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St. Joseph's Convent N.S.

History of Our School

Photograph courtesy of Fr. Stephen Farragher



St. Joseph's Convent of Mercy National School
(Courtesy of Sr. Rosario Waldron)
(Photograph courtesy of Fr. Stephen Farragher)



Ballyhaunis  Convent  Primary  School

Towards the end of 1882 the Archdiocese of Tuam lost one if its oldest priests in the person of James Canon Waldron P.P. Annagh.  A native of the parish he was a typical ‘Saggart Aroon’ whose jovial manner and caustic wit made him loved and feared at the same time.

Among many other charitable bequests Canon Waldron left the sum of £1000  to aid in the foundation of a Convent in his native parish of Ballyhaunis.

Fr. John Canning, a native of Letterfrack, Connemara was appointed P.P. of Annagh in January 1893.  At first he was most reluctant to accept, as his appointment brief included a whole building programme – a Parochial House a Convent, Schools, Presbytery and a new Church.  It was only when he was reassured there would be no time limit that he accepted the undertaking.  Within seven years he had completed everything except the church.

On the completion of the new Parochial House, the National School in Derrylea was built and named St. Joseph’s.  The other schools in the parish were enlarged and renovated.

Fr. Canning then conferred with the Superior of  Westport Convent of Mercy re the proposed foundation of a Convent in Ballyhaunis.  In due course it was agreed that the time had come to embark on preparations.  A large tract of fine arable land was rented from Viscount Dillon an absentee landlord.  About half of the land thus acquired (known as Foxhill) was sold soon after to the Congested Districts Board through Sir H. Doran for distribution among the tenants of un-economic holdings.  

With money received for this portion the remainder – about 30 acres was purchased in fee simple for ever.

A hill overlooking the town was selected as the site for the Convent building.  The architect Mr. W H Byrne Suffolk Street, Dublin prepared the plans and recommended Messrs Glynn Bros as reliable contractors.

Fr. Canning eventually invited Mother Bernard Davis of Westport to visit and inspect the site.  Mother Bernard and Mother Paul Cullen who had founded the convent in Westport in 1842 visited Ballyhaunis early in 1895 and later that year were present at the laying of the Foundation stone.

Overall the total cost of building the new convent was about £7,000, half of which was obtained by contributions and the remainder borne by the sisters of Mercy, Westport.

It took three years to complete the building owing to the great difficulty in finding water.  Eventually the beautiful new convent arose as a beacon on the hill-top overlooking the town.
The feast of the Assumption 1898 was the date fixed, with full knowledge and approval of  Archbishop McEvilly for the opening of St. Joseph’s Convent Ballyhaunis.  The opening was postponed for another ten days until 27th August.  Four sisters were sent from Westport on the 2 pm train to Ballyhaunis:  Mother Columba Carr, Superioress, Sr. Joseph Duane, Sr. Vincent Gibbons,  Sr. Evangelist Cronin.
The day following their arrival was the feast of St. Augustine – a day of great celebration by the Friars of the Augustinian Order in Ballyhaunis.  


NEW  BEGINNINGS

The Sisters taught for the first month in a small building on the grounds.  It was formerly the coach house of Dr. Davis.  The ghost of Dr. Davis was said to ‘walk’ but he was too gentlemanly to intrude on the sisters and it is quite possible that he was very useful as no one dared to enter the grounds at night.
On 1st October 1898 the Sisters took responsibility for the girls’ education in the existing National school, known as St. Mary’s, which was located near the present Scoil Iosa.  
This consisted of one spacious room, half of which was occupied by the boys who were taught by Mr. Fahy.  Up to this point Mrs. Heavey had taught the girls.

