After 183 years of educating children the doors of Ballagh NS will close for the very last time this June as the school begins an amalgamation process with the neighbouring primary school in Rossmore.
Emotions were a mix of sadness and nostalgia, buoyed by the happy memories of past and present pupils who had gathered at a special mass to commemorate its long illustrious history on Sunday afternoon.
“This September will be the first time in 183 years that children will not go through the doors of Ballagh NS,” principal Joe Carmody told the crowd of past and present pupils, neighbours, staff and friends who had come to celebrate the place they had spent such important years in their lives.
“It’s a sad occasion but it’s important to look back and celebrate all that is great about Ballagh NS and the countless happy memories everyone has of their time here,” he said.
Last June a meeting was held between the school staff, board of management and parents to discuss the future of the school as the number fell to 14 pupils. A decision was taken to amalgamate with nearby Rossmore NS from September 2017.
Throughout the year students from Ballagh NS and Rossmore NS enjoyed ‘fun days’ and school trips to help the pupils acclimatize to their new surroundings this September.
The original school was located on the Cappamara road in the village before relocating to its current premises in 1948. In the early 00’s the school saw a sharp rise in numbers enrolling and two extra classrooms were added to the building. By 2008 there were three teachers employed at the school.
However since then numbers began to fall as “former students who had moved away for jobs didn’t come back,” explained deputy principal Margaret Downey who has taught at the school since 1999.
“It was a tough decision but it was decided with the best interests of our students. It’s hard for the younger pupils who are in a class on their own to go through school without other classmates.
“Unfortunately people moved away from the area and the numbers never built back up. A lot of young people left to find work overseas and stayed on. It’s just the way things go,” she said.
To commemorate the long history of the school, famed Irish poet and past pupil of Ballagh Áine Ní Ghlinn composed a poem for the occassion which was read out by her brother Michael.
Former Ballagh N.S. pupil, 83 year old Mary Downey, shows its youngest 5 year old Lorcan Taylor her name in the role book from 1941. Photo by Eamonn McGee
A special tribute was also paid to two long serving board of management members Willie Devane and Tom Ryan who said the schools strong sporting tradition will be sadly missed in the village.
“Ballagh NS were in 13 county finals and won 12 – an impressive feat for any school, especially one as small as us,” he said.
Among the notable alumni of the school include former Tipperary manager Declan Ryan, his brother Derek the renowned soprano singer, Tipperary camogie star Cait Devane and Irish poet Aine Ni Glin. Roll books of years gone by were displayed at the school and showed members of Duffys circus attending the school for periods at a time.
One of the oldest past pupils present Mary Downey said it was with a “heavy heart” that the school would close.
“I remember my days here well when we were sent to collect water from the well and wood for the fire in the winter. It’s hard to see it gone but it’s a new chapter for the children here now.”