The Story of the Presentation Sisters, Scoil Chroi Naofa and Presentation College, Athenry (1908-2008)
Editor and Compiler: Gerald J. Ahern
The Principalship of Sister Rosario Keating
The Establishment of Athenry Presentation Secondary School Education
The 1940s saw increased numbers from Athenry and surrounding parishes attending the Secondary Top and in 1947 a decision was made to formally establish a Presentation secondary school.
The transition from Secondary Top to the formal Secondary was seamless as stated by a pupil of that time: After Primary School we moved into 7th Class to prepare for Inter Cert which I sat in 1948 in Tuam Presentation where we boarded for two weeks. Plans were then being put in place to continue our studies in Athenry for the Leaving Cert. Our classrooms were in the Canton Hall and the Convent parlour. At that stage it was an enclosed order so the nuns had to be accompanied on the way to the Canton Hall. Srs. Rosario, Marie Therese, Vianney all worked very hard encouraging us.
Approval was received from the Department of Education and the school opened in September. The lack of proper accommodation did not deter the Sisters. They acquired the two upper rooms in the Canton Hall, the larger for the 25 first years and 15 second years and the other for the 12 students in the Intermediate Certificate class. Later the Convent parlour was ‘classroom’ for the fourth year and Leaving Certificate classes.
Sister Rosario Keating
Mary Keating was born around 1908 and was one of the six children, two girls, Mary and Eileen, and four boys, Bernard, Mick, Patrick and Tom, born to Patrick and Rita Keating in Feakle, Co. Clare. Patrick was Principal teacher of the local national school; an authority on local history, he published many articles in local journals. After primary school, Mary completed her secondary education as a boarder in the Presentation, Tuam, and afterwards did her degree at UCD. Fairview secondary school was among the many schools she taught in before she entered the Presentation Order, taking the religious name Rosario. She was highly thought of in the Congregation because of her life experiences and was a very ‘sound’ person. She taught in Tuam before coming to Athenry, where she was Principal of the new secondary school. In 1952 she was transferred to Headford where she spent many happy years. Even after retirement she kept her ‘hand in’ by doing remedial teaching. She died on the 7th of November 1985.
Pupils’ memories of starting secondary school in 1947
I left Craughwell National School in July 1947 and went to the Convent School in Athenry, and entered 7th class. There was also 8th class (all in one room in the National School). Then in September of that year the Sisters decided to start off Secondary Education and acquired two rooms in the Canton Hall, upstairs – one big room for lst years and 2nd years and a smaller one for Inter Certs. There were no Leaving Certs as yet. Thus began Secondary Education.
We had two nuns only – Sr. Rosario who was Principal and Sr. Marie Therese. After a year or so we had a lay teacher – Miss Newman. Sr. Marie Therese left shortly after and Sr. Vianney came. The nuns taught all subjects. The uniform consisted of a dark green dress with a beige collar and buttons.
We had English, Irish, French, Maths (Arithmetic, Algebra and Geometry), History, Geography, Art, Drawing, Music, Cookery, Needlework and Christian Doctrine. We had school on Saturday up to 12.30 and for this we had to go to the National School. On Saturday we had Drawing and Singing. Drawing was taught by Sr. Columbanus and Singing by Sr. Cecilia. We also had Christian Doctrine and each year in May we had a written exam in same. I do not know who corrected the papers. I think they went to the Priests in Tuam. We paid a fee of £2 per term or £6 per year (the old pound – 240 pence).
Photo: The Athenry Journal
Gaining entrance on Fair Days and other disadvantages
While the Canton Hall was fairly suitable, it had its disadvantages. Fair days caused some headaches as the entrance to the side was usually taken up by sheep. Many a morning we could not get in and farmers were very angry to be disturbed.
Also the place was not open on Saturdays and as we had classes on that day, we had to recourse to the national school for drawing and music. Cookery classes were held in the convent kitchen.
The heating system in the Canton Hall was an open fire in one room lit by caretaker Ned Qualter who lived next door and a stove in the other. Ned boiled the kettle on the open fire for lunchtime tea.
Billiard balls and flying inkwells
Down in the ground floor was a Billiards room. To while away the lunch break we had great fun hitting the coloured balls all over the place. We were warned not to go near them as they were not our property. Discipline forbade the looking out of the windows and a severe ‘fine’ was imposed for breaking this rule.
Once an inkwell was thrown from the window of the Canton Hall and Fr Mulrennan was brought in to investigate. The “crime” was never solved.
Class in 1948
Front, l-r: Chrissie Mannion, Noreen Finn, Nan Burke and Mary Jo Cahill.
Middle, l-r: Patricia O’Neill, Bernie Kenny, Maureen Haverty, Bridie Fitzpatrick and Annie Conroy.
Back, l-r: Nuala Courtney, Peggy Finn, Ann Allen, Minnie Quinn and Mary Curran.
Photo: Sr. Alphonsus Allen
Simple life and good teaching standards
The teaching standard was very good, and pupils were diligent, but innocently mischievous when the Nuns were out of sight. The town girls came on foot while those from further afield cycled. How we dreaded those windy wet days when the going got tough and we arrived drenched. Three were no extra-curricular activities as space was cramped, but life was simple and no one made demands or expected more.
Some of the pupils at that time were: Muriel Nolan, Mary Forde, Julia Rooney, Josie Pollard, Patty Coffey, Mary Malloney, Siobhan Keogh, Dilly Kelly, Mary Kelly (Craughwell), Nora Kelly, Bridgie Mullins, Bernadette Curran, Angela Curran, Detta Gardner and Catherine Rabbitte.
To Tuam for the Exams
There was no centre for the Leaving Cert and Inter Cert exams. For those years, until 1950 when the new school was built, they had to go to Tuam Presentation School for the two weeks of the exam.
An ‘A’ School
All subjects, except Christian doctrine, were taught through Irish. This practice continued right up to the introduction of ‘free’ secondary education in 1968.
Sr. Rosario was very strict and if homework was not done, you’d be severely reprimanded.
Athenry Inter Certs in 1949 in Tuam
Front, l-r: Molly Allen, Mary Jo Cahill, Margaret Kavanagh, Siobhán Keogh, Annie Curran and Mary Flynn. Back, l-r: Josephine Cullen, Agnes Finn, Kitty Rooney, Julia Quinn and Josie Houlihan.
Building of the First Presentation Secondary School
The New School nearing completion in 1950
In 1949 the Presentation Sisters decided to build their own secondary school. Fund raising got under way with concerts, sales of work and raffles. Pupils went onto the streets selling flags. There was great excitement for a while but the novelty wore off as the farmers and ‘jobber’ got fed up with the pupils activities. Construction work by Messrs James Stewart Ltd, Lower Salthill, Galway, started in the field adjacent to the national school in 1949. The Civil Engineer was H.G.L. O’Connor. The intention was to erect a two storey building with the best classrooms on the top storey. However, due to the combination of a dispute between the architect and contractor and the convent authorities the Episcopal refusal to sanction the top storey, the result was a ground floor school with very limited classroom accommodation.
The total cost amounted to £14, 378.19.0, which included the provision of 5 blackboards, 1 easel, 5 pitchfire brackets for statues, 18 pastry boards and 6 kitchen tables. On the 20th of February 1953, the Ulster Bank, Athenry authorised Mother Peter Kelly to give a cheque of £1,387.19.0 to James Stewart of Galway as final payment for the school. Mr. O’Connor’s fees came to £293.18.0, and his travelling and other out of pocket expenses were to be put as his subscription towards the cost of the school. The legal fee for the contract was £22.
One classroom was completed during the summer of 1950. The Inter and Leaving students sat their exams there in order to avoid travelling and boarding in Tuam for the two weeks.
Sister Rita O’Toole, who became Principal in 1952, wrote:
The Home Economics Room was the only real classroom on the ground floor. Rooms meant for Office Work, Music, School Lunch-time and toilet facilities had to be used over the years as classrooms. Naturally there was much crowding, but we survived! There were no State Grants for building purposes in those years. Teachers’ salaries were miserably low. Any help for heating and cleaning was not even contemplated by the State.
The State Capitation Grant, per child, as well as a small grant for teaching through Irish, was barely enough to pay the Basic Salary which the Convent had to pay to our Lay Teachers. Money was very scarce and the Convent was in debt for the one-storey school for quite a number of years. There were occasional Sales of Work, but not very many.
The Sisters spared and denied themselves many small comforts and so the debt ended after some years of hardship. The building was beautifully finished with a fine corridor and the Home Economics Room was really a beautiful room, but perhaps a little too spacious, for those who had to keep it tidy!
The Athenry News in the 2nd of September issue of the Connacht Tribune stated that ‘the new secondary school attached to the Presentation Convent, Athenry will open on Monday, 4th of September and Mass will be celebrated within the building’.
The new school opened for all classes in September 1950. What now appears small then looked big to us who were coming from Canton Hall. There was a large play area so we had ‘drill’ on Saturdays. Each class had its own room. We must remember classes were small, between six and fourteen or fifteen. The boiler room was a great asset; we could dry out on wet days and hang wet coats there.
Members of the 1950/51 Leaving Cert class in their uniforms
L-r: Mary Jo Cahill, Agnes Finn, Nuala Courtney, Molly Allen and Julia Quinn.
Photo: Sr. Alphonsus Allen.
Miss Nuala Newman came from Dublin to teach in the school and remembers:
I came to Athenry in September 1950 and taught there until June 1961. At first I was the only lay teacher, but later on Miss Walsh joined the staff. She was a great Irish scholar and had helped to compile the Irish/English Dictionary.
My subjects were Maths, Irish and History. We appreciated our move to the new school with proper equipment. The atmosphere in the school was happy and relations between pupils and staff were harmonious.
While I was in Athenry I made many friends: Una Hynes, Dr. Flann Brennan and his wife Elsie, Mick and Sadie Copeland, Fr. Mulrennan, etc. We started the Bridge Club in Cannon’s Hotel and travelled to neighbouring clubs during the winter. We played golf over the stone walls on Tommy Dobynn’s land and generally enjoyed life in the West.
Muriel Nolan remembers:
Miss Newman resided with Uan Hynes in Cross Street and one student collected the copies every Monday morning and carried them to school for her. Sometimes on a Friday, if a pupil hadn’t finished her essay on time, she’d go to Hynes’ and Una would slip her copybook into the pile.
More memories of those times
Along with Sister Rosario we had one other nun, Sr. Margaret Mary and a lay teacher Miss Newman. Sr. Celestine taught art on Saturday mornings. Sr. Agnes was in charge of the Cookery but we dropped it after Inter Cert. Everything was taught through Irish, except Christian Doctrine.
Retreats and ‘Training’
A three day (3 great days without study) Retreat was held every year in May just before the exams. It was given by a Redemptorist priest from Esker.
We had no Sporting events of any kind. It would be unheard of. We had exercise one evening which was called ‘drill’. A lady came from Galway and put us through a bit of ‘training’ out in the school yard. We hated it and coupled with that it was after school hours – after 4 p.m. Often we just marched off home unknown to the ‘authorities’.
The Leaving Cert class of 1950/51
Front, l-r: Agnes Finn (RIP), Julia Quinn, Molly Allen, Mary Jo Cahill and Nuala Courtney. Back, l-r: Sister Rosario and Sister Margaret Mary.
Photo: Sr. Alphonsus Allen
By Bicycle and Train
There were no buses bringing us to school. Some girls cycled miles – from Kiltulla, Monivea, Craughwell, and even as far away as Ballyglunin. We often got drowned wet coming and going. Others came by train from Ballyglunin, arriving at 8.15 a.m. and departing for home at 5.40 p.m. Many cycled to the station to catch this train.
Students circa 1950 in their dark green uniform with detachable cream collar
L-r: Betty Burke, Millie Browne and Ann Burke. Photo: Ann Connaire (nee Burke)
There were no school outings either. The only one I can call an outing to was a trip to Knock with the Children of Mary under the guidance of Sr. Dominic.
I finished my Secondary Education in 1952 along with 7 others – 8 in all. They were:
Patricia Coffey, Athenry, married in Dublin, Muriel Nolan, Athenry – worked for Galway Co. Council, Mary Forde, Esker, worked for the Dept. of Agriculture, Siobhan Keogh, Tiaquin – became a teacher – now married and living in Galway, Bridie Haverty, Paulnabanny – a nun in India for many years, Catherine Rabbitte, Tallyhoe, married in Athlone – became a hotel manageress, Martha Murphy, Monivea – married in Dublin – worked in the Civil Service and Julia Rooney, Cahercrin, worked for Galway Co. Council.
Friends and Heartfelt Thanks
I may add a little note to the above – we all met twice this year, 2008, for a meal at the New Park Hotel and, thank God, we are all alive and have survived fifty five years and more.
I will conclude by expressing my heartfelt thanks to the Presentation Sisters for without them we would not have got Secondary Education. We had no money or means to go boarding elsewhere. Long may they reign in Athenry and carry on the work of Nano Nagle.
Thanks to the following for their contribution to this part of the story: Clodagh Coyne (Keating), Sr. Fidelma Haverty, Julia Rooney, Sr. Rita O’Toole, Muriel Nolan, Minnie Quinn, Nuala Newman, Sr. Alphonsus Allen, Mary Forde, Lily Kavanagh and Gretta Kenny.
The Principalship of Sister Rita O’Toole
Sister Rita O’Toole’s overview of those years
In August 1952, I was sent from Presentation Convent, Tuam to Athenry, where I was Principal, full-time teacher and for all practical purposes Manager, for seven years. In August 1959, I was changed to Carraroe-Gaeltacht to begin a new foundation and Secondary School. Needless to say, I was very lonely there for the fields of Athenry and the lovely people who had helped me during my seven years with them.
Athenry Secondary School included girls from many country areas as well as the entire sixth class every September from the Convent Primary School. There were no transport facilities for girls from the country areas, but the good old bike came to the rescue! Girls came from Newcastle, Monivea, Tiaquin, Esker, Attymon, Craughwell, Carnaun, Cregmore, Lisheenkyle, Turloughmore and Ballyglunin. Ballyglunin pupils travelled as a rule by train. We had students from Carnmore area now and then. There was no room for boys but the genial Curate Fr. Mulrennan and I had “ideas” on the provision of classes for boys.