After a thorough cleaning, installing a piano, pictures, pots of flowers and many other knick-nacks were introduced with wonderful effect.
Sr. Ignatius was surrounded all day with music pupils in a corner which had hitherto been the “Turf Hole”.
A wooden “lean to” shed erected outside relieved the congestion of the school room when pupils began to pour in as rapidly as they did.
The Sisters appointed to Ballyhaunis convent were all young and active.  This was very necessary as during the first three years they encountered much hardship going to and from the school in all kinds of weather.  The fastest walker could not reach the school in less than ten minutes as the railway line cuts through the convent land and one had to go down the hill to the gate at the level crossing and up hill to the school on the other side.  There was no shelter from fierce storms in winter or from the hottest sun in summer.  But the Sisters cherished happiest memories of those three years and never did they enjoy better health thank God.
The old coach house near the convent gate was roofed and equipped as an Infants and First standard department.
The building of the Convent School commenced early in 1899.  Fr. Canning acted as contractor under the Dublin Architect Mr. W. H. Byrne and employed Mr. John Charles Fitzmaurice as Clerk of Works.  As in the case of the Convent local labour was almost exclusively employed and though the work was slower it was much cheaper and moreover quite satisfactory.  The school was partly financed by a bequest of £800 which according to the will of Miss Elizabeth Taafe, Roscommon, was to be used for some charitable work in Ballyhaunis.  This condition was fulfilled by the ‘Poor Schools’ opened by the Sisters.
The school was built in the same style as the convent, with yellow tiling around doors and windows and it would be difficult to find a school as handsome without, or commodious within.  Most Rev. Dr. Healy, when welcomed there as Archbishop declared it to be “the finest in Connacht,” while Dr. Douglas Hyde called it “not a school but an Academy”.  
Great indeed was the joy of the sisters when their beautiful new school was ready for occupation.  They moved into it with great joy on the Feast of St. Raphael 24th October 1901.  Fr. Canning celebrated Mass in the large infant room and every classroom was solemnly blessed by him.
The little School for juniors near the gate was now vacated and was given up to technical work.  The C.D.B. opened its first class in Cookery and Laundry there in October 1901.  A four months course was conducted there by a young and very charming Organiser, Miss Mary McDonnell who taught everything from the boiling of potatoes to the icing of cakes.  Its results were far reaching and effected a great improvement especially in the homes of the poorer people.
Instruction in Dairy Work followed and this was succeeded by a Lace class in which Irish Crochet was brought to great perfection and was awarded a handsome Silver Medal.  Hosiery was also taught – the local traders buying up all that was produced.
Years later when a Technical School was built in the town classes were discontinued in this little school, as the subjects taught there were now being catered for in a new venue.
However the sisters continued to use it as a cookery room where the senior pupils were instructed in the art of cookery.
The building was eventually demolished around 1949 when a site was being prepared for a Secondary School.
To say that Education prospered by leaps and bounds in the new convent primary school would be understating the facts.  A Department of Education inspector once remarked “It seems to me that superiors spare no expense and the sisters spare no labour.”
In the spring of 1903 the use of the school was requested by the Gaelic League, a request warmly welcomed by the sisters and Fr. Canning who was himself an enthusiastic advocate of the Gaelic revival.
The first Mayo Feis was held in the convent school Easter Week 15-16 April 1903.  It was  a notable undertaking organised by the few devoted Gaels of whom Ballyhaunis could then boast – namely Michael F. Waldron, Knox Street, John F. Coyne, James Casey, P.A. Waldron and Philip Waldron.  They succeeded in bringing together one of the most notable gatherings ever held in Mayo, and perhaps the most successful.  Among those who gathered were Dr. Douglas Hyde President of the Gaelic League, who delivered an address and announced the names of the prize-winners each night,; Padraig Pearse who dealt with the subject editorially in “An Claidheamh Soluis”; Fr. Bewerunge the eminent Maynooth Professor of Music who was one of the adjudicators Michael O’Doherty and his two distinguished sons, one the Provost of Salamanca and the other a bishop in the Philippines; Owen Lloyd the harpist, Johnny Gorman the piper, Lily Foley who later became Countess McCormack and Mr. Clandillon, Director of Broadcasting and a host of others.
The convent school children in their pretty costumes of cream Foxford flannel won several prizes and were much admired, especially the juniors known as “The Shamrock Chain” – a group of little girls varying in age from 6-8 years.
The following year a handsome gold medal was to be awarded to the school which presented the highest number of pupils for examination in Irish.  It was won by St. Joseph’s Ballyhaunis with 75 pupils – thus scoring a victory over all other National Schools in Mayo while the Irish language was still in its infancy.



