Farewell celebrations as Mayo's new primary school looks to bright future
by Tom Gillespie
THE two longest-established primary schools in Castlebar, St. Angela’s Girls N.S. and St. Patrick’s Boys N.S., will amalgamate in September, providing co-education for all pupils.
The new school will comprise a junior campus (junior infants to second class) located at the Lawn and a senior campus (third to sixth class) located at Chapel Street.
Both schools have contributed to the educational and social fabric of the town for well over 100 years, with the Sisters of Mercy having founded St. Angela’s in 1854 and soon afterwards the De La Salle Brothers founding St. Patrick’s in 1888.
Enrolments for the new Castlebar Primary School are now being taken for September by St. Angela's and St. Patrick's for the 2022/2023 academic year.
A special St. Patrick’s De La Salle farewell celebration was held, commencing with Mass at the Church of the Holy Rosary, followed by a wreath laying ceremony at the statue of John Baptist De La Salle on Chapel Street, after which those in attendance, including several visiting De La Salle Brothers, were invited to an informal gathering in the school hall.
To coincide with the celebration a 22-page booklet was published chronicling the arrival of the De La Salle Brothers in Castlebar in 1888 and the history of the growth of St. Patrick’s National School over the years.
During the course of the Mass, St. Patrick’s principal, Mr. Joe Carty, who has also been appointed principal of the Castlebar Primary School two-school campus, said: “Today is a special day of commemoration and reflection as we mark the closure of St. Patrick’s this academic year following 134 years of educational service to the town of Castlebar.
“Among you we have pupils and their families, staff and former staff, members of boards of management and Parents’ Associations (past and present), townspeople of Castlebar and friends of our school from near and far.”
He went on: “Just a little history to begin with. In the late 1600s education for the young in the France of John Baptist De La Salle was for the wealthy who could afford to pay for it.
“La Salle dispensed with his personal wealth to devote himself to providing food and education for his students. He was a pioneer in teacher training and he emphasised the need to have concern for and an understanding of the individual child – something which wasn’t the norm at the time.
“Fast forward to Ireland and in August 1888 at the invitation of the administrator of this parish Canon Lyons, five Lasallian brothers including the principal Br. Michael Devoy took charge of 189 boys at St. Patrick’s on September 3, that year.
“Today we have 442 boys on roll. Attendance by pupils then was a challenge as boys were often required to help parents on the land and at fairs and markets.
“The school programme was ambitious, as all school programmes should be, with the boys learning Latin, French and shorthand.
“The brothers themselves initially resided in the upper floor of a shop owned by the Faulkner family on Main Street before moving to the monastery beside this church. Recruitment went well as the Faulkners’ shop assistant joined the ranks of the Brothers soon afterwards.”
Mr. Carty added: “Further leaps forward on the timeline mark 14 brothers as having been in the role of principal following Br. Michael; Br. Stan, the last, retired in 1995 with the brothers departing the community in 2000.
“I am very pleased to acknowledge the presence today in our congregation of Lasallian Brothers who taught in our school in the past. A special welcome to Br. Francis McCallig from Waterford, Br. John Connaughton from Castletown, Laois, and Br. Lawrence Cahill from Dublin.
“Many of you are familiar with the fact that staff and pupils decamped to the military barracks for four years in 1957 because of a fire in the old St. Patrick’s National School (now the Family Centre).
“The return to Chapel Street in 1961 heralded the start of a new beginning and a shiny, new school building, the one we now occupy.
“We are extremely proud of our school’s unique place at the heart of this town’s community. The Lasallian ethos has flourished in our school because of the commitment of the many lay staff that worked alongside and followed after the Brothers.
“Teaching and support staff continue to provide an inclusive environment for the delivery of a modern, vibrant and meaningful curriculum in a world that can sometimes be frantic in pace and uncertain in truth.
“We begin soon to look forward to a new beginning as the pupils, families and staff of St. Patrick’s and St. Angela’s unite in founding Castlebar Primary School, a new coeducational school for our town.
“The Lasallian and Mercy Order origins are recognised in our new school crest and the ethos of both guides and forms us. Though change is afoot and today draws out mixed emotions in us all, community endures and we do ask for and welcome your support for our new adventure.”
A similar day of celebration was also held at St. Angela's Girls National School.