Mick Mannion and his furnance
The equally genial Canon McGough did not think along our lines, so things rested so! The Canon died in the same year that I moved to Carraroe. I can still recall my feelings of pity for girls coming in on cold, wet and stormy mornings, drenched after cycling long distances along slushy roads. However, we had a fine furnace room where they dried themselves and good warm radiators in every classroom. The furnace room was a nice place too for prolonged chats!! Mick Mannion (R.I.P.) kept the furnace well stoked and his ready wit and infectious laugh helped to make even the harshest winter days brighter and warmer for us all, staff and students. A quick-boiling electric urn provide plenty of boiling water for the lunch hour at 12.30p.m.. Town girls went home for lunch. Like all young people our pupils were bright, happy girls and always very co-operative and obliging. There was no trouble about keeping the school clean and tidy, as many generous hands were always ready to help out, even in scrubbing floors.
I forget what the teacher quota was during those earlier years. We employed two lay-teachers and the principal. The Principal taught the same number of hours as the rest. There were no Vice-Principals or Posts of Responsibility in operation until the 1970s. Clerical work as well as dreary correction of exercises had to be done after school hours. There were classes on Saturdays until 1.30 p.m. The other days were 9.15 to 3.45 or 4 p.m. We had a very competent and dedicated staff always and there was no pressurisation of students or comparing of “points” after exam results. The marks were put into envelopes to be taken home to parents for their examination, so comparisons in the school were “out” and less able students spared criticism by their more successful peers.
The Curriculum included Christian Doctrine, Irish, English, French, Maths, History, Geography, Home Economics, Art and at one stage some Book-keeping for Juniors only. An inspector disapproved of this as it was not on the Department’s list of “approved” subjects! I had to drop it, even though quite a number of girls had secured Pitman’s Certificates before the Inspector’s visit. If he were alive today he would see the importance of commercial education and the change in Department rules! Choral Music was very well catered for in the school, as well as Modulator and Staff Notation. Latin Liturgical-Choir work was also very important, as students were expected to sing at High Masses in the parish Church. We were fortunate in having expert choral teachers from the Convent Primary School, as not all Secondary Schools have developed musical talent. Music was not on the Department’s list either, but singing was a Department must, for all classes and every student. Instrumental Music – Piano and Violin, was well catered for in the Convent Music Rooms, where Sister Baptist Kelly directed and shared the work. She was a skilled musician and delighted in the work. She also looked after Library work and was herself a person of great literary taste. Cultural activities were well catered for then, but outdoor games were limited for want of space.
Cows and Vegetables
Post-War rationing of butter and other foods was still in operation, so the Convent field, given over later for Presentation College had to be kept for milk cows and vegetables. That field was where the Vocational School grounds were at present. It was a treat for the Sisters, on fine Sundays, to be let over there for a walk, as we were enclosed until Vatican 11 opened up gates as well as windows!!
General chats on life
On Friday evenings, to complete curriculum, I usually took the girls from 3.30 to 4.30 for general chats on life. That hour was always informal and non-bookish. When I meet past pupils now, they always remind me of the informal but very useful instruction which the hour provided. Using one’s commonsense and making sure one was well-informed on life outside were of importance in speaking to teenagers. It is still the same. Our girls were involved in the town Legion of Mary, the Red Cross and the Children of Mary Association – Country students could not avail themselves much of these helps, but the Pioneer Association was strong in the school.
At the request of parents, going to public dances had to be restricted. The request amused me, but I co-operated with parents by having a rule allowing senior girls two dances per term. Juniors and Inter Certs had to wait until age permitted. Murphy’s and Payne’s halls were always well-run. Many girls joined Religious Orders in those days – some Presentation, although our being “enclosed” and not free to go home on occasions was an impediment!
Our girls in the Mission fields
L-r: Sr. Marie Ward and Sr. Eileen Kearney
Many of our girls today are in Convents all over Ireland, England, U.S.A., Africa, Ceylon, Vietnam, Australia and South America. The first Superior of our Presentation Mission to Chile was Mairead King of Prospect who did Inter Cert. as far as I recall, in Athenry, in 1953. It may interest Athenry girls to know that a younger Athenry girl, Eileen Kearney of Old Church Street is at present Superior in Chile also, while Marie Ward, niece of the late Nancy O’Donoghoe-Coppinger, is doing excellent missionary education in far-away Pakistan. Let us not forget these, our past pupils, working under great difficulty in so many foreign lands. Over the years also some of our girls have worked as lay-missionaries in difficult outposts like Bangladesh.
While in Ireland, Sr. Mary Gannon (left) gave much of her life in teaching in the Gaeltacht at Ti an Fhia. Support for the Missions was always a strong feature of Athenry life. Not all our girls became nuns! Some emigrated, most stayed in Ireland, many happily married, others single and fully taking their place in society as excellent people. No tribute of mine could be too great to the excellent families of Athenry area, who gave great example to younger people. It is thirty six years now since I lost my heart to the folk and fields of Athenry. I came back there in 1981 when I reached retirement age and was there until 1983 when I took up teaching Religion in Tuam Vocational School at the request of Archbishop Cunnane, happy teaching also. Do not pity me for being in Tuam as I have lived and worked here, very happily, for almost thirty six years but I l have in my heart a very special “soft Corner” for dear old Athenry.
A Student’s Memories of school 1950-1955
I have so many fond memories of my years at school in Athenry, and so much to be grateful for .We were forbidden to ride our bikes on school property . Sr. Agnes who was principal in the national school enforced that rule with an iron fist. I remember just taking a chance, when I was late, getting on the bike inside the gate and riding up to the school, only to have her appear out of nowhere and tell me to walk back down and walk back up again! During Lent I would go the 7:30 am mass in the monastery in Brooklodge and that left me little time to get to school by 9am, but it would never occur to me to try to offer any excuse to Sr. Agnes or to any teacher at that time .Not that I was ever an early bird . It was not easy getting out of bed on a cold morning in a house with no electricity or running water. I remember washing my face in a basin of water with little bits of ice floating in it .My mother woke me most of the time but sometimes my uncle (his name was Pa) would wake me. He was the kindest man I have ever known and he would lure me out of bed by telling me that he had a “mugeen of tay “ ready for me .My lunch consisted of a couple pieces of bread and if I forgot to pack that, I just did without until I got home in the evening about 5pm.
White coats and caps
Sr. Agnes was the principal in the national school but taught domestic science in the secondary school. We wore white coats and white caps with our hair in a hair net on cookery days. Sr. Agnes was not happy (an understatement) if any of her students were missing a hairnet or a cap! We started and ended each school day with prayer and always had a brief prayer before each class.
I remember getting to school on rainy days just soaking wet (I never owned a raincoat) Those of us who rode our bikes in from the “country“ were allowed to go to the basement and stand by the furnace until our clothes dried. (We were grateful for heavy rain on the days that French was the first class of the day). Mike Mannion, whom we addressed as Mr. Mannion, was the caretaker, a kind and gentle man who kept that furnace blazing.
The ‘culprit’ and the mouse
I remember, once, in Miss Walsh’s French class someone made an inappropriate “under their breath” comment and no one admitted to it, so the whole class was punished. She refused to teach us until the “culprit” came forward. I remember how hard it was to keep from laughing. Once during those “silent “ classes, my classmate Chrissie Kearns who sat next to me, and I saw a mouse poke its head out from a little hole in the corner . It was torturous just having to sit there and not giggle. No one ever confessed and eventually Miss Walsh gave up and continued to try to teach us French.
Sr. Margaret Mary (RIP ) taught Christian Doctrine and had us memorize the four gospels We did a gospel each year and the Acts of the Apostles in Leaving Cert .
No celebrations for graduation
I am so grateful for my time with the Presentation Sisters. They taught me so much more than the three “Rs”; they instilled values that have stayed with me throughout my life.
There were no celebrations for graduation in those days. Sr. Rita gave us a little talk reminding us of what was important in life such as personal integrity and accountability.
I remember she said to me, something to the effect that in twenty years no one would ask or would it matter how many honours I got in my leaving cert, but what would matter very much was the kind of person I turned out to be. She wrote a letter of commendation for me when I left for the USA. She said, in part, “I have no doubt that Una will be a credit to her family and her country wherever she goes”. So many of her words have stayed with me over the years.
I am so grateful to the Presentation sisters and to my parents for making it possible for me to attend their school. I regret that I never did thank the individual Sisters while they were alive. My hope is that we will meet in heaven and I can do so then. By the time I was mature enough to fully appreciate their sacrifice, they were already gone. My sister and sister in law and I did visit Sr. Rita briefly just a year or two before her death but even then I did not thank her.
In addition to what I learned in school, the journey to and from Athenry everyday gave me an appreciation of nature .There were far fewer houses in those days and so I enjoyed the fields “white with daisies” in the Spring and early Summer . The trees along the road in Castle Ellen were beautiful in their own way in all seasons. I remember some falls off my bike on the icy roads in Winter. I usually took the Castle Ellen road although the Coolarne road might have provided a shorter route. The Coolarne road was not paved and tended to have many potholes, which presented other problems particularly since I rode part of the way in darkness during the Winter months.
I am now retired and I like to walk to daily Mass at our parish church in the early morning (weather permitting). I live on a very quiet narrow street that runs through a wooded rocky area. As I walk in the morning, I am often reminded of that bike ride to school. The sights and smell are similar and my street is as empty of cars as the roads in Ireland were in those days. I have come full circle!
More memories of the early 1950s
In the Secondary School I made a number of friends as follows: Carmel Coffey, Anne King, Anne Curran, Rose Mary Ruane, Phyllis Dolan, and her sister Mary Theresa Dolan. She also had younger sisters that attended the Secondary School later, Maureen Doherty R.I.P, Millie Brown R.I.P., Kathleen Kelly and her sister who was excellent at Maths and a very nice humble girl. Also Margaret Sice, who lived around the New Cemetery, Maura Brody who lives in America I think, and so does Frances O’Rourke.
In the Secondary School our main teacher was Sr. Rita O’Toole and was a wonderful Irish teacher. There was no nonsense with her but she was very fair and everybody was treated equally. She called a spade a spade.
Sr. Margaret Mary (left) taught Art. Miss Newman, who was very nice, taught Maths, Geometry and Algebra. Sr. Theresa taught Religious Instruction, but to be very honest the Presentation Sisters gave me a wonderful good example for my whole life. They were strict and firm but hindsight is the best teacher of all and many people have asked me over the years what College I attended when I was schooling. I was proud to say the Presentation Sisters, Athenry, Co. Galway, Ireland.
Possessor of a generous humanity
Sr. Rita O’Toole, Principal of the Secondary School and teacher of Irish, Geography and History was another great influence on me in my formative years. She possessed a generous humanity, broad educational vision and a kindness and sense of humour which she had to mask, at times, due to her disciplinary role as Principal. We were encouraged by her to search and reason and explore and to look beneath the surface of things, which I believe is the true role of an educator
Back, l-r: Josie Coffey, Muriel Nolan, Gerty Quinn, Belsie Fitzpatrick.
Front, l-r: Dilly Kelly, Clare haverty, Mary Coady, Rita Egan, Lilly Brody
Christian Doctrine Examination
There was always a good atmosphere in the school. Religion was very important with a procession reciting the Rosary led by the Sisters all around the Convent grounds nearly every day in May.
The Archbishop had a Christian Doctrine examination during the month of May. There was a lot of teaching and study beforehand for this one day exam. The nuns would have liked us all to do well in it although we only ever got an overall result per class.
Basketball and Knock
Different to nowadays there wasn’t any drama or musicals or debates. Sometime later basketball was introduced. The only tour I can remember was the trip to Knock in the month of May. This tour or rather pilgrimage was by train from Athenry to Claremorris and then by bus to Knock.
On one of those trips one pupil got lost in Knock and her father had to go on his motor bicycle to Knock to collect her when the train arrived in Athenry without her.
Craughwell pupils who attended were:
Bina Kelly, Bridie Quinn, Helen Allen, my sister (now Helen McLoughlin), Annie Farrell, Anne and Helen Raftery, Tessie Haverty and Ettie Rooney.
This time was a very simple lifestyle for everyone, – no school buses then or no canteen. Everybody took their own lunch to school with them. All in all they were very enjoyable times. The school uniform then was a bottle green dress with removable beige collar for easy washing. All the pupils knew one another and where they came from and I am glad to say these friendships have lasted ever since.
Cycling and drill
In those days not a great amount of emphasis was put on sport, no cars available, and I cycled to school but we had drill twice a week for half an hour.
French and laughter
We had a French teacher in her mid thirties who taught us French. We used to have lots of laughter and ….when the subject was finished as we hardly ever understood the subject properly. Looking back now it was a very, very happy time in my life.
Another pupil remembers
Sr. Rita didn’t like me leaving class for my music. She said that she promised my father ‘to make something of me’.
Second Year Class of 1952/53
Front, l-r: Rita Rooney, Bina Kelly, Kitty Kennedy, Kathleen Rooney, Frances McEvoy, Margaret Sice, Maidie Madden, Chrissie McGuinness, Cecelia Curran and Maureen Rooney. Middle Row, l-r: Mairead King, Phil Hynes, Annie Cahill, Bernadette Monaghan, Peggy Flannery, Cathy Keane, Margaret Mannion, Rosemary Kennedy, Teresa Walsh, Patricia Flannery and Ann Barrett. Back, l-r: Sadie Morrissey, Peggy Coffey, Sadie Dooley, Maidie Burke, Maureen Doherty, Monica McCabe, Phil Kelly, Betty Madden, Julia Concar and Josie Maloney.
Photo: Kathleen Cooley (Rooney)
More memories of 1952-1957
My favourite teacher was Sr. Therese. She was an outstanding person, gentle, kind and everyone was treated the same, no favouritism.
Well, I must admit at that particular era it was exceptionally strict with a lot of class distinction which was very obvious and that I resented very much, but in saying that we had no voice and the majority of us were in the same boat, but it wasn’t all bad. We got a good sound education, good manners and respect for our superiors.
We had school five and a half days a week, and had very few activities, except the day we were getting the school holidays All the classes came together in one room and some girls did some Irish Dancing, singing, but we enjoyed it.