Inspector’s Reports from Early Years
The following are  extracts  from the General Report  of St. Joseph’s Convent Primary School for the first two decades:

1. Extract from General Report dated 10th Dec. 1906 by Mr Craig senior inspector:  General condition of the school:  Excellent.
“The schoolrooms are well furnished, ornamented and equipped.  The teachers’ methods are intelligent; the pupils are encouraged to acquire knowledge for themselves by observation and by reading. The power of clearly expressing ideas in suitable language is very carefully attended to.
In Domestic Science the pupils should be allowed to perform experiments at odd times in pairs and a record of such practical work should be kept”.

2. Extract from the General Report on St. Joseph’s Convent Primary School dated 18th November 1907 by Mr R.C. Heron Inspector.  General condition of the school: Excellent.
“The work of this school continues to be conducted in a highly creditable manner.”

3. Extract from the General Report on St. Joseph’s Convent Primary School dated 13th May 1910 by Mr. Shannon, Inspector “The general condition of this school is very satisfactory.  The methods are most skilful and up to date, and as the work is carried on earnestly and systematically a high all round proficiency is secured.”

4. Extract from the General Report of St. Joseph’s Convent Primary School dated 11 December 1911 by Mr. Shannon, Inspector “The highly creditable standard of previous years continues to be well maintained.  The teachers work with exceptional earnestness and skill, and succeed in maintaining excellent proficiency and tone amongst the pupils.”

5. Extract from the General Report on St. Joseph’s Convent Primary School dated 20th October 1913 by Mr Craig, Senior Inspector “This school is conducted in a highly satisfactory manner.  “The pupils are proficient and anxious to excel in their studies which cover a wide range; while their industry, self-reliance and good manners show that they are carefully trained”.


6. Extract from the General Report on St. Joseph’s Convent Primary School dated 10th and 11th February 1915 by C.P. Shannon Inspector:
“Excellent work is being done in all respects.  The methods employed, the proficiency attained and the general high tone that prevails are all deserving of special commendation”

7. Extract from the General Report on St. Joseph’s Convent Primary School dated 20th April 1917 by Mr. Dunlop, Inspector “The attendance which has been affected by adverse conditions is not yet normal, but there is sufficient evidence to show that the school maintains its high standard of efficiency both in the training and in the teaching of the pupils.  The teaching of arithmetic is perhaps the weakest feature”.

8. Extract from the General Report on St. Joseph’s Convent Primary School dated 30th  September and 1st October 1919 by W.W. Dunlop, Inspector.  “The general condition of this school is highly creditable to the staff, whose efforts are both painstaking and thorough.  The teaching and training of the pupils are conspicuously successful”.

9. Extract from the General Report on St. Joseph’s Convent Primary School dated 10th & 11th March 1921 by Mr. McKenna Inspector  “This is an exceptionally well conducted school.  Both the teaching and the training are very satisfactory.”

10. Extract from the General Report on St. Joseph’s Convent Primary School dated 17th/18th January 1924 by J.C. Rogers, Senior Inspector.  “This school is maintaining its position and continues to do very effective work.  The pupils attending it are receiving an excellent training, not only in their literary programme, but in the qualities which make for success in later life”.

11. Extract from the General Report on St. Joseph’s Convent Primary school dated 24th/25th November 1926 by Micheál d’Andum, Inspector “This is an uncommon school.  The teachers methods are extremely skillful and the sincerity of their application to work merits high praise indeed.  A striking feature of their teaching is their sympathetic understanding of the child mind.  As a result learning becomes a labour of love for their pupils.

Furthermore, the teachers keenly appreciate the importance of training in good manners and the maintenance of a beautiful school environment as assets in the formation of child character”.


