers & a sister had joined but of course all eight were never there at the same time. Nevertheless our family provided a constant stream of pupils to a school where the abiding worry of the teachers was a drop in numbers leading to either a reduction in the teaching staff or closure altogether. I recall Ardmayle School closing around that time with the pupils going to Boherlahan & for a while there was some talk of Dualla & Ballytarsna going the same way. Ironically in the current economic crisis both have survived with lovely new school buildings as evidence of thriving communities.
During my stay in Dualla NS I had just two teachers. In the early years Miss Moloney taught us from infants to second class. She was later to become Mrs Mulcahy, married to local farmer Frank Mulcahy. We were probably a handful for her but we had great respect for the teachers & any unruly behaviour would prompt a visit from the Master in the adjoining school room. The Master was my Father which meant that any misbehaviour by any of the Sheridan’s could lead to further recriminations after official school hours so we had a great incentive to behave.
The school had between forty & fifty pupils in my time & the families represented were my own, the Leamys & O’Connor’s from Garranmore, Moloughney’s from Fussough , Colvilles from Carhue, Gleesons , Fogarty’s & O ‘Dwyer’s from Garraun ,Costelloes from Newtown,Gleeson’s from Ballykelly, Nolan’s from Newpark & Erry , Kerwick’s from Ballykelly, Flanagans from Erry , Dargan’s , Gleeson’s & Looney’s from Rathclough , Hallinan’s & Murphy’s from Marshalstown , O’Halloran’s & Grace’s from Rathclough & McGrath’s from Rathclough. There were others from time to time who escape my memory but many of these are no longer represented at the school.
The schoolhouse at that time had minimal toilet facilities, detail of which I will omit in case it might shock anyone & the heating system was also primitive. It consisted of an open fire in each room, later “modernised” with two pot bellied stoves which were a great advance. Both these “systems” required a team of boys to run, by way of collecting kindling each day, early arrival at the school to clean & prepare for the fire & to draw coal in buckets for the day. When coal ran low we often had to sift through mountains of slack in the coal house to collect useable lumps of fuel while we awaited the arrival of fresh supplies. I cannot imagine this set-up being acceptable in today’s world & Health & Safety would have a field day.
The main play activities in the school were rounders played by both girls & boys & hurling at lunch time for the boys. The old school playing field was much larger than now with much of the playing area now taken up by the extended church & cemetery site. We hurled there every day & before school holidays we would have a “big game “ for a prize of “bulls-eye” sweets to the winners & some for the runner’s up as well.
The big events in the school year were first Communion & the arrival of new pupils. My father encouraged parents to bring in the newcomers early in April or May before the end of the school year so that they would be well prepared for the real start up in September. Perhaps it also had something to do with numbers for capitation grants. An unwelcome visitor was the School Inspector as he always seemed to be a severe looking gentleman with no sense of humour – at least that’s my memory of him. I remember my Mother was always distressed as well as she had to provide his lunch & refreshments during the day. We all heaved a sigh of relief when he left, not least my Father who would be grateful for a good reaction & answers by pupils when the Inspector addressed questions in our direction.
Another big event was the school tour, usually to Dublin. For this annual event we usually joined with another school to fill a bus. One year we joined with Mockler’sHill NS & set off through the semi darkness at around 6.30am for Dublin. For many of us this was our first visit to the big city. The route took us through all the towns & villages which no longer touch the modern motorway. We even had to drive through places like Kill & Rathcoole indicating that the Naas dual carriageway was not yet built. We visited Dublin Zoo & Airport & the National Museum. The high point was lunch provided at the CIE club & here hundreds of other noisy school kids were all fed in an organised manner by an army of ladies in black & white uniforms & white hats. The dessert which consisted of jelly & custard was a real treat & I remember having several of these as some others did not fancy this unusual fare. We spent our money on treats to bring home to our siblings, usually sticks of rock from the Zoo.
Other high points were when we completed the Primary Cert which was our passport to second level education. We also looked forward to elections as this meant the take over of the school for voting & a day off. . On one occasion I recall the school being used as a temporary facility to replace the church when the present church was being built. I cant recall how long this took but a number of funerals meant that coffins had to remain in the school overnight which was a little unusual & would hardly occur in this day & age.
Looking back now, while the school seemed a big place to us the building was indeed quite small. We sat in the same desks each day in pairs with the boys & girls always separate. This did not prevent regular hair pulling or pinching when we thought the teachers were pre – occupied & when caught, retribution was swift. My desk companion for many years was Martin Nolan of Newpark & we were great friends. He jumped a year ahead of me when he went to Cashel CBS as I stayed an extra year being considered too young at eleven & a half years old to go to the big school. Martin & all my old school mates scattered quickly from Dualla & only a small few now live in the locality. Perhaps the opening of the new school will provide a sort of magnet to attract some to visit the old school which I left almost exactly fifty years ago & which holds happy memories of childhood days & two great teachers who gave us such a good start on the journey to wherever each of us has arrived today. I would dearly love to meet some of the old friends & perhaps I will at the magnificent new school which the modern generation of children are so lucky to have.
Congratulations to teachers, pupils & parents on achieving such a wonderful resource for our beloved Dualla.