Talking to boys
We had the Parish Priest to visit the school one day over an incident. This particular person informed the nuns that some of the girls were seen talking to a group of boys and we were so scared that we thought we were all going to be expelled. Some of the poor girls were left standing all day, so it took a lot out of us.
Wearing a tight jumper
On the last day we had this lecture as follows:
“Girls, ye are leaving and going into the big bad world but my advice girls is as follows- never let me see or hear the following: A cigarette in your mouth, a glass in your hand (alcohol) or wearing a tight jumper”.
A lot of sacrifices
Looking back on those times they were a mix of good and bad, a lot on the whole not very pleasant. The nuns did their best for us as they too hadn’t it easy, and made a lot of sacrifices. We have survived to tell the tale.
First Inter Cert Class 1953
Photo: Connacht Tribune
Memories of the school years 1955-1959
Sr. Rita O’Toole was Principal of the Secondary when I started, and continued to be Principal until 1959 when she was transferred to Carraroe where she started a new secondary school.
Sr. De Montfort (left) taught Book-keeping, Art and Mathematics. The subjects we studied in the school at that time were Irish, English, French, Mathematics, History, Geography, Art, and Home Economics. Religious Instruction was also a subject and this class was from 12 until 12.30 each day. For this year alone Book-keeping was introduced but was not continued in second year. A special examination was held at the end of the year where candidates obtained a certificate.
We were now paying a school fee (£6-10-0) because the nuns – who had incurred huge debt in building our new school, despite the capital grant from the Dept. of Education. But the fee, payable in three tranches, although no doubt difficult to find in many households, was not exhorbitant at the time. There was no pressure applied to any child who was slow to bring in the fee. The subject was never mentioned, apart from announcing in general that the fee was due. I have since heard that that was not the case in other schools. Truly “our nuns” were women of the world, who understood only too well how cash poor most families were.
The Teachers for each of the subjects were as follows:
Sr. Rita O’Toole History
Sr. Rita O’Toole French
Sr. de Montfort Book-keeping
Sr. de Montfort Mathematics
Sr. de Montfort Art
Sr. Margaret Mary Home Economics
Miss Patsy Heneghan English
Miss Patsy Heneghan Irish
Miss Nuala Newman Geography
Sr. Teresa Conway Religious Instruction
There were two lay teachers. Miss Heneghan came out on the train from Galway each morning. I think this was her second year in the school. She left to get married at the end of this school year, and was replaced by her sister Miss Mary Heneghan, who also came on the train from Galway. Miss Newman taught in Athenry for many years and stayed in Una Hynes’s House in Cross Street, and both were prominent members of the Legion of Mary in Athenry.
All went well in secondary school for the first two weeks …. AND THEN, holy smoke, all hell broke loose. Sr. Rita, the school principal, marched into our classroom one day with a thunderous face and said, “Stand up all who were at the carnival last night”.
“The carnival” was a marquee in Taylor’s field, in front of the Castle. I longed to go – we all did – and I could hear from the house the band play all the romantic numbers of the day, such as ‘The Tennessee Waltz (“I was waltzin’, with my darlin’ …..and before the song ended, the tragic words “….my friend stole my sweetheart from me”.
Just imagine, you’ve just turned 13, it’s a beautiful, autumnal night, with a huge golden harvest moon, and you SO want to be there. A few nights later, my uncle and his fiancee came to town to the dance and I persuaded my stepfather to bring me in to the marquee, just to watch for a few minutes. There were other girls there from my class, dancing. And we were all in trouble. We got a dressing down and were told that if it ever happened again we would be expelled.
Our school uniform at that time was a bottle green dress, with long sleeves, and 6 buttons down the front, in cream or beige. It cost £6-17-0 and was ordered from Dublin. Collars were of the same colour, more or less, as the buttons.
When I started we bought the material from the school, and got them made by local dress makers. In Athenry there was Miss Rabbitte of Church Street, and Mrs. Molloy of Cross Street. I got mine made with Miss Rabbitte. When the school re-opened in September, very few of us had our uniforms made, but within the first few weeks, we were beginning to arrive in the uniform.
Leaving Cert Class 1956
Front, l-r: Josie Maloney, Mairéad King and Kathleen Rooney. Middle, l-r: Peggy Coffey, Rita Ryan and Celia Curran. Back, l-r: Sr. Rita O’Toole and Sr. De Monfort.
Photo: Peggy Coffey
Other students of those times
Apart from those in the 1958 photograph there were some others that I can recall, that for one reason or another were not with us in 1958. There was Frances Courtney, who later went to board in the Presentation Convent, Tuam, her sister, Sr. Nuala Courtney was and still is a member of the Presentation Order. There was also Madeleine Cullen, from Monivea, whose father was a garda in Monivea. There was also Eileen O’Malley (Mrs. Qualter, from Clorane), Mary Ann Quinn, from Caherfourvase and Kathleen Higgins from Coshla.
Apart from my class, I remember the classmates of some of my cousins who were in Fifth year and Leaving Cert. My cousin, Kathleen Rooney, now Mrs. Cooley came down during the break to introduce me to her classmates, there was Bina Kelly (I think from Caherdevane), Peggy Coffey (Mrs. Ward), and Mairead King. The latter two I already knew as they lived in the town. There was also Celia Curran (Cappamoyle).
My cousin in fifth year, Rosemary Ruane (now Mrs. Hurley) was in the same class as Ann King, Maura Brody, and Teresa and Phyllis Dolan.
During most of my time in first year, I shared a desk with Mary Glynn, who was a niece of Mrs. Brady and Mrs. Quinton. She lived in Corofin. While coming to school in Athenry, she got the train from Ballyglunin to Athenry each morning, as did Teresa and Phyllis Dolan, Phyllis Fahy, Maureen Furey and Veronica Ryan.
School Year 1955-1956
When we stated our second school year, there was a change of uniform. A green gymslip and a beige jumper replaced the green dress. It was a more practical uniform, and in the summer weather, blouses were worn instead of jumpers. This new uniform only applied to newcomers and anybody else who might need to get a new uniform. I never got the new one, and I think I am probably the last student to wear the green dress.
There were slight changes in the staff for 2nd year:
Sr. Rita O’Toole (Irish, History), Miss Newman (Mathematics), Sr. Margaret Mary (Home Economics)
Miss Mary Heneghan (French), Sr. Mary of Good Counsel (Later Sr. Evelyn Geraghty) (Geography, Art, Religious Instruction, English).
Inter Cert Class 1957-58
Front, l-r: Kathleen Hardiman, Maureen Cahill, Maeve Rooney, Delia Cummins, Bebe O’Reilly, Mary Kelly, Margaret Smith, Eileen Lynch and May Farrell.
Middle, l-r: Veronica Ryan, Bernadette Healy, Maura Kearney, Virginia Glynn, Bridie Sice, Mary Feeney, Nellie O’Malley and Detta McInerney.
Back, l-r: Bridie Hardiman, Mary Glynn, Angela Madden, Rose Kennedy and Mary Ann McNamara.
Photo: Maeve Rooney
We called this Domestic Science in those days. We had a fully equipped kitchen in “the new cookery room” – as distinct from the old one attached to the convent. Our English teacher (and a splendid one, at that) Sr. Stanislaus (Taylor) who made Shakespeare really come alive, doubled as a Domestic Science teacher. She was brilliant and I learned how to put a zip in a garment, how to darn socks (not much use for that nowadays!), patch a sheet, gut and fillet a mackerel, make a dress, bake and cook a meal – to this day I can do any of the aforementioned.
It was all through the medium of Irish. Ours was an ‘A’ school, which meant that everything was taught through Irish and in our State exams we got an extra 10 per cent by virtue of that fact.
During the first three years we made Aprons in first year, a slip and panties in second year, (nowadays it would be a waste of money not to buy them in the local stores), and in third year we all made dresses.
A variety of dress materials were on display and each of us decided which material we wanted, we were measured and the purchase was made. I chose a green material, and was happy with my dress when it was finished. I must admit when it came to making the dress I got a lot of help from Sr. Stanislaus, who was our Home Economics teacher in third year.
First Years 1957
Photo: Mary Mullins (Brady)
Inter Cert. 1957-58
As invariably happens staff and pupils come and go, so the staff as far as I can remember for third year was as follows: Sr. Rita O’Toole (Irish, History), Miss Margaret Steward (English, French), Miss Newman Mathematics, Sr. Stanislaus ((Sr. Teresa Mary Talyor)(Art, Home Economics, Religious Instruction)
For some subjects we needed to take down notes from the blackboard. It was during this year, that I found I needed to get the help of Mary Kelly (from Carnaun), who was sitting with me at that time, as I could not easily transcribe what was on the board. Miss Steward pointed out to me that if I could not read it, I may need to get my eyes tested. So shortly arfter the Inter Cert. Exam I got my eyes tested and discovered I was short sighted. I have worn glasses ever since.
In the 1957 Leaving Cert. Class: Ann King, Rose Ruane, Theresa Dolan, Phyllis Dolan and Maura Brody
School years 1958 and 1959
Fifth years and Leaving Certs did most subjects together and were in one classroom for most subjects. They were however studying different books; poems, etc. so had some different classes. Part of the Irish course for Leaving Certificate involved having to compose a poem. This finished with the 1959 Leaving. So I was pleased not to have to compose any verses for my examination in 1960.
The Oral Irish started with the Leaving Certificate of 1960. I was not looking forward to this but it all worked out very well and I think it was a blessing in disguise.
Those of us in the combined firth year and Leaving Cert. Class of this year were Maura Kearney and Eleen Lynch (who got married to two brothers in a double wedding some years later), Bernadette Healy, Maureen Cahill, Mary Ann McNamara and myself. In the L.C. Class we had Margaret Cummins (Coldwood), who is a member of the OLA Congregation), Lena Brody, (Mrs. Clancy, Co. Clare who died over 20 years ago), Agnes Curran, Kathleen O’Connor, Maureen Furey, Peggy Killeen and Bebe Kavanagh who was back for awhile. I remember that Bebe told us one lunch hour on her return that Pope Pius XII had died.
Sr. Rita’s Compassion and thoughtfulness-A Student’s memories
Towards the end of my first year in secondary school, my mother was extremely ill in hospital and was not expected to live. One bright Summer’s day, the school principal, Sr. Rita, was to show enormous compassion to me. She called me aside and told me that she knew that Mum was in hospital and that my step-father had to work and said “why don’t you bring the little ones (my sisters, who were then 4 and 2) up here in the afternoons and they can play around the school yard and we can keep an eye on them from here?”. I was so touched – we all were. And to this day, I am dumbfounded that anyone, much less a nun and the head of the school, could have read a family situation so well and been so thoughtful. In the event, we found help with the child-minding, but I will never forget Sr. Rita’s thoughtfulness.
Second Years 1957
Front, l-r: Ita Whelan, Bernadette Fahy, Maura King, Minnie Dunleavey, Nuala Dolan, Mary Lawless, Mary Corley and Maeve Burke. Middle, l-r: Marie Corley, Freda McGough, Carmel Healy, Eleanor Taylor, Patricia O’Rourke, Julia Mary Forde and Cassie Murphy. Back, l-r: Mary Teresa Beatty, Ann Ruane, Eileen Cheevers, Irene Curran, Margaret O’Connor and Rena Curran. Photo: Ann Caulfield (Ruane)
Leaving Cert Class 1958
Front, l-r: Annie McNamara, Sheila Fitzpatrick, Bebe Kavanagh and Maureen Crosbie.
Back, l-r: Mary Lynch, Ann Curran, Esther Conroy, Carmel Coffey and Mary Barrett.
Photo: Bebe Kavanagh
Thanks to the following for their contribution to this part of the story: Margaret Allen, Una Callanan (O’Brien), Helen McLoughlin, Mary Mullins (Brady), Sr. Mary (Maeve) Frances Rooney, Freda McGough, Ann Scully (Barrett), Ann Caulfield (Ruane), Kathleen Cooley (Rooney) and Maura Brody McKenna.
The Principalship of Sister Benedict O’Brien
At the end of the school year 1958/59 Sr. Rita O’Toole left to open a new secondary school in Carraroe. She was replaced by Sr. Benedict (left).
(Sr. Catherine O’Brien). Miss Margaret Steward also left around the same time and there was now only one lay teacher, Miss Newman.
That year there were 120 girls on rolls and the uniform consisted of a green gymslip. Classes went on until 4pm each day.
Sr. Raymond taught the theory of Home Economics and was one of the young sisters there at that time. One highlight of the final year (1960-61) was the production of the life of Nano Nagle and most of the students took part in this production. Kathleen Gardiner, who still lives in Old Church Street, played the part of Nano.
Srs. Stanislaus and Clement introduced camogie for the first time and practice took place in the uneven field in front of the school. Later a man from the Agricultural College came and levelled it.
The well-travelled Mary Agatha O’Grady.
A new teacher, Mary Agatha O Grady, came to the school and had a huge influence on some students. She taught commerce and was larger than life. She swept into our classroom wearing her gown and opened our class up to the outside world of commerce. She travelled a lot and told us about airport’s customs duties, traveller’s cheques etc. Every morning at 9.30a.m. Mick Mannion arrived at her classroom window, tapped on the window and handed in The Irish Times. This was ‘frowned’ on and after a few months it stopped. We all knew there was a story behind it but we could never find out. However, she did share financial news with us from the paper. Strangely enough she was a sister of Fr. Martin O Grady who later joined the staff and he too had a huge impact on the school.
During the school years 1960/61 the Leaving Cert. class consisted of:
Freda McGough, Ita Whelehen, Rena Curran, Cassie Murphy (Rena’s cousin), Nuala Dolan (Mrs. Cunningham), Mary Corley (Mrs. Burke), Mary Lawless, Ann Heavey, Maidie Coffey (Mrs. Cloonan), Julia Mary Forde, Maura King, Nonie Williams, Irene Curran (Cappamoyle), Maeve Burke, Ann Ruane (Caulfied, my first cousin) and Maeve Rooney.
Groups of travelling players were welcomed in the school from time to time. The Shakespearean actor, Anew McMaster (brother-in-law of the actor Micheal MacLiammoir who reigned supreme over the Gate Theatre in Dublin, with the director, Hilton Edwards) came to our school with a play. A group of actors from Galway brought us ‘As You Like It’, which was on our Inter Cert course, and we had a really enjoyable few hours with a group of musicians who demonstrated, live, what each instrument in an orchestra sounded like.