MONITRESSES

In the 1900’s there was a monitor system where the girls of seventh standard remained on at school as pupil-teachers.  They studied  for the Kings  Scholarship and taught junior classes for teaching practice.
The Kings Scholarship was initiated under the English rule and was discontinued when a new system known as Secondary Top was introduced.
The records show the names of 4 young girls who were Mônitresses in the Convent Primary School:
1. Annie Curley appointed in July 1904
2. Annie Lyons appointed in July 1904
3. Norah Smyth appointed in July 1907
4. Helena Gilmore appointed in July 1907







TEACHERS 1913-1940

From the early years of the foundation of the Convent Primary School the permanent staffs was under the principalship of Sr. Evangelist Cronin.  She taught the senior classes with great success and many trained teachers in Ballyhaunis and in the neighbouring parishes were past pupils of the convent school.  The other members of the staff were:
Sr. Scholastic O’Reilly
Sr. Ita Delaney
Sr. Borgia Henry
Sr. Acquin O’Dea
Sr. Benedict O’Farrell
Sr. Benignus McHugh

In 1928 Sr. Evangelist Cronin was recalled to Westport convent on being elected Superioress there to the regret of the Ballyhaunis Community, townsfolk and pupils.
She was replaced by Sr. Aloysius Heaney who continued as Principal until 1940.  About this time also, Sr Mary of the Sacred Heart Moran was appointed to the staff in the Convent Primary School as a teacher of Irish and Mathematics.  Her appointment however was only on a temporary basis until such a time as another sister or lay teacher would be available.  She returned to Westport after two years.
Sr. Peter Kenneally was appointed some time later followed by Sr. Agnes Hoban in 1938 and Miss Corkery.
Miss Hennelly also joined the staff in the Primary School.  She had been trained in 1928 and entered the convent in Westport in 1938.
Sr. de Ricci Fitzpatrick was also appointed to the staff in the early 1930ies and Miss O’Sullivan in 1938.




SECONDARY  TOP

As already stated Sr. Aloysius Heaney was appointed Principal of  the Convent Primary School in 1928.  It was during that time that Archdeacon Prendergast P.P. of Ballyhaunis applied for a Secondary Top for the school, which meant that the pupils of the Primary School were allowed to continue their education there for 3 extra years and sit for Intermediate Certificate exam.  As a result of the ceaseless effort of the Archdeacon the Dept. of Education granted the permission for a Secondary Top in 1930.  This additional education section of the school was very successful.  A lay teacher Miss Henry was appointed to the staff to assist with Secondary Top  subjects including French.
The Secondary top was conducted under difficult conditions for some years.  The classrooms available were small for the number of pupils who poured in to be taught higher branches of subjects such as mathematics, language, commerce etc.  Nevertheless the standard of education remained high.  In 1940 Sr. Aloysius Heaney became ill and had to retire from the school.  On her departure Sr. de Ricci Fitzpatrick was appointed Principal of the primary school and Sr. Mechtilde Donoghue head of the Secondary Top.  A Miss Lydon was also appointed to the staff.
Pressure from the Department of Education and the strained conditions under which teachers and pupils worked called for change.  A separate building was the only answer.  Archbishop Joseph Walsh asked Mother Evangelist Cronin, the Superioress of Westport to undertake the task of building a secondary school in Ballyhaunis.
This she did and the school – St. Joseph’s Secondary School opened it’s doors in September 1950 bringing to an end the Secondary top.  Sr Mechtilde Donoghue joined the staff of St. Joseph’s and taught there until 1957 when she was transferred to Newport to establish a small secondary school there.
In February 1937 Sr. Dympna Mooney was transferred from Westport Convent to Ballyhaunis Convent.  She was the music teacher for both Primary and Secondary Top Pupils.  This cultural aspect of the schools was amply provided for by Sr. Dympna and by Sr. Agnes Hoban who taught singing in the Secondary Top in addition to her Primary School duties.
Sr. Dympna also commenced a Secretarial class and taught commerce to the pupils of the Secondary top.  The Secretarial class was begun by her under very difficult conditions.  There was no spare room and she conducted her class in what could be described as a small unused corridor.
The hard work done by Sr. Dympna and the unceasing interest and care she had in securing jobs for her students is worthy of a great tribute.  Whenever a girl secured a post in Dublin, Sr. Dympna would help and guide the new comer to the city.
Sr. Dympna continued giving piano lessons to the Primary School pupils until the early 1990ies.
Other appointments to Staff of the Primary School in the 1940ies were:
Sr. Oliver McDonagh 1945
Sr. Ignatius Killeen 1947
Sr. Carmel Duffy 1948

And in 1958 Sr. Angela Dempsey was appointed to the staff; having being transferred from Westport.

