St. Patrick N.S. Celebrates 50 Years – Saturday, September 23rd, 2017

It seemed like everyone who ever had a connection to the place descended on the little national school in the ancient townland of Ughtyneill, Moynalty on Saturday, September 23rd, 2017. Saint Patrick’s N.S. had its fiftieth birthday and everyone came to wish it well. Of course the school has been established since 1886 but the new building opened in 1967. So much history is embedded into this two-room school and this was evident in the roll books from 1886 onwards that were on display; as well as the many awards and accomplishments of its students past and present. From All-Ireland champion rally drivers to All-Ireland football medals to Irish Dancing champions, the walls were awash with success – an impressive display from a school that serves a small rural area.

Father Joseph McEvoy P.P., Moynalty opened the celebration with a blessing for pupils and teachers past and present. The day itself was packed full of both entertainment and commemoration. The students themselves had a great variety of songs, music and dance for everyone to enjoy. Following that, senior student and prize-winning Irish dancer, Leah Gorman, performed with members of Kieran Brady Dance School, Moynalty. Local singer, Ted Nevin, finished off the day with a selection of well-sung and well-chosen songs.

It was a great pleasure to see a much loved former teacher plant a commemorative tree in the lawn. Mrs. Eileen Reilly taught in the old building and moved into the new one in 1967. After that, an engraved stone was revealed to remember the day. The stone was kindly donated by past pupil Noel McEntee of Ballymacane. Another significant unveiling was the new school crest – designed by the pupils of the school. It integrates Saint Patrick, music, sport and learning – four significant strands in the school’s history and ethos.

A time capsule has also been planned for later on in the year to mark the occasion. There was a table on display in the front hallway showing what will go in – from Minions to mass leaflets, maps to movies; there will be much for the residents of Ughtyneill to look through when they finally open it in 2067.

One of the classrooms was given over completely to photographs – some dating back to the 1920s. Past pupils took great pleasure in reminiscing over these and it was the room that was constantly packed. It was significant that the oldest former pupil, Mrs. Mona Mulvany, attended, as did many people who were educated there as far back as the 1930s. In fact, one former teacher, Ina Olohan, was able to present homework to past pupils that was corrected in the 1980s. Thankfully, they weren’t told to do it again!

Later on that evening, a huge portion of those who attended the day moved on to the Jolly Old Cross in Cormeen for further reminiscences and a fund-raising raffle for the school. A great night was had by all.

What seems to stand out is the great community spirit that is very much alive in Ughtyneill and its surrounding townlands. It is evident in the dedicated committee that worked very hard to pull this celebration together, the many people who helped out on the day and far before, and it is constantly evident in the great family atmosphere in the school itself. If the maxim it takes a village to raise a child is true then parents, teachers and pupils in Ughtyneill National School certainly live that out. Here’s to the next fifty years and the next fifty after that!