We had our own in-house shows as well. One I remember vividly was “The Dumb Show”, all done in mime to music where a patient in a hospital had to have her bandaged leg sawn off. We thought it hilarious.
I had a superb elocution teacher, called Sr. Conleth, who so kindly gave me extra tuition, gratis, so that I could finish all my exams leading up to my diploma before the rigours of the Leaving Cert. She organised for me to go and sit the last few exams at our convent in Tuam. Just another example of going the extra mile for a student.
Memories of a student 1959-1964
I was a pupil in the Secondary School in the years 1959-1964. I cycled to and from school each day in sunshine or in rain – round trip of ten miles. Friends joined me on the road each day. These trips were our socialising times-three abreast across the road until a guard took our names. After that we had to go in single file. The Tuam to Ennis train came to Athenry each morning and brought pupils from Ballyglunin Station.
The possibility of me receiving Secondary Education would be very slim except for the Presentation Sisters. Sr. Benedict O’Brien was Headmistress and other Sisters on the school staff were: Sr. Stanislaus, Sr. Raymond, Sr. Teresa Conway, Sr. Clement, Sr. Mary Immaculate Heart, Sr. Conleth, Sr. Barbara Raftery and Sr. Gertrude Morrin. There were three lay teachers – Miss Newman, Miss Lydon and Miss Agatha O’Grady.
I thought the Sisters were other-world divine sort of creatures – a certain mystique surrounded them. They appeared from the Convent each morning all dressed in black and white. They were great timekeepers and full of enthusiasm for our welfare.
Each subject was taught with great earnestness and detail and doing the lessons and homework were very important. We had lighter moments too: a run around the field for a camogie game, cooking and sewing in the big cookery room, the singing class with some of our favourite songs, being asked to sing at High Mass in the Church gallery during a school retreat – I still can smell the incense and atmosphere of quiet and peace that prevailed in the cookery room, which was used as a retreat centre for a day or two.
I look back with fond memories of my time at school. I appreciate and am thankful for the educational opportunities I got there. Later in life I came to the realisation that the Sisters invested enormous energy and dedication to the school.
Another pupil (1957-1962) remembers School Uniform and Giggles
The uniform was also a novelty for a while. It consisted of a green gym-slip, which was designed to allow for five years of upward and outward growth and a beige knitted shirt of abrasive wool, complete with collar and three buttons down the front. Add to this a green tie and ‘the look’ was complete. In warm weather we were allowed to wear a white blouse and green cardigan but I think that came some time later.
It was during this year that I became a giggler. This is an affliction that I have never managed to overcome. It caused me to spend occasional short periods in the hall. The danger there was that if the Principal happened to see me the consequences could be more serious still. Therefore, it was important to be on the alert for ‘the beads’ (the wooden Rosary worn by the nuns). That was the clue to skip behind the longest coat hanging in the hall and hope for the best.
The happiest school year
I often remember the help and encouragement I received from the nuns who taught me in the last three years of school. Their hard work was not appreciated at the time by me but I realised as time went on and maturity set in that I was indeed fortunate to have had such dedicated teachers in PCA. It was in the final year of school that our class really seemed to gel. From a massive forty plus in First Year we had dwindled to a mere dozen. Looking back on that final year, it was one of the happiest of my life.
Half day and dances
The idea of a half-day of school on Saturday would horrify today’s students and teachers alike. When I tell my family that we had to get permission from school to go to a dance, even before asking our parents, they find it impossible to believe. It was a different world and it made us what we are today, for better or for worse.
Plays and Concerts
In December of 1961 a play about the Foundress, Nano Nagle was performed by the pupils of the Secondary School. The previous year, a variety concert was held in the school also. One of the items was a hilarious version of ‘The Musicians of Bremen’ and another was a dramatization of Percy French’s song ‘Phil the Fluter’s Ball’. Sr. Clement was the producer.
Memories of one of the first boys to attend the Pres in 1964
I remember visiting the school on the Friday before my first day to confirm my application and meeting with a number of the nuns, Sr. Stanislaus and Sr. Mary McDermott, in the Old School Building (currently the Woodwork Room). Sr. Mary was a sister of Bosco McDermott who was due to play in the All-Ireland Football Final the following Sunday, so we chatted about that. Sr. Stanislaus was very interested (anxious) to know what boys would be interested in as we were the first boys to enrol in the school.
The PCA school register of September 1964 lists the boys in first year:
Seán de Búrca, Antoine Ó Ceallaigh, Seán Ó Cuilleanáin, Caoimhín Ó Donnacha, Tomás Ó Donnacha, Máirtín Ó Donnacha, Mícheál Ó Poniard, Mícheál Ó Seachnasaigh, Seosamh Mac Suibhne, Sean Ó Ceallaigh, Maoilseachlainn O Domhanain, Pádraig Ó Fathaigh, Mícheál Mac Giollarnáith, Pádraig Mac Giollarnáith, Pádraig Ó Gionnain, Neol Ó Grádaigh, Lucás Ó Gloinn, Gearóid Mac Oirealla, Noel Ó Riain, Tomás Mac an Ghoill, Tomás Piaras de Buitléir.
Other boys registered in other classes: Pádraic Ó Dúbháin, Séamus de Búrca, Tomás Ó hUiginn, Seán Ó Dorain, Seán Ó Fearghail, Pádraic Ó Ceithearnaigh,, Eoin Mac Gloinn agus Cristóir Ó Cobhtaigh.
Father Martin Gleeson (Athenry Curate, 1963-1971) on PCA becoming co-educational
In 1963 there were approximately 100 girls attending the Secondary School. There was no Secondary School or Vocational School for boys who had to travel to Loughrea or Galway for their secondary education. In 1964, at the request of Canon Heaney and the Presentation Sisters, Archbishop Walsh allowed the school to be open to boys as well as girls. He had done this all over the Diocese to help to educate future emigrants. Emigration was part of Irish life at the time. In this Archbishop Walsh was ahead of his time. In the beginning people could hardly imagine boys going into the convent school but it did happen and the number of boys attending the school grew as the years went by and it did not take long until people accepted it as normal.
1964-PCA’s first Football team trained by Fr. Gleeson
Front, l-r: Tony Kelly, John Burke, Michael Shaughnessy, Luke Glynn, Tom Donohue, Pierce Butler, Paddy Fahy and Jarlath Burke (inset). Back, l-r: Noel O’Grady, Eugene Glynn, Gerry Kelly, John Doran, Gerry Corley, John Cullinane, Christy Coffey and Kevin Donohue.
1965 PCA Football team trained by Fr. Gleeson
Front, l-r: Richard Mulkerrins, John Burke, Michael Poniard, Tony Kelly, Paddy Fahy, Johnny Gannon, Michael Shaughnessy, Tom Donohue and Mixie Donohue.
Back, l-r: Luke Glynn, Gerry Kelly, Pakie Flannery, Noel O’Grady, Stephen Cloonan, Mattie Lane, Gerry Corley, Pierce Butler and Kevin Donoghue
Father Gleeson continues:
I had no official position in the school but I took a keen interest in the games of football and hurling. I remember dragging posts from the wood in Clarinbridge behind my Morris Minor car out to the side of the main road where they were picked up by a lorry and brought to my house in the New Line. There I painted them and then erected them in the Convent grounds.
The parish field in Raheen was purchased about 1965. This provided space for competitive games. It was purchased by the Parish and was to be regarded as Parish Grounds catering for different sports – nine and a half acres for £1350 and Bertie Powell, the owner, gave £50 back when he knew it was to be a sports field.
Staff at that time were:
Sr. Stanislaus, Sr. Kathleen Hallinan, Mary Agatha O’Grady and myself. Over the next few years, staff changes left only Sr. Stan and myself to be joined by other Srs: Patricia Whyte (Conleth), Carmel Raftery, Nuala Newell, De Montford and Meadb Lydon, who taught languages and being a professional dancer taught the students how to ‘tip on the light fantastic toe’.
Proposal to extend the school in 1964
In correspondence dated 28/9/1964 from J.K. Barrett, Chartered Architect, Cork to the Rev. Mother, Mary of the Sacred Heart, Tuam, there is mention of extending the school at an extimated cost of £65,000. Further letters mention an upward revised plan to erect additional rooms to a design and a cost of £130,000. However, nothing came of it as the country was living through the hard time of the sixties.
1966 Commemoration of the 1916 Rising
1966 was the 50th anniversary of the 1916 Rising and as a history teacher I got the students involved in doing projects on that very important episode in our fight for freedom. As Athenry played a part in that rising we were able to get first-hand accounts of events in the local area at the time from people like Mr. Monaghan and Mr. Hynes (late of Cross St.) who sadly are no longer with us.
This was also the year when Galway won the first of the Three-in-a Row All Ireland football finals and the award for the best project on 1916 was a book on that game by the late Jack Mahon. It was won by Gerry Curley from Cahoroyn.
Students who later entered the Presentation Order
They were Sr. Maria Ward who is now leader of our Athenry Community, Eileen Kearney who has spent her life as a missionary in New Zealand & South America and Sr. Mary Gannon who has retired from teaching at our Gaeltacht school in Tiernea Conamara. (Mary Teresa Mc Donagh who was a Home Economics at PCA in the 80s also became a Presentation Sr. and is now like Eileen, a missionary in South America.)
Teachers during these years:
Sr. Benedict (Catherine) O’Brien (Principal), Sr. G. Kilbane (Gaeilge), Sr. Teresa Conroy (Religion), Sr. Mary McDermott (History/Geography), Sr. G. Morris (Latin), Sr. B. Raftery (Botany), Sr. Stanislaus Taylor (English), Sr. Patricia Whyte (Industrial History/ Commerce), Sr. P. Noone, Kathleen Hallinan (Algebra), Mary Agatha O’Grady (French), Mary Cresham (Botany), Mary Keary (Bookkeeping), Maeve Lydon (French) and Nuala Newman.
Students: Mary Cavanagh, Anne Cavanagh, Florrie O’Shea, Noreen Hession, Anne O’Reilly, Mai Coyle, Esther Barrett, Phil Caulfield, Olive Coffey, Ruth Dobbyn, Ann Fox, Maura Ruane, Mary Mulkerrins, Cissy Mulkerrins, Geraldine Kearns, Noreen Burke, Maureen Burke, Maide Burke, Kathleen Burke, Chrisie Burke, Monica Fahy, Eileen Fahy, Collette Keogh, May Monaghan, Bríd Monaghan, Bridgie Loughnane, Mary Gannon, Carmel Gilligan, Maureen Gill, Della Gill, Irene Conroy, Sal Kelly, Carmel Dolan, Patty Nally, Deborah Taylor, Mary Corley, Florence Taylor, Patty Langan, Christina Coleman, Margaret Hession, Patricia Coady, Maura McWalter, Sadie Rabbitte, Pauline Hanley and Dympna Madden.
Musings of a 1961-1966 Idler
Life before was really great, only love and never hate till that tragic day in summer of 1961 when my parents decided that come September I must join the Clochar na Toirbhirte Secondary School. My dream was shattered. So in some dark and quiet place you sit by the river for the last time thinking how you are and what is now, and of things to be you dare not dwell upon. You live your life but don’t know where you are going and fearful of the future because you cannot see it. So sit and think and draw your thoughts together because on the lst of September 1961 you are going to join Clochar na Toirbhirte Secondary School at Baile Átha an Rí.
On that first evening on my arrival in the town, where I was to board with my relative for the next five years, I was escorted on a walk over the Railway Bridge jingling two half crowns in my pocket and sadly thinking that this is the only link I have with home while my companion rambled on about the geography of the town. Along by the Railway Station we walked and on the way back the flat roofed building was pointed out to me where I would spend the next five years mourning and weeping in that vale of tears, just down the road from the shops. Then slowly cautiously we walked toward the building. Tension spread across my face as I spotted an impeccably well dressed nun, pleats in order, cincture polished, beads glittering. It wasn’t the same for everyone. The childhood that was mine, the happy precious golden days were over. The nun invited us into the halla. It seemed like one dark passage way. She switched on a light and handed me a typed list from the Olivetti typewriter on her desk. My name was clear on that list. She took me by the hand and welcomed me. She showed me round the five rooms. With luck I thought the obstacles will be surmountable for now. I was on the road that unconsciously I had searched for but tried to avoid, a life time to gain. We walked back together, my companion and I. We tried to reason why it was and tried to understand that with five full days up to 3.30 p.m. I would have a half day at school on Saturday plus evening study from 4-6 p.m.
So Monday morning quickly dawned. We trooped into the lst Year classroom, all thirty one of us, answering the Roll Call ‘Anseo, a Shiúir’, a horrible task that had to be done. The nun in the halla with the press open doling out books and copies, a long wait in the queue, right in the middle of it there I was hoping against hope that I’d understand what she said because all the subjects were to be studied through the medium of Irish and added to that was Latin and French.
The door opened at 8.45 a.m. Everyone pretended they were fine. It was time again to get in line. You pick up your pen, you write your name on top of the page, there is a test on the conjugation of Latin verbs. Just as I’m trying to absorb what she said, the nun in the rostrum stops. “Taispeán dom do cóipleabhar a Mháire” a deir sí. “Rinne mé dearmad ar an gcóipleabhar.” The smile she wore would give you the creeps. “Téigh abhaile agus faigh é.” Someone laughed. They think it’s a silly game. ‘Mensa, Mensa, Mensam’
I remember that day I was twelve. We lived in the Square. I had no exercise done. Off I go down the back avenue shaking at the thought of entering Northgate Street. There facing me were such shops as Doherty’s, Cheevers, Donohue’s, Hessions the butcher, Corbetts, not to mention the pubs, faces everywhere rushing through a world so fair with not a moment left. If they had time to stop and look, what a spectre they would see in green uniform, beige jumper and green blazer.
Along the street I fumbled, my steps slow, my ears quick at hearing the voices of the passers by and thinking that they must all be talking about me and knowing what’s more that there was no exercise copy to be had at my destination because the copy was in the bottom of the school bag.