REFURBISHMENT/RENOVATION

In the early 1960ies the condition of St. Joseph’s Primary School was a cause of great concern.  There was dampness and dry rot in some of the walls and woodwork, and parts of the walls were in bad condition.  Also the ceilings were very high.  There were 2 classes in some rooms.
The only source of heating was an open fire in each classroom.  The toilets were outdoors.  They were flush toilets but in wet and windy weather it was very unpleasant for the children going out in the rain.
The playground too was in a very poor condition – indeed it was not fit for use. Because of these conditions the Dept. of Education agreed to renovate the old school.
Mr Boyd Barrett, Chief School’s Architect from the Office of Public Works in consultation with Fr. Thomas Rushe, Adm. Ballyhaunis and the sisters re designed the Convent Primary School.
Sr. de Ricci Fitzpatrick was transferred to Westport after 20 years as Principal of the school.
She was replaced by Sr. Magdalen Quinn and Sr. Oliver McDonagh was appointed Principal on Sept. 23rd 1963.  The Convent Primary School was vacated.
Alternative accommodation was acquired in the town to continue on with the education of the pupils.  Sr. Magdalen Quinn and her sixth class were in the old library in the Parochial Hall.  Other teachers and their classes were accommodated in rented houses on Clare Street.
The renovation of the school took about 2 years under the direction of Mr. Dom Moran, Knox Street.  
Great indeed was the joy of teachers and pupils when the school was ready for occupation.
What a transformation had taken place.  Each class now had a room for itself.  The rooms were brightly painted, newly furnished and electric light had been installed.  There was a corridor, toilets and cloak rooms on each floor and the décor of the whole school spoke for itself.  New too  was a small staffroom.  All was changed ‘changed utterly! And education recommenced in St. Joseph’s Primary School.

APPOINTMENTS
The following sisters were appointed to the staff of St. Joseph’s in the 1960’s.
Sr. Magdalen Quinn 1963-1978
Sr. Mary of Sacred Heart McGahern 1963-1964
Sr. Immaculata Brady 1964-1967
Sr. Rosario Waldron 1967-1996
Sr. Mary Concannon 1969-1975 and reappointed 1978-1986
         

PROBLEMS ON THE HORIZON
For many years the boys Primary School – St. Mary’s in Ballyhaunis had been in a sub standard condition.  Plans towards the building of a new boys School on the same site got under way under the guidance of Fr. Thomas Rushe Adm.
In 1969 Canon J. G. McGarry was appointed P.P. to Ballyhaunis and in the hope of speeding up the building of a new school he formed a Building Committee.  The original site was dismissed and a number of other sites were viewed.  Eventually it was agreed that the Friary field, beside the railway station was the most suitable.
The Friars were approached on the matter.  They were reluctant at first for many reasons, but for motives of availability and for the good of the community they waived their objections and gave  land for the site.

The deal for the transfer was confirmed with the land commission in 1972 after the vote of the committee.

Following normal procedure some men from the Department erected three large poles in the friary field site to mark the spot preparatory to starting operations for the building.  This action brought out fierce opposition from many local people and they were joined by others from the town and country.