The Príomh Oide, one day, having tired of all the lame excuses, ‘Rinne me dearmad, Bhí mé tinn’ and gave the ultimatum that those who were not prepared to work would have to leave off. Our parents and guardians were engaged as part of the war effort, and from then on off to school we would go, homework intact. After breakfast, off to school to meet our friends, our problems then more easily faced.
We were chatting as usual after the bell was rung between classes. We concluded that the nuns weren’t for real at all, that they emerged from the ‘Big House’ like penguins crossing the desert coming to an oasis of young damsels like ourselves. Then our hearts sank as we realized our fate. As we wandered into the room, we saw an Priomh Oide standing at the rostrum. That was an ill omen. She was a whiz at teaching Irish Grammar, with Gramadach na Gaieilge in one hand and the red biro in the other. She circled our mistakes with such great intensity. “Cén fáth nár chuir tú isteach an buailte”, she asked in a dreadful voice. “Níl fhios agam go deo”.
Determination set the theme. Sr. C. arrived on the scene to teach us the intricacies of x and y. “You cannot add cats and dogs” was her overture. But all she managed to instil in our little minds was the importance of being in earnest about Algebra. My heart was freed from torment because, at the end of a lesson one day, she said, “Bring your Camogie sticks and we’ll go to the field on Friday” (where the present College is now). My inner conflict released, I went home and searched the shed. I knew my cousin had an array of hurley sticks. As we marched to the field for Sr. C., a new growth was sown inside me and I thought to myself, ‘I will flourish yet’. It has to be said Sr. C. was the founder of Camogie in PCA and Athenry Town.
A bit of light relief was brought to the system once in a while and, to ease some of the feeling of mental defeat, Sr. T. would gently knock on the door and ask the class teacher if an elite group of sweetest song birds would accompany her to the organ Gallery to sing a requiem Mass –Dies ira-Dies illa.
So back to basics was our refrain and what might seem like global warming now, which was taboo then and better known in those days as “Bun and Foisgreamh na hÉireann.” So to this end, we were invited and encouraged to work with Sr. M.I.H. to find the answer for our future lurk. We heard about, sought and explored the rocks. We familiarised ourselves with the different layers. We studied fjords, corrie lakes and ordinance survey maps of Ireland and the world.
As we searched with all our might, we eventually learned from life itself that inspiration is what we needed; faith in ourselves and to proceed with caution was our intent.
Life is like a journey, each station that I passed through played an important part. There was joy and laughter, heartache and pain, tears and sadness too. When things were really hard and things seemed upside down, there was always someone to find a break somewhere to take away the frown.
“To be or not to be” that was the theme. Sr. Stan would arrive in laden with Shakespeare and, of course, our English essays to be returned. When you got to know her you felt it was really worth while. She took us through the drama and her favourite bit was context questions. They were sure to come up in the exam, “who said, to whom and on what occasion”. Stan loved English Literature and I presume her students too.
She was always fair and with her Domestic Science Instruction capabilities, she taught us culinary skills, mixing and matching fabrics. We even won prizes at the local Agricultural Show for designer petticoats and bloomers.
We made dresses and skirts, embroidered tray cloths and cushion covers and tea cosies.
It’s amazing the “progress” that has been made for those of us born before TV, videos, credit cards and supermarkets. Sr. Con and Mary K. passed on to the logistics of Book Keeping and Accountancy – Bunús na Tráchtála and Industrial History.
We were so familiar with the Cash Book, Journal and Ledger and with doing a balance sheet. We survived without a computer or Cash Register.
There were few motor cars around the school in those days with the exception of Miss O’G’s Morris Minor, which sometimes obstructed the passage of Mick Mannion on his way to the furnace with a bucket of coal. Material things didn’t matter really. We got by without mobile phones and holidays abroard. Lots of love, acceptance and encouragement that kept us rolling.
There was very little social interaction in those years. It was totally forbidden of course to go to the Carnival, which was held in Taylor’s field, though one or more efforts were made to peep in to see how things were going much to our own distress – in the Monday morning investigation.
Some girls went home for lunch, others from the rural areas brought a packed lunch and something to drink. McDonalds and Coco Cola were unheard of. There was no time in the evenings for roaming and lingering around the town.
Either you took your “High Nelly” and walked to the back gate before you mounted – as there was no insurance to cover cycling inside the gate. Or if you lived within the town walls you could ‘shanks mare’ home. There were the privileged few who travelled by light rail to Ballyglunin.
I’m grateful to my parents and teachers. They taught me to count, read and write but more important still they taught me about reason and insight and how to be a person of integrity. Thanks for being there for encouraging me in my aspirations and dreams.
Thanks to the following for their contribution to this part of the story: Father Martin Gleeson, Sr. Marie Ward, Marie Gardner, Luke Glynn, Sr. Mary McDermott, Freda McGough, Sr. Mary Francis Rooney and Sr. Mary Gannon.
Shovel and Spade
by Gerry Cloonan
On Lady Day 15th August 1967 I cycled to Athenry, knocked on the door of the convent and asked to see the nun in charge of the secondary school. Sr. Stanislaus met me and said, “We might need the likes of you”.
She then left and returned with the Reverent Mother, Sr. Nuala Newell. We had a chat, an interview and tea. After about 40 minutes I had a job teaching Irish, Latin, History, Religion and Games.
I was the first male teacher in Presentation College, Athenry and at the end of the interview Sr. Stanislaus said to me, “Well! You won’t come in drunk on Mondays anyway”. I was somewhat taken aback by that statement and said, “I won’t, Sister; I don’t drink”.
I suppose it was an assurance to her after hiring her first male ever to teach in Presentation College that I was wearing my pioneer pin.
Tús maith, leath na hoibre
On the first Tuesday in September 1967 I came with my “shovel and spade” to start my teaching career that was to last 40 years and finish on the 31st August 2007. The school was coeducational –about 250 pupils with classes Monday to Friday and a half-day on Saturday under the Principal, Sr. Stanislaus (left). My first year 1967/68 was very successful especially in the area of sport- Presentation College won four Connacht finals in hurling, football and handball.
Credit for these successes goes mainly to Fr. Martin Gleeson C. C. Athenry, who had trained these teams prior to my arrival in Presentation College. Some players of these teams would go on to greater sporting feats –Tom and Mixie Donoghue from Esker, Gerry Corley, Luke Glynn, Athenry and Stephen Cloonan of Clough to mention but a few. Stephen Cloonan had the honour of welcoming Pope John Paul 11 to Ireland in 1979.
From being involved in so many games and teaching so many subjects there came a great rapport and relationship between the pupils and myself that has lasted to this very day. A wonderful atmosphere was born and things only got better.
Sr. Bríd Brennan
Two schools in the area closed: Raford in 1967 and Coolarne in 1968, so September 1968 brought a huge increase to Athenry and a new principal Sr. Bríd Brennan.
Sr. Bríd was a very thorough principal, who had a comprehensive knowledge of education, respecting the dignity and value of each person and inculcating a sense of responsibility, cooperation and a proper attitude to work in all pupils and staff in the curricular and extra curricular areas.
From all this came a greater rapport and relationship between pupils and staff and respect of pupil for fellow pupils.
Everybody contributed to this Catholic ethos: everybody was appreciated and everybody benefited.
Success followed not only in exams but also in hurling, camogie, debating and music; and thriving on it all was a very colourful character from Kinvara –Fr. Martin O’ Grady who was principal in Coolarne. Fr. O’Grady believed that Presentation College, Athenry and everybody associated with it were strides ahead of every other school in Ireland. Fr. O’ Grady had some memorable sayings: one of which was for a pupil who stepped out of line “I’ll straighten you out before the fair day of Kinvara” (17th Oct). For a teacher who made a faux pax or made a bad decision “Ah you’re wet behind the ears”.
Chairs and tables for the new school was an item on the agenda of a staff meeting in 1980. Some teachers wanted chairs with wooden legs, others wanted chairs with tubular legs. Some argued that the wooden legs would break easily, others said the tubular legs would bend easily and damage the carpet and the discussion continued in this vein for some time without any agreement. Fr. O’Grady, who had been unusually quiet during this discussion, finally said: “Maybe we could get chairs without any legs at all”. That ended the meeting. Next day Sr. Bríd asked Seán Gohery and myself to go to Dublin and get chairs and tables for the new school.
Among the staff of the 1970s and 80s there was another unique character Seán Gohery from Mullagh. Seán was a very learned teacher whose wit sparkled and who believed that humour is the best icebreaker. He was always on hand to use this gift in times of crises or tension. Sadly, these two people went to the great school in the sky prematurely but their contributions to the school and the legacies they have left are huge and the school is a much poorer place without them. Leaba I measc na naomh go raibh acu beirt.
Golden age of education in PCA
Coolarne parents in 1968 were without doubt ahead of their time educationally, in so far as they had a representative body of parents to ensure their educational needs were met in Athenry. Their spokesperson was the very talented and capable Mr. Gerry Kelly of Ballyglass, Turloughmore. Sr. Bríd, realising the importance of parental involvement in education, formed a parents’ council in the early 1970s to help, advise and improve on all aspects of school life.
Gerry Kelly was elected chairperson of the first ever parents’ council of Presentation College, Athenry. The parents’ council played a huge role in the push for a new school that was opened in September 1980, the provision of the gym a short time later and the development of the school pitch. Sr. Bríd introduced the first Transition Year class in the school year 1975/76. Seventeen students took this course which, after initial teething problems, turned out to be a great success. Eighteen students opted for the second Transition Year, which was held in the year 1977/78; Frank Burke of Turloughmore was coordinator and the experience was very beneficial to all concerned. Athenry was now a great school, a friendly, welcoming place where pupils learned in a very happy atmosphere, and where Christian values were being transmitted. We were a real catholic school in the tradition of Nano Nagle, foundress of the Presentation Order. I regard the seventies as the golden era of education in Presentation College, when the school offered as near as possible a holistic education to each individual pupil.
After sixteen successful years in Athenry, Sr. Bríd was transferred to Headford to do the same all over again. The culmination of her years in Athenry was without doubt, the building and official opening of the new school in 1981. Michael Dolan chairperson of the students’ council spoke on behalf of the students.
Sr. Anne Marie Codd
In 1984 Sr. Anne Marie Codd came to Athenry as principal; a native of Wexford, she had a great interest in sport. During her four years as principal, Athenry won the senior ‘B’ All-Ireland hurling final in 1985 and the only All-Ireland Colleges Junior ‘B’ Hurling Final ever played in 1987. Coming home in Donoghues bus with the All Ireland trophies to a heroes welcome remains etched in my memory. Miko Donoghue was always generous, supportive and obliging to Presentation College Athenry. On October 1, 1986, Athenry’s first ever Board of Management met officially. The members of that historic group were: Sr. Magdalen Twohig (Chairperson), Sr. Anne Marie Codd (Secretary), Sr. Kevin Curran, Sr. Eithne Cunniffe, an tSr. Concilií Ní Chaomhánaigh, Máire O Connell, William J. Silke, Dermot McNamara, Phil Ó Cuimín, Teresa Burns (Oct.1987). In 1988 Sr. Anne Marie introduced the first musical “Oklahoma” to the school. Mrs Marie Gardner was the coordinator. This show was such a huge success that a musical has been a part of school life every year since.
Mr. Gilbert McCarthy
September 1988 Mr. Gilbert McCarthy from Kerry became the first lay principal of Presentation College. One of his first functions was to celebrate 80 years of the Presentation Order in Athenry. Archbishop Cassidy celebrated mass in the church and then blessed and opened the new computer room. Gilbert also carried out further improvements to the school pitch in Caheroyan to cater for the ever increasing extra curricular activities. He introduced Technology and Construction studies to the school in 1989. In 1995 he introduced the first resource class to cater for students with special educational needs. Ever since the resource classes are thriving in Athenry. How we care for the weak among us indicates what kind of society, community or school we have constructed. I was shocked when Gilbert informed me that he would be retiring on Feb.22nd, 2004, as I had expected him to continue for a few more years. Indeed, Gilbert’s unexpected retirement took us all by surprise. While I had to keep the show on the road in the inter regnum, I wondered what changes a new principal would bring to Presentation College, Athenry.
Mrs Mary Forde
On March 1st 2004 Mary Forde became principal. She was the fifth principal I worked with in Athenry. Mary had been on secondment to the Dept. of Education and Science for many years and had given in-service days to teachers in the vast majority of second level schools in Ireland. As a result of this she knew everything about the Department of Ed /Sc, management and schooling. She introduced many new policies to the school and Athenry benefited enormously from her experience. Success breeds success and the school is thriving under her leadership. After three years in Athenry, Mary returned to the Department and I became principal on the 1st March 2007. Mr. Luke Glynn was appointed Deputy Principal. I had been Deputy Principal for 36 years– the longest serving Deputy principal in Ireland. I’d say that my record of 36 years as deputy principal would never be broken. Everything went well for Mr. Glynn and myself for the next six months until I retired on the 31st August 2007.
Mairéad Meehan Trophy
The outstanding memory of my short principalship is without doubt Achievements Day, 18th May, 2007. The Meehan family of Caltra and the Fitzgerald family of Corofin presented the Mairéad Meehan trophy to the school to be presented to the leading female sports personality of the year. Mairéad Meehan had been a valued teacher whose untimely death earlier in the year had shocked staff, pupils and all who knew her. Words alone, no matter how finely woven, could never fully describe the amazing atmosphere in the school that day. It was a sublime day in the annals of Presentation College Athenry.
The graduation mass for the Leaving Certs and their parents and guardians is always a very special occasion but the May, 2007 graduation mass was my last official function as principal and was therefore somewhat historic for me personally. In my address I asked the Leaving Certs to do three things everyday: firstly, do a good turn everyday; secondly, deny yourself something everyday; remember if you’re not able to say ‘no’ when it’s alright to say ‘yes’ you won’t be able to say ‘no’ when it’s important you say ‘no’; and thirdly, say a prayer everyday; remember if you’re too busy to pray, you are too busy. The day-to-day running of the school and state exams went very well. I am grateful to Mary Forde, Luke Glynn (Deputy Principal) and all the staff for their support and goodwill during my short tenure as principal.
Sporting ambassadors of PCA
Students reaching their full potential in accordance with the Presentation Ethos always took pride of place but sport was a close second surely.