They called a protest meeting immediately and condemned the whole idea of the friary field site for a school.   Following the protest meeting a mass meeting of all parties concerned with the school project was held in the Parochial Hall.  It was chaired by Dr. Eamon Waldron. Canon McGarry, and the Sisters of Mercy, the principals and teachers of the schools of the parish and parents concerned attended.
The whole question of the site was reopened.  Objections to the Friary field site were again strongly raised.  Other sites were explored and rejected.
After a three hour open forum the meeting broke up without having come to any conclusion except the rejection of the Friary field as a school site.  The ‘opposition’ had won the day.  The question of the site remained the Manager’s headache until the Sisters of Mercy came forward with an offer.  The existing Boy’s School was adjacent to Convent land so the sisters suggested the existing school as a site plus a certain amount of Convent land met the requirements of the proposed school.
Negotiations with the Manager Canon McGarry and the solicitor for the opposition and the Building Committee began.  The proposal and the possibility of securing a suitable site eased the situation for the Manager.  He was indeed grateful and relieved.
The Committee initiated the collection of the contribution for a new Boy’s school.  But when old plans were scrapped the idea for a co-educational Junior and Senior school surfaced and was voiced at a meeting of the Building Committee.  It was suggested that the Convent Primary School would be the Junior School i.e. boys and girls up to and including 2nd standard, and the new school would be the senior school catering for boys and girls from 3rd-6th standards.
According to the plans the senior and junior Schools would be under one Principal, a lay person, and there was to be a sharing of educational facilities e.g. gymnasium etc.  At no time was there an in-depth analysis of the convent school done to ascertain if it were suitable for a Junior School.
On the advice of the Department of Education the idea of one Principal over two schools was dropped.
In June 1978 the B.O.M. of the convent school was contacted by the Department of Education to arrange for the organization of classes, as the new school was nearing completion.
The B.O.M. was in existence since 1975 and this was the first time it had been asked to make a decision on St. Joseph’s Convent School.
After much discussion and soul searching it was unanimously decided that the convent school was totally unsuited to be a Junior School.  Enrolments had increased, ground-floor space was inadequate, the stairs were a hazard, classrooms were much too small and the school lacked an assembly hall. Because of the realities of the situation the only obvious solution was to opt for a vertical school.  This would necessitate that the boys from Infants up would attend the new school, and the over crowding in the girls school would be alleviated.
This was the decision reached by the B.O.M. under the chairmanship of Fr. J. Ball C.C.  
Fr. P. Costelloe, Chairman of the B.O.M. of the Boy’s school was a guest at the meeting, and he too was in agreement with the decision.  Some days later he called a meeting of the B.O.M. of St. Mary’s Boy’s school and informed them of the changed plans.
The members of the B.O.M.  objected in no uncertain terms and refused to accept a Boy’s Vertical School.
The completion of the school was delayed because of financial difficulties of the contractor, so an impasse was reached on all sides.
In the following August 1979 it was proposed to the  Sisters with the suggestion that the vacated Secondary School would be used to accommodate some junior pupils.  This would mean that the ground floors of both schools would be in use while all the rooms upstairs would be unused – a not very viable proposal.  They were very determined and went to both Mother General M. Clare and Archbishop Joseph Cunnane with their proposal.  It was rejected by the Sisters, by Mother Clare and emphatically by the Archbishop.  He pointed out that the building was totally unsuited for their purpose being as he said “a recipe for future trouble”.
But there was a section of the townspeople who insisted on a junior and senior school in spite of the unsuitability of the Convent Primary School.  They refused to accept the realities and the hope of achieving their aim they formed a Parents’ Association.
Many meetings were held to try and reach a settlement.  These meetings were attended by Parents, the Sisters, teachers, Fr. Costelloe, Fr. Ball and the Senior Department Inspector – Padraic O Naill.  He advised that two vertical schools was the only solution at least for the short term.
The Parents association refused to accept this and  High Court action was threatened.  On 13th May 1980 a summons was served on the members of the Board of Management.  However this court case was called off! for reasons not specified.
Fr. P. Costelloe tried to reach a compromise.  He wrote to the Department of Education and I quote:
“Since the present organisation of Primary School Education has run into difficulties here in Ballyhaunis, I venture to suggest a solution which may be acceptable to those involved and may provide tranquillity in the area.
1. That Infants both Junior and senior boys and girls remain in the Convent School as at present.
2. That First and Second class, boys and girls be accommodated in St. Mary’s school.
3. That Third, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth class girls remain in the Convent School and that the same classes of boys remain in St. Mary’s.

This arrangement was authorised by the Board of Management of both schools and accepted by the Parents Association.  It was approved by Archbishop Cunnane, Patron of both schools and sanctioned by the Department of Education.
It was to remain in force till the extension to St. Mary’s School makes full co-education for all children possible or such other circumstances as will make better facilities available.
Consequently on 1st July 1980 Junior and Senior Infants boys and girls enrolled in the Convent Primary School, Boys and girls of First and Second class enrolled in St. Mary’s.  The third, fourth, fifth and sixth class girls were in the convent school and the corresponding classes of boys in St. Mary’s School.
This arrangement ensured the maximum co-education possible for the present.
Each school had its own Principal.  Mrs. Kathleen Lyons and Mrs. Betty Regan transferred to the staff of St. Mary’s from the Convent Primary School.