Rugby is a game for ruffians played by gentlemen,
Soccer is a game for gentlemen played by ruffians,
Gaelic football is a game for ruffians played by ruffians,
Hurling is a game for gentlemen played by gentlemen and
Camogie is popular in Athenry since the early 1960s, when it was first introduced by Sr. Kathleen Hallinan and Sr. Stanislaus Taylor. A grant was then procured to level and re-seed the playing pitch and when Martin Moloney provided and erected the goalposts, the seeds of many camogie successes were sown.
Securely saved in the album of my memory are the many achievements of pupils of PCA Athenry. Frank Burke of Turloughmore, John and Pascal Ryan, Killimordaly and Michael King, Gurteen featured in Galway’s All Ireland victory in 1980. Tom Donohue, Esker, won an All- Ireland with Offaly in 1981. Eanna Ryan and Tony Keady Killimordaly and Martin Naughton, Turloughmore won All-Ireland Finals in1987 and 88. Tomás Mannion, Carrarea starred for Galway footballers in 1998 and 2001.
In my forty years there have been many outstanding moments- some even bordering on the bizarre. Our big moment in hurling must surely have been drawing with St. Flannan’s College, Ennis in the All-Ireland Final in 1976. The Ryan twins, Paschal and John, were the stars of the day; we had our chance and missed it! One of the many hilarious moments must have been the day we forgot to bring our goalkeeper Pat Fox. Fr. O’ Grady, team manager, was lining out the team in the dressing room in Ballinasloe when we discovered that Pat Fox was back in Athenry in class. Needless to say, there was consternation between Fr. O’Grady, Seán Gohery and myself as to whose responsibility it was to ensure that Fox was brought to the match. Another hilarious incident occurred in Ballinderreen in the Connacht Junior Hurling Final in 1969. We were playing Gort. At the end of the game we had won as we thought, so did the spectators! Our captain Stephen Cloonan had even made the victory speech when someone rushed into our dressing room to inform us that we had in fact lost. To this very day most people at the match claim that the referee entered the scores wrongly in his notebook; so Gort were declared the winners. It gives me great pleasure when I meet players who represented our school over the years. Sport is our common bond and we relive the many memories which we shared together.
Other Great Hurlers
Many other great hurlers also come to mind: Brian Feeney, John Feeney, Joe Rabbitte, Gerry Dempsey, Tom Monaghan, Seán Glynn. Ciarán O’ Donovan, John Hardiman, Gerry Keane, Kieran Rabbitte, Paul Cooney, Gerry Burke, Eamon Burke, Liam Burke, Cian Burke, Jodie Connolly, Mícheál Donoghue and many others too numerous to mention, all great ambassadors of Presentation College, Athenry. I remember the clouds of euphoria and pride when the pupils of our school brought Minor, Under 21, Intermediate, Senior and Club All Irelands to Athenry. It was great to see our own making it to the top in Croke Park in football and hurling.
Presentation College Athenry’s Greatest ever Hurling Team 1964—2008.
Selecting a team for any given game is no easy task but selecting the best team over a period of 44 years is very subjective. The difficulty lies in comparing hurlers from different eras. I value my friends too much to name my selection here, so I leave it to you the reader to select the greatest hurling team since Presentation Convent, Athenry, became Presentation College, Athenry, in 1964. Some players, from the College’s roll of honour, who have represented the county at Minor, or a higher grade since 1964 are listed below and may help in your selection. However, other players not on this list may also come into the equation.
Students of Presentation College who represented the County at Minor or Higher Level Hurling or Football.
Athenry Killimordaly Turloughmore
Brady, Richard Burke, Eamon Burke, Cian
Burke, Conor Cannon, Niall Burke, Frank
Corley, Gerry Connolly, Declan Burke, Pat
Crimmins, Michael Cooney, Noel Collins, Michael
Dempsey, Gerry Cooney, Paul Greaney, Seán
Donohue, David Donohue, Mixie Holland, Gerry
Donohue, Shane Donohue, Tom Holland, Joseph
Feeney, Brian Earls, Niall Hurney, Pat
Feeney, John Fahy, Tom Naughton, Martin
Gannon, Mattie Haverty, Michael O’Shaughnessy, Darren
Gibbons, Niall Hardiman, Gerry
Glynn, Luke Keady, Tony
Glynn, Seán Madden, Paul Monivea/Abbeyknockmoy
Hanley, Brian Monaghan, Tom Conroy, Martin
Hardiman, John Ryan, Éanna Culkin, John
Holian, Gerry Ryan, John Mannion, Tomás
Hynes, Seán Ryan, Paschal Ruane, Stephen
Kelly, Gerry Killererin Craughwell
Kilcommons, Ronan Burke, Jarlath Cheevers, Justin
Madden, Luke Connolly, Jody
Monaghan, Dermot Clarinbridge Rabbitte, Kieran
O’Donovan, Ciarán Donoghue, Mícheál
Poniard, Aidan Kilconieron
Rabbitte, Joe Burke, Liam
Cloonan, Stephen Loughrea
King, Michael Powell, Philip
Camogie Queens of PCA
I remember with justifiable pride the successes of the school in the 1970s and 80s when we were kings on the hurling fields and queens on the camogie fields with Midge Poniard, Ann Burke, Marian Duffy, Sarita Coady, Gretta O’Brian, Ann Ryan and many more. In later years Darina Ryan, Lorraine Ryan, Noreen Coen, Jessica Gill, Deirdre Ward, Denise Gilligan and many others kept the flag flying. Winning the senior and junior All Ireland Camogie finals on the same day in 1974 is without doubt the highlight of Camogie in Athenry.
I also recall our many successes in debating and public speaking, music, rugby, soccer, basketball, athletics and foremost in the album of my mind are the 11 All Ireland victories in quiz, Tráth na gCeist; wonderful pupils, wonderful victories and treasured memories.
However, not everybody can be a winner, not everybody can win an all Ireland; so let me not forget the important contribution and achievement of each individual pupil whose very presence, personality and attitude enriched Athenry’s unique school spirit and atmosphere.
I value these unsung heroes of the school just as much as the All-Ireland winners and due honour must go to them. A few more come to mind: Joe Healy, James Kilkelly, Peter Feeney, Ciarán Cannon and Bernadette Pendergast who keeps us “up to date with Galway Bay FM”.
I remember the visit in1984 of Sean McBride, President of Amnesty International, son of Maud Gonne, former chief of staff of the IRA who addressed the school community in the assembly hall–a wonderful day in the life of the school.
Justin Cheevers Award
I have vivid memories of the acceptance speech of Michael Ward of Killimordaly, the first recipient of the Justin Cheevers award, presented to the school by Mary and Robert Cheevers of Craughwell, in memory of their son Justin, a student who collapsed during the November break in 1990 and died a short time later. Justin Cheevers memory is kept alive in Athenry every year on Achievements Day.
“ Ní bhíonn an sólás gan an dólás ina orlaí tríd”
I pray that teachers and pupils of Presentation College who have gone to their eternal reward have found happiness with their Maker in the big school in the sky. The finality of death puts everything into perspective. Ar dheis lámh Dé go raibh siad uilig.
The ordinations to the priesthood of past pupils: Mícheál Mannion, Carrarea and Robert McNamara, Prospect, were wonderful occasions for themselves, their families, their parishes and Presentation College, Athenry. Gura fada buan iad beirt ag craobhscaoileadh briathar Dé.
Of the many in-service days we had, one stands out where the speaker/ facilitator spoke at length of the importance of treating everybody with dignity, respect and tolerance, despite differences in race, colour, class or creed. He read the following poem to illustrate his message:
The Cold Within
Six humans trapped by circumstances
In bleak and bitter cold,
Each one possessed a stick of wood,
Or so the story is told.
Their dying fire is in need of logs,
The first man held his back,
For of the faces round the fire,
He noticed one man black.
The next man looking across the way,
Saw one not of his church,
And couldn’t bring himself to give
The fire his stick of birch.
The third one sat in tattered clothes,
He gave his clothes a hitch,
Why should his log be put to use,
To warm the idle rich?
The rich man just sat back and thought
Of the wealth he had in store,
And how to keep what he had earned,
From the lazy shiftless poor.
The black man’s face bespoke revenge
And the fire passed from his sight,
For all he saw in his piece of wood,
Was a chance to spite the white.
The last man of this forlorn group
Did naught except for gain,
Giving only to those who gave,
Was how he played the game.
Their logs held tight in death’s still hands
Was proof of human sin.
They didn’t die from the cold without,
They died from the cold within.
It is people that matter
I remember with gladness the wonderful friends, friendships, camaraderie, support and good-will that I experienced over the last 40 years in Athenry, where I touched the lives of about 5,000 pupils, my own wife Helen O’Brien and our family included. I pray to God that my humble efforts improved their lives and made life easier and happier for them all and helped them cope with the storms and stresses of life. May the hinges of our friendship never grow rust.
I know also, that I made many mistakes down the years and I apologise profusely to anybody I hurt or wronged in any way. We must always remember that it is people that matter (not money or anything else) and each person is precious and deserving of our greatest care and respect.
Let us treasure our Christian heritage and look on it as a building stone for the future where people will discover their true identity and learn to cope with the highs and lows of everyday life. Teachers are always at the coalface of youngsters problems: bullying, violence, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, sex abuse and so on. Teachers have awesome power and influence on pupils and pupils rely on them. Teachers will be remembered, thanked and loved only by those pupils on whose hearts they have left their footprints. I want young people to remember that teachers are always there for them as a loyal, reliable and helpful support.
Long before we heard of school buses, pupils walked or cycled to school without any
fear for their personal safety; while today some pupils are brought by taxi and others drive to school themselves. The impoverished conditions of the 60s, 70s and 80s are well forgotten, while pupils today seem to have plenty money. Very few, if any bring lunch to school nowadays. Instead they buy lunch in the school canteen or in a restaurant out town. Chalk, glantóirs and blackboards have given way to markers, whiteboards, projectors, videos and all kinds of modern technology. While there has been a huge increase in pupil numbers down the years, there has been a huge decrease in the number of nuns in classrooms.
We have become very affluent in recent times. Yet, despite all the material benefits of this affluence we still crave for a more meaningful life. Yet again, the old rules re-assert themselves to assure us that “all that glisters is not gold” and then we we-invent the wheel to explain that the traditional spiritual and moral value system, the ancient truths and the natural order need to be re-embraced.
Our actions will repay us in kind.
It is important that life, work and recreation have meaning and value for people; so must homework and study, and the right attitude to these less attractive aspects of school life can make them more meaningful and very worthwhile. There is a story about meaning that goes like this: a man travelling along a road comes across three men breaking stones with sledgehammers. He asks them what they are doing. One replies that he is breaking rocks. The next replies that he is earning a living for his family. Finally the third states that he is building a cathedral. All three are doing the same work, but each has a different meaning to what he is doing.
“The Tacklings will always fit another man”
Forty years is a long time in the one school, yet I was just a cog in the machine of a great team of pupils, parents and staff where each member played a vital part. No man or woman is indispensable and as they say in farming parlance: “the tacklings will always fit another man”. The school is in most capable hands and is well equipped to face the challenges of today and tomorrow. I wish that Presentation College may prosper, develop and continue to be a shining light in the academic, cultural, curricular and sporting areas. I will view the school’s achievements from the stand while I find a soft paddock to rest and enjoy the wonderful memories of forty years in Presentation College.
Enriching presence of the Presentation Sisters
My teaching career started with the Presentation Sisters who are celebrating 100 years in Athenry this year 2008. It is right and fitting to say thanks and show our appreciation to all the sisters living and dead, who worked so hard for so little to improve our lot. For their kindness, generosity and contribution to society in Athenry and further afield; we salute them, we are enriched by their presence and we say míle buíochas. The effect the nuns had in Athenry and the legacy they have left for the last 100 years cannot be fully reflected in words or in any tributes I pay to them. They are thought of with affection, love and gratitude, not only by those whom they taught but also by the people of the locality, the catchment area and those further afield who know the good and holy work they do.
Above all we thank the Presentation Order for the legacy of the catholic school, the catholic ethos and the strong spiritual and moral value system they have handed down to us– values that have stood good to this community for the last 100 years. Now that the Presentation Order has handed over the trusteeship of the school to C.E.I.S.T; it would be difficult to exaggerate the debt owed by generations of Athenry people to the nuns especially in the areas of education and pastoral care.
However, times and attitudes are changing and “eaten bread is soon forgotten”. It would be pity if the unique and immeasurable contribution of the religious to the Irish people were ever forgotten. “The people who drink the water should remember with gratitude those who dug the well”.
The last thing I did on the 31st August 2007 was to call to the convent where it all began, to say thanks for the kindness, support and generosity shown to my family and me for 40 years. Needless to say I was afforded the same Presentation welcome.
Míle buíochas agus go maire siad céad bliain eile
A Teacher’s Prayer
I want to teach my pupils how
to live their life on earth,
To face its struggle and its strife and
to improve their worth;
Not just the lesson in a book or where
the rivers flow,
but how to choose the proper path
wherever they may go.
To understand Eternal Truth and
know right from wrong.
To gather all the beauty of a flower
and a song.
For if I help the world to grow in
wisdom and in grace,
then I shall feel that I have won and
I have filled my place.
And so I ask your guidance God
that I may do my part,
for character and confidence
and happiness of heart.
The Principalship of Sister Stanislaus-Teresa Mary Taylor
Sister Stanislaus’ overview of those years
I was born in Castleffrench between Mountbellew and Ballyforan in 1914. I attended Castleffrench National School (a two teacher school), which I enjoyed. At fourteen I went to Presentation Convent Secondary School, Tuam as a boarder and sat my Leaving Certificate there. I toyed with the idea of becoming a missionary Sister, influenced no doubt by visiting missionary Sisters who came to the school seeking vocations and recruiting helpers for the work of evangelisation. One of my teachers advised me to remain in the home mission and so I became a postulant in Presentation Convent, Tuam on 15th October 1932. That was the year of the Eucharistic Congress in Dublin. I attended the Congress and I can still remember the crowds and the unforgettable tenor voice of John McCormack. After six months as a postulant, I was received into the Order as a novice for two years. As a novice I wore a white veil. In 1935 I took my vows for three years and wore a black veil. I made my final profession and took my vows for life in 1938. I was now a Presentation Sister ready to serve the Lord in the Convents of the Archdiocese of Tuam.
I first arrived in Athenry in September 1956. Sr. Rita O’Toole was Principal. I taught Religion, English, History, Geography and Home Economics. I became Principal in August 1966. I much preferred teaching to administration. I found it a difficult period especially with meetings regarding catchment area and the closure of Coolarne School. I felt unequal to the strain of being Principal and being responsible for everything. I made my request to our Superior in Tuam and was relieved of that burden and returned to Tuam in 1968. With the increasing number of boys on roll, it was quite obvious we needed a male teacher. I therefore appointed Gerry Cloonan on the 1st of August 1967. It proved a wise choice as he has given forty years of loyal service to Presentation College, Athenry.
Conditions left much to be desired because the original plan for the second storey was never built due to insufficient funds. At that time the Sisters in charge put an embargo on going into debt.
My memory of the pupils is very positive. They were enthusiastic, ambitious and co-operative. We had few if any disciplinary problems. The pupils appreciated the education provided and their aim was to qualify for University, Teacher Training, Civil Service and Nursing.
The extra curricular events were Music, Elocution, Camogie, Hurling and Football. Games were played on the school pitch which was very uneven. Later we got a grant to level the field. Martin Maloney provided and erected the goal posts.
Memories of 1966 School Fees and The Lost Sheep
from Paul Holland
I came to Presentation Secondary School, Athenry in September 1966 almost by accident.
The story actually began in the Spring when my father brought twelve sheep to Athenry Mart. Disappointed at the bids, he prepared to drive them the five miles home. Before that, however, he had to have a pint in Fox’s so he left the animals in a field belonging to an obliging friend.
Two pints later, he returned to an empty field. Futile searches and enquiries followed, including an announcement from the pulpit. That divine assistance led to the recovery of nine of them almost immediately. Three remained lost and here the story ended – we thought.
At that time, I was in Sixth Class in Primary School and was regarded as a bright and naïve student. Seventh Class beckoned for me and a tilt at a scholarship exam for some boarding school (St. Enda’s, St. Mel’s, who knows?). I envisioned adventures and fame, having read too many English comics and books. Mid-July 1966 came and the holidays.
The days might have been hot but cold reality began to bite. I dreaded going back to Primary School and Seventh Class. I woke at nights from dreams of the schoolroom, knowing they wouldn’t be dreams for much longer. For the first time I thought of Presentation, Athenry which had gone co-ed only two years before. My parents weren’t too keen- the fee was £12, in those days a sum you wouldn’t spend lightly. Besides, they told me I was only twelve – still a child. Time enough next year!
One week before the end of the holidays, my father came home excited. The three lost sheep had been hiding anonymously in a large flock and only recently had the owner counted them. I was only half-listening but I jumped when my father said “…And he took them from me for £12 there and then…” Done and dusted.
We had long adjusted to the loss of the sheep so the money was a windfall, enough to send me to Presentation, Athenry. This time I wasn’t going to be denied.
Two days later my mother and I went to the school and met Sr. Stanislaus, the Principal. Questions were raised. Is he not a bit young? Do you not want to stay in Primary and try for a scholarship? Even the nuns feel they have to play hard to get, I thought, and my excitement grew at what was ahead of me – five of the best years of my life.
There were fifty of us in that Firsts Year intake, an unprecedented number at the time. Competition for places lay in the future. Our numbers were swollen by people from Raford and Coolarne schools which closed in 1967 and 1968 respectively. In 1968 we got a new Principal, Sr. Brid Brennan.
I missed the Presentation when I left it in 1971. Years later, there are times when I still do.
School Staff who taught First Years in 1966/67
Miss Keary (Irish, Commerce and Geography), Maeve Lydon (English and French), Mary Culkin-later Creshem (Maths and Science), Sr. Immaculate Heart (History), Sr. De Monfort (Latin) and Sr. Eugenia (Civics).
Front, l-r: Ann Doherty, Margaret Fahy, Ann Brady, Maureen Jennings, Ann Connaughton. Back, l-r: Mary Teresa Keane, Marguerite Langan, Bridie Costello, Margaret Loughnane, Eileen Madden, Ann Feeney.
First science Classes
Our first classes in Science with Miss Culkin (Creshem) involved learning all about precise measurement. This is essential to the study of any branch of Science. Sharing equipment with another student was usual when doing experiments. This is totally acceptable and in first year, we managed to get a fair few practical sessions completed. However, we really did not have the equipment to carry out enough experiments in later years and the amount of material to be taught probably did not allow a lot of time for practical work. A Science teacher in Ireland in those years had to try to teach Science with few resources, meaning that there were constraints on money from the Department of Education for laboratory work done by the students. Furthermore, practical work in experiments was not examined at all.
Front, l-r: Michael Shaughnessy, Noel Ryan, Luke Glynn, Michael Poniard and Tom Donohue. Back, l-r: Tom Coffey, Paddy Forde, John Cullinane, John Burke, Gerry Corley, Thomas Cheevers and Kevin Donoghue.
Photo: Luke Glynn
Memories of 1967/68
I was fourteen years old when I went to Presentation College, Athenry, in September1967. I had intended to stay for one year and then join a convent in Birr, Co. Offaly as a novice nun!
By the time that I got to the end of my first year and had exposure to all the handsome young lads in the senior classes, all thoughts of joining the nuns had evaporated! That was the end of that particular career choice!
I have memories of a rather “wild” first year, very tame by 2008 standards! I was brought before the teachers in the staff room on at least two occasions.
My misdemeanours included walking down the drive to the school bus in the company of a boy in my year! On another occasion one of the nuns found my name written on the blackboard with the name of a boy in my class who was supposed to be a boyfriend, and you were not allowed boyfriends in first year!
1967 School Staff
Sr. Stanislaus (Principal), Mrs Mary Cresham, Ms. Mary Keary,
Srs. Eugenia, Gertrude, Nuala Newell, Carmel Raftery, Mary McDermott, Gerry Cloonan, Mary Healy and Ms. McCarrick.
PCA’s Camogie Team with Mr. Gilbert McCarthy in 1967/68
Front: Anne Duffy, Margaret Poniard, Nora Glynn, Maureen Gannon, Irene O’Brien,
Brigid Kelly, Bernadette Loughlin, Marion King. Back: Gilbert McCarthy, Violet Glynn, Helen Morris, Anne Donoghue, Cecelia Mullins, Ann Finnerty, Kitty Kinneen, Anne Marie O’Brien, Mary Cloonan
Photo: Mary Keary
1968 Connacht Colleges Senior Hurling Champions (Div. B)
Front, l-r: K. Donohue, M. Poniard, Luke Glynn, C. Coffey (Capt.), N. Ryan, T. Coffey, J. Gannon, M. Donohue and P. Flannery. Back, l-r: G. Cloonan (Trainer), T. Donohue, G. Gorley, T. Higgins, J. Cullinane, S. Cloonan, M. Lane, E. Glynn, M. Shaughnessy and K. Barrett. (Absent from photo: T. Kelly)
Music and Jumping into a Hole
During that first year the nuns were very strict. I remember Sisters Stanislaus, Gertude, Eugenia, De Montford and Teresa. Sr. Teresa was my piano teacher and I did not look forward to these classes. On one occasion, on my way to my weekly piano lesson, I asked Mick Mannion the school gardener and handyman, if he would allow me to jump into the hole he was digging! Anything was better than having my fingers tapped with a pencil when I got a note wrong, as I invariably did because I neglected my piano practice.
I still remember, as if it were yesterday, praying fervently for divine intervention amid feelings of panic as I sat outside the music room awaiting to take my piano exam, and the astonishment a couple of weeks later when I learned that I had passed with a rather decent mark of 85%!
1968 Connacht Colleges Junior Hurling (Div. B) Champions
Front, l-r: G. Connaughton, J. Gannon, M. Poniard, T. Donohue (Capt), T. Coffey, M. Donohue, S. Staunton, M. Farrell and K. Barrett. Back, l-r: P. Forde, L. Glynn, K. Donohue, G. Corley, P. Flannery, M. Lane, M. Shaughnessy, S. Cloonan, B. Hardiman, E. Glynn and Gerry Cloonan (Trainer).
I also had my share of embarrassing moments that I know most children have at some point during their school years. Mine involved an autograph book! The book was taken out of my bag by the boys during my lunch break. They passed it round the class and wrote “naughty” poems in it. The autograph book somehow landed in the hands of Sr. Gertrude who asked for the owner to come forward! There was nowhere to hide as my name was written on the inside front cover!
I was marched off to the convent to present it to the Mother Superior to have it burned in the furnace. I was reprimanded and told what a disappointment I was to the school! The boys who wrote in the book were let off…….come on now lads and own up! It’s never too late!
More memories of 1967/68
Around this time Gerry Cloonan joined the teaching staff. He was our Irish and Latin teacher. I remember his first car was a Morris Minor. We derived great entertainment from watching his efforts at parking it every morning while he was learning to drive. Gerry was also our Gaelic games coach, manager and organiser.
We had school on Saturday mornings and competitive games against other schools were held in the afternoon. We enjoyed great success in 1967/68 winning four Connacht finals – Senior Hurling, Junior Hurling, Junior Football and Junior Handball. This was a wonderful achievement for a co-ed school as there were only a small number of boys to choose from.
Most of the classes were housed in pre-fabs at the time with a green space where the “New School” now stands. We often used this open space for games at lunch time and we used “Raheen” for after school training.
Many of our lunch breaks were spent wandering around town, a freedom that is probably not possible or feasible today. We enjoyed great freedom because of the smaller numbers and the fact that most people went home for lunch.
1968 Connacht Colleges Junior Football (Div. C) Champions
Front, l-r: P. Corley, P. Flannery, T. Coffey, E. Glynn, G. Corley (Capt.), J. Burke, M. Farrell, B. Hardiman, K. Barrett and J. Quinn. Back, l-r: L. Glynn, T. Donohue, M. Shaughnessy, K. Donohue, M. Donohue, M. Poniard, M. Lane, J. Gannon, S. Cloonan and Gerry Cloonan (Trainer).
Thanks to the following for their contribution to this part of the story:
Sr. Mary Teresa Taylor (Stanislaus), Des Glynn, Maureen Cannon (Royston-Lee), Paul Holland, Luke Glynn, Gerry Cloonan and Tom Coffey.
The Principalship of Sister Bríd Brennan
Sister Bríd’s overview of those years
It was the last weekend of August 1968. Three days before that I had been informed, coming off Retreat, that I was being appointed to Athenry Secondary School as Principal, replacing Sr. Stanislaus, now Teresa Mary. Tuam had been my home for the previous 17 years through Novitiate, University, and 10 years’ teaching in the boarding school. I had never been in Athenry, either town or Convent though it is only 20 or so miles from Tuam.
Athenry via Monivea
Enclosure was still a reality, though change was in the air; for instance, most of us were changing back to our baptismal names, we were saying the Office morning and evening in English rather than in Latin and we had gratefully discarded the unwieldly bandeau and guimpe –vestiges of eighteenth century dress which resembled a helmet and shield! Since none of the three of us knew the way to Athenry we went astray and travelled via Monivea. A portent, I reflected later, of my unpreparedness for what lay ahead.
Discipline and the boys
Over that week-end I had a hurried initiation into the mysteries of Principalship: a quick meeting with Sr Nuala Newell, RIP, then teaching Maths and R.E. in Athenry. Nuala, I recall, was anxious about discipline among the boys, but she felt confident on that score in Fr Martin O’Grady, newly appointed to Athenry since the closure the previous summer, of Coolarne school, of which he had been Principal. Sr. Stanislaus had thoughtfully left a Time-Table in place, and I met staff members Mrs. Mary Cresham, Mary Keary, Gerry Cloonan, Marie Whelan, and Mrs. Coppinger, the latter transferring from Coolarne.
Parity of esteem
Next morning I met Father Martin in the Convent parlour. As he paced to and fro with intense energy he told me the story of the closure and the Departments of Education’s promises that a new school would be quickly put in place to ensure that the transferring students would have facilities far superior to what they had in Coolarne. I was also left in no doubt that there was anxiety in the parishes and homes of these students that they would receive parity of esteem with the students already enrolled. Indeed, it was obvious that Martin saw this as his mission.
Empathy with the grey-clad students
I remember – or do I imagine it? – on the following Monday morning seeing what appeared to be hundreds of grey-clad students, of all shapes and sizes, wending their way from the yellow buses, through the Convent gates and up the avenue. I experienced a strong sense of empathy with them since I was in a somewhat similar position.
And do I imagine that we had lovely sunny weather that September and that local students used hang round outside the school building after the final bell, probably taking the measure of the new brooms, and I concluded that the socialising process between the different groups of students was already making rapid progress – given an extra dimension by the fact that we had a co-ed school!
Games and Mrs. Coady’s chicken
Still on that first week-end, as far as I remember a hasty decision was made to discontinue half-day school on Saturday as the buses were not available that day. And again, as far as I remember, the chief concern seemed to be about training for games, which, previously, had taken place on Saturday afternoons. This emphasis on games was a learning for me coming from a boarding school where games had a low priority. I was astounded at the degree of commitment of staff and students and parents to the hours of training that went into games and the time-consuming work of transporting the players – picking them up at home and leaving them home afterwards. We new recruits were soon trained in by the experts: Martin himself, Gerry Cloonan and Mary Keary, and soon got to know every village in the catchment area. On one of these forays I killed one of Mrs Coady’s chickens, who had unwisely run out on the road. Henceforth I was considered a friend of the family!
‘You’ll be a great success!’
So, during these early weeks, or even months, I had little time to reflect on what it meant to be Principal. Indeed, it wasn’t even very clear on what basis I got to be Principal at all. When told the news the previous week, Sr Mechtilde (left), herself a former Principal and a very noble and kind woman, said to me: ”Aquin, you’ll be a great success. You’re very good at writing letters”. There was no clear definition of Principalship in these days. Vision statements, school plans, interviews boards weren’t even part of our imaginings, let alone training for the job, accepted procedures, built-in supports. In fact, I would have seen myself then and for many years after as primarily a teacher, with most of my energy going into teaching, and basic administration work like paying bills and sending out school reports being looked after at the week-end. The advantage of this unclarity of roles was that one got to know the students well, and they saw one in a different capacity. Opportunities arose in English and RE classes to discuss issues and values in the context of everyday life and the emergencies that life threw up. Of course, the disadvantage was that this life-style gave little time for reflection, so important decisions were often hasty and impromptu, based on scanty information and insufficient consultation.