SUCCESSIVE PRINCIPALS

Sr. Columba Carr     1901-1913
Sr. Evangelist Cronin               1913-1928
Sr. Aloysius Heaney    1928-1940
Sr. de Ricci Fitzpatrick   1940-1963
Sr. Oliver McDonagh               1963-1969
Sr. Angela Dempsey    1969-1978
Sr. Rosario Waldron               1978-1985
Sr. Teresa Fahy    1985-1996
Maria Campbell    1996-2000



SPECIAL CLASSES

In 1974 the Department of Education School’s Inspector Mr. Sean Hunt suggested the inception of a class for pupils with special learning difficulties in Ballyhaunis and outlying area.  Sr. Francis Mooney of Westport responded to the need with great enthusiasm and a Special class was incorporated in the Convent Primary School in September 1974.  
The pupils joined their peers in the mainstream classes for art, religion and music and the other academic subjects were taught by their Special Teacher.  The hard working generous Sr. Francis retired in June 1982 with a record of tremendous success behind her.  She had pioneered specialised teaching which still continues in the school.
She was replaced by Sr. Mary Concannon who continued this special teaching until she was transferred to Clifden in 1986.
Sr. Perpetua Walsh from Claremorris replaced Sr. Mary Concannon and taught the Special class until 1989.  In that year she returned to Claremorris.
In 1989 Sr. Treasa Joyce moved from her mainstream class in the Primary School to teach the children with learning difficulties.
She remained in this post until 2000 when failing health necessitated her retirement. This class for pupils with  special learning difficulties continued to operate in Scoil Iosa until  it was discontinued by the Department of Education in June 2009.


REMEDIAL TEACHERS

In 1985 the Department of Education Schools’ Inspector Dominic de Búrca proposed that a Remedial Teacher would be appointed to the Convent Primary School.  The post was sanctioned by the Department.  Mrs. Caitlín Jennings was appointed to the Staff as a Remedial Teacher.  She continued in this post from 1985-1992.  
In 1992 Its Nally replaced Caitlin Jennings and she held this post until 1997.
Then in 1997 Miss Maureen Reddington replaced Ita Nally.  She remained in this post until 2001.


RESOURCE TEACHERS FOR   TRAVELLERS

In 1994 a class was established in the Convent Primary School to respond to the special needs of Traveller’s children.
Mrs. Ita Fahy was their teacher for the year 1994-1995.  The children joined the mainstream classes for all subjects except Maths and English.  These subjects were taught according to the children’s needs in their special class.
In 1995 Sr. Geraldine Farrell replaced Mrs. Ita Fahey as the Resource Teacher for Travellers.  She retained this post until 2001.  By this time the children were fully integrated into the mainstream classes and only received special teaching according to their needs.






APPOINTMENTS

The following were appointed to the Staff of the Convent Primary School during the 1970ies and 1980ies.

 Mrs. Eleanor Kelly     July 1974
 Mrs. Teresa Leonard              July 1975
 Sr. Ann O’Shaughnessy  July 1975
 Mrs. Betty Regan   Oct. 1975
                       Mrs. Kathleen Lyons              Oct. 1977
 Sr. Pauline Feeley   Sep. 1978
 Sr. Francis Mooney   July  1974
                       Sr. Ursala Kelly   Sep. 1982
 Miss Karina King   Sep. 1982
 Mrs. Marie Byrne   Sep. 1982
 Miss Marie Staunton                         Sep. 1983
                       Sr. Teresa Fahy   Sep. 1985
 Sr. Treasa Joyce   Sep. 1985
 Mrs. Caitlín Jennings              Sep. 1985
 Sr. Perpetua Walsh   Sep. 1987
 Miss Ita Nally               Nov. 1992
 Sr. Geraldine Farrell              Sep. 1995
 Miss Marie Campbell              Sep. 1996
 Mrs. Concepta Cosgrove  Sep. 1996
 Maureen Reddington              Nov. 1997   

MANAGEMENT

The Managers of the Convent Primary School were either the Parish Priest of the time or the Curate.

 Canon John Canning P.P.   1901-1921
 Canon Michael McHugh P.P.             1921-1930
 Fr. Michael Colleran P.P.    1930-1933
 Archdeacon G.J. Prendergast P.P.  1933-1960
 Fr. Thomas Rushe Adm.   1960-1969
 Canon J.G.McGarry P.P.   1969-1975
 Fr. J. Ball C.C.    1975-1983
 Fr. P. Williams  C.C.    1983-1985
 Fr. M. Gleeson C.C.    1985-1987
 Fr. M. Greaney C.C.    1987-1995
 Fr. J. O’Grady C.C.    1995-2001

1980-2001

The staff and pupils of the Convent Primary School adjusted to the new organisation of education in the school in spite of the absence of the middle classes.  It was a compromise solution to the problem and a compromise is never fully satisfactory.  However, it did not take from the high standard of education the pupils received.
All aspects of the New Curriculum which had been introduced in 1971 were being enthusiastically taught and at times provided a challenging environment for all teachers.
From the foundation of the school music had been an integral part of the  Curriculum and this remained an unbroken tradition to the end.  During the ‘80ies and ‘90ies the senior choir was very involved in Parish Liturgies,Pueri Cantores, Cór na nOg and in Cór Fheileanna.
Many others made music - learning piano, guitar, accordion and recorder.
Many pupils took Speech and Drama examinations with the Leinster School of
Music.
The Christmas Concert was an annual feature of the school year.  The pupils enjoyed it and their parents and friends enjoyed it .  The teachers enjoyed it  when the final curtain came down!
Swimming lessons were taken by all the pupils from September until June, and even in the cold months of December and January we went swimming by the bus load to Claremorris Swimming Pool!
Taking part in Community Games was another enjoyable aspect of the School Programme.  
So there was much more to the school year than formal instruction and ‘the lessons’ important though they were.  Education means many things – development of mind and body of talents and also development of the heart.
During the school year the pupil’s minds were directed towards others and the needs of the less fortunate.  Funds were raised through cake sales, jumble sales, and skipathons for Missions, the Third World, and during Lent for Trócaire.

It goes without saying that the nurturing of the prayer life of the pupils was of primary importance and each teacher in her own unique way took care of this.  The school year always began with a ‘School Mass’ and for the pupils of 6th Class there was a Graduation Mass towards the end of June.
At the end of the school year a Thanksgiving Mass or Prayer Service was celebrated in acknowledgement of all the blessings received throughout the year.



More Changes – First Lay Principal

In Summer of 1996 Sr. Teresa Fahy who had been Principal of the Convent Primary School since 1985 was transferred to Sligo.  And Sr. Rosario Waldron retired and went to Cork to take a course in Clinical Pastoral Education.
In September 1996 Miss Maria Campbell was appointed Principal of the Convent Primary School, succeeding Sr. Teresa Fahy.  She was the first Lay Principal appointed to the staff of St. Joseph’s. All this time Mrs. Sally Fahy was the Vice Principal and had been so since 1978.
In 2000 Miss Campbell transferred to Sligo and Mrs. Fahy became Acting Principal.
About this time the idea of amalgamating the 2 schools – St. Joseph’s and St. Mary’s began to surface.  It was discussed at length by the Board of Management of both schools, by the teachers and the Parents Association.
It was decided that the Amalgamation would take effect on 1st September, 2001.  The pupils from 2nd Class upwards would be taught in St. Mary’s and Junior Infants, Senior Infants and 1st Class would remain in St. Joseph’s until the extension to St. Mary’s as planned, was built.
The amalgamation took place.  The titles St. Mary’s and St. Joseph’s dropped and Scoil Iosa was the title given to the amalgamated schools.
The Junior and Senior Infants and First Class continue to be taught in the old Convent School which has been leased to Scoil Iosa.  St. Joseph’s Convent Primary School as it was known is no more.

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