Strong Staff Ethos
Naturally, with the increase in the number of students – from 122 in 1963 to 386 in 1969, to 489 in 1975 – many new lay members of staff were appointed through the seventies. During this time, too, new structures like Vice-Principal and Posts of Responsibility were created. So the staff meeting became necessary. One of my strongest memories was emerging from a session with parched throat and burning eyes – all the staff, except the Sisters, had smoked throughout! Proceedings were often lightened by good-humoured banter as when Sean Gohery, RIP, enquired mock innocently “What is a spatula?” in response to Noreen Cunney’s eloquent complaints about the lack of utensils in the Home Economic’s room. At a more serious level I recall that in spite of inevitable differences over serious policy and procedural matters, there was also unanimity about certain fundamentals in what would now be called staff ethos: things like pride in the school; generosity in giving time and energy to extra curricular activities; commitment to education in the broad sense; pastoral care; praying together as a school community; providing a curriculum that responded to students’ needs and varied intelligences; a strong work ethic; socialising together – which is, certainly, a scéal eile!
Cleaning and maintenance
Ancillary staff, on the whole, came later. We always had dedicated cleaning staff: Mrs Brady, Nora Hall, and later, Anne Fitzpatrick, who also ran the canteen in the new school. Martin Maloney, who put up and maintained “the huts”, also acted as maintenance man when a door or a window had to be replaced through some unforeseen “accident”. Later, we had the dedicated service of Mattie Fitzpatrick, Anne’s husband.
Administration and swivel chairs
Gradually, it became clear that some kind of office was needed from which to run the school. So the Community, always supportive, offered a former music room in the Convent with a view of the front lawn and the two beautiful chestnut trees. It was a haven except when needed as an extra classroom, but the distance from “the huts” which increased in numbers yearly, didn’t enhance my influence on discipline.
I recall being very impressed at how modern we were becoming when we purchased a new desk and filing cabinet for this office, and a box of brown envelopes for the students’ Christmas reports. Martin O’Grady gave me a seat into Galway in his Vaux –in those days one could park in front of O’Gormans, now Easons. I hadn’t yet learned to drive.
Della Jennings joined us as Secretary in 1979, and from then on we could depend on a high degree of efficiency. We also had the assistance of Breege Cahill when things got really busy ordering furniture for the new school, and I remember Breege becoming an expert on swivel office chairs – a far cry from a few years previously when we hadn’t heard of such amenities!
The Importance of Parents
Parents were important in the school from the beginning. This seems to have arisen naturally because of the involvement of the parents in the struggle to hold on to Coolarne school and the promise of the Dept that second-to-none facilities would be provided in Athenry on the closure of Coolarne. Until 1973 parents were involved informally on matters of building and finance, due to the explosion in numbers in these years. This led to the formal setting up of a Parents’ Council- the principal aim of which was to raise 25 per cent of the capital cost of the new building.
One of their big achievements was the visit, in 1974, of Mr. Richard Burke, Minister for Education (left|), to the Convent and the school. Hopes were high when he viewed the decaying pre-fabs and pronounced them unworthy of habitation! It was to be 5 years later when a JCB digger was spotted on the playing field, the site of the proposed new school. A Building Fund was set up in 1975 and an interest-free loan of one hundred and twenty-five thousand pounds was secured from the Presentation Sisters. By 1982 over a hundred and twenty eight thousand pounds was collected locally. This showed extraordinary energy and generosity among parents and indeed the general public at a time when things were difficult, financially, for people.
The Parents’ Council first Chairperson was Gerry Kelly (left) from Turloughmore. Gerry and other parents from the area had already been involved in community development through fund-raising for the building of the Church in Lackagh and the efforts to hold on to Coolarne school. Other members of the first Parents’ Council were: see College Magazines Beginnings 1981 and College Clarion 1988.
An important aspect of our lives in those years was that we lived together as a Presentation Community. Living closely together, whether in family, sharing accommodation or in community always has its ups and downs, but it did give us the strength of a shared story and tradition, times of good fun, companionship and support, and a sense of a common purpose in education. Another advantage of living in community was the bond it created between Primary and Secondary Schools. Meeting after school, at meals, going for walks together ensured that we supported one another in our interest in our students, in educational developments and in both schools’ extra-curricular activities. Social and fund-raising events got the support of all of us and when Boards of Management were set up Primary Sisters were on the Secondary Board and vice versa. An important ritual which brought the two schools together was the practice of having a First Friday Mass in the Parish Church.
I have especially grateful memories of the retired and housekeeping Sisters who cooked for us, kept the house and the accounts, and provided a strong sense of warmth and homeliness. I recall Sr. de Pazzi Lally RIP, a native of Headford, Sr Kieran Meenaghan from Shrule, now in St Joseph’s in Tuam, and Sr Brigid Banks, a native of Tuam and now, also, in St Joseph’s. In more recent times, Sr. Riona McHugh contributed much to the community by way of good humour, warmth and management skills. Also, there was Mary Murphy, dear friend to all of us and much regretted since she died last year. Mary came as housekeeper to the Convent in the early seventies. She became, as the months and years went by, much more than house-keeper. She was home-maker, full of warmth, good sense, fun and motherliness – a great human being. She had had a hard life. It made her compassionate, shrewd in her assessment of people, sensitive to snobbery and being put down, or, as she called it “little-making”. She helped make the kitchen a warm, welcoming place – what Fr. Martin Coen identified in The Clarion as “an open convent”.
Sisters Baptist and Berchmans (left), affectionately known as Bap. and Berchs., had been “musical chairs” Superiors for years and were now retired, except that Baptist was still Manager of the Secondary School. She saw her role as signing the monthly staff salary forms, and in a general way, taking an interest in the welfare and activities of the school. Later she handed over these vague responsibilities, thus merging the roles of Manager and Principal. Most evenings, after school and before Evening Prayer at 5p.m, I’d visit them in the Community Room, where they sat, over the crosswords, on each side of the fire kept burning brightly by the ministrations of Mick Mannion. Berchmans, about 5 stone in weight, eyes alight and little, bony hands always in motion would say “Sr. Mary” – everyone was called thus as Mary preceded our Religious name – “here’s a clue you might be able to help us with”. Baptist’s invariable question was: ”How was school? Did you have a full attendance?” This was a fall-back to the days when the Convent resources depended on student attendance and capitation.
Sr. Agnes Kyne, a more austere figure, but warm-hearted when you got below the surface, was a retired Primary teacher who voluntarily taught English and Religion to First Years, over several years, both in the Huts and in Canton Hall. A story used be told of Sr. Agnes in the staff-room: one day, unusually, she got confused as to the room her class was in, in the Canton Hall, and walking into an unusually quiet room, she rather peremptorily dismissed the young woman in the teacher’s seat, taking her for a prefect. Crisis was averted when it was explained that this was a new teacher on the staff, conducting her assigned class.
Sr. Eugenia, a native of Tiaquin, taught Commerce and Religion voluntarily, for years beyond retirement. Stories abound about the assiduity with which she pursued her students for their homework. One trick she thought up was to get on to the buses in the morning, before the lads could hide, to collect the copies and have them corrected for class later.
Other Sisters who taught full-time with me were:
Sr. Phil Noone taught Science, Maths and Religion; Sr. Mary McDermott, from Williamstown, taught religion, Irish and English; Sr. Nuala Newell, RIP, a native of Headford, taught Maths and Religion; Sr. Genevieve Kilbane, a native of Mountbellew, taught English and Religion; Sr. Peter Hendron, a native of Drogheda, taught Commerce and Religion; Sr. Loreto(later Carmel) Raftery, a native of Woodlawn, taught French and Religion; Sr. Nuala Courtney, a native of Castlelambert, taught French, Irish and Religion; Sr. Anne Donohue, a native of Cooloo, taught Home Economics and Religion; Sr. Evelyn Geraghty, from Glenamaddy, taught Music and Religion; Sr. Katherine Burke, from Headford, taught Irish and was Counsellor/Careers Teacher; Sr. Mary McDonagh, from Headfrod, taught religion, Commerce, Maths and Irish; Sr. Colette Mc Closkey, a native of Drogheda, taught Music, Irish and Religion; Sr. Maire Twohig from Cork taught English and was Counsellor/Careers Teacher; Sr. Grace King, a native of Athenry, taught Home Economics, Music and Religion; Sr. Teresa Conway, recently deceased, shared her love of Music with several generations.
Sr. dominic Roche, a retired primary school teacher, had been in Athenry for many years and knew everyone in the parish. I remember her gratitude when a few of us took over the kitchen and cooked a special meal for her Golden Jubilee.
Nowadays, no longer young, when we get together we recall how we by-passed the rules when we felt they didn’t facilitate our ministry or our need to socialise! One such an event was an invitation to attend the Stations in Coens in Attymon. We ignored the traditional procedure of informing the Superior of our intention, and availed of a lift from Martin O’Grady. Another similar escapade was an organised school tour to Paris. By then we were gradually shedding the religious habit. So, anticipating the final decision we dressed in “civvies” in preparation for departure from the assembly point in front of the school. Unfortunately, word was leaked before take-off to our “boss woman” in Tuam who forthwith rang to protest. However, the local superior, a wise woman, delayed acting on her instructions until the bus had pulled out of the grounds and we were on our merry way.
What kept us together and bonded us? Apart from eating and praying together, there was a common experience of sometime, somewhere – perhaps dimly enough remembered at times – of having been called by God to the Presentation way of life with its deep commitment to education.
In retrospect, it seems to me that however haphazardly lots of areas of school life were treated, the curriculum, both formal and extra-curricular, got a lot of serious attention. In 1968 it consisted of Religion, Irish, English, Latin, French, Maths and Science, History and Geography and Commerce. Though there was no formal curriculum plan there was strong staff unanimity around the principle that, as far as possible, the curriculum should respond to the needs of the students across a wide range of intelligences. Hence, through the seventies, Science was expanded, Agricultural Science introduced and Woodwork and Drawing provided through a teacher exchange system with the local Vocational School, whose Headmasters, Tom Davis, and later, Seamus Cullinane, RIP, showed great generosity of spirit in responding to the needs of the total population of students. In the area of Languages, Italian and German were also introduced.
A lot of energy went into the area of moral and psycho-sexual development. In this regard we were lucky to have the services of Sr. Katherine Burke (left), Educational Psychologist, who came to us from Tuam one day a week until she was appointed to our staff, as Careers Teacher and Counsellor in 1975. During that time under Katherine’s supervision, we provided both for Secondary and Vocational students, a programme in sexual development for parents and students. Lectures were given by Dr. Maeve Fitzgerald of UCG. Later, aware of the need of a programme which allowed for smaller numbers and discussion, Katherine introduced weekly Group Work sessions for Leaving Cert students through a programme devised by Fr. Pádraig O’Connor, of St Jarlath’s College.
There’s a recurring Athenry memory: we’re on a tour to Thoor Ballylea and Coole Park, a Leaving Cert class of the late 60’s or early 70’s. It’s a lovely Autumn day. We visit these places sacred to Yeats. We see the swans. One of the students stands up in the bus and reads out “The Wild Swans at Coole”.
Now, nearly 40 years later, “All’s changed” for all of us since we “trod with a lighter tread” that Autumn day. And may we, like Yeats, confront the changes made by time and still continue to draw hope and meaning from these “mysterious, beautiful” images which inspired us then:
“But now they drift on the still water,
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake’s edge or pool
Delight men’s eyes when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?”
Other such potent Athenry images and memories for me are: student initiatives such as – a candlelit ceremony in memory of the Stardust victims; a silent march through the town after Bloody Sunday; the visit of the great Sean McBride to the school on behalf of Amnesty International; the great moments of debating; hurling and camogie victories; the official openings of the new school and Gym; Mary Lavin, short story writer and novelist and past pupil of our Primary School in the new Library, 1981; Della singing “The Fields of Athenry” in Halla Gregory in June 1984; a Christmas Nativity play, presented by a Leaving Cert class, with star performances by Marjorie Delaney singing “How Great Thou Art” and Alan Prendergast.
At times like these we experienced solidarity with one another and the wider world, we experienced pride in place, in our endeavours and achievements. We had a common soul and purpose. We were “for one another”.
And yet, these were passing moments and everyone didn’t experience them. There were people who didn’t feel they belonged. People who felt let down or excluded. Because we never got it totally, or maybe even, half right.
And that, sadly and regrettably, is also part of our story.
A student remembers 1968 as ‘A New Age’
The sixties hit the Pres in 1968 with the arrival of Sr. Aquin, our new principal. As happened with Vatican 2, the windows were opened to let in fresh air and we got the hurricane.
Two things, among others, happened that year. Up until then, nuns were known by a religious name. One day, they got their real names back. Aquin became Brid, Bertrand became Nuala, Loretta became Carmel and so on. Older ladies such as Srs. Berchmans and Dominic didn’t bother changing. I recall the kindly Sr. Dominic and her avid interest in coins. She didn’t teach me but we all knew her and many past pupils came to her funeral in 1976.
In 1969, we had our first modern retreat- all liberation, joy and guitar-strumming priests. Priests talked and discussed rather than lectured. There were no more 3-day silences, exchanges of holy pictures between students or flocks of praying students being herded around the convent garden. Apparently, the regime in Hell had also become more humane- eternal sentences to fire and brimstone were no longer being handed down.
I remember those old style retreats. One priest ran the show, nuns kept an eye on proceedings and the teachers got 3 days off (yes, you heard correctly!) I often think of that in my present teaching job- definitely, not all changes are for the better
1968-L-r: M. Healy, G. Cloonan, Sr. De Montfort, B. Carr and M. Keary
1967/68- Whirlwind years of educational changes
When Minister of Education, Donagh O’Malley, introduced free secondary education together with free transport, he unleashed a period of great educational changes that brought massive transformations to our society at national and local levels. The implementation date for these new policies was the 1st of September 1968. However, the vast majority of secondary schools were ill prepared for the logistics of these changes, the major one being the huge influx of students and the provision of classroom accommodation for them.
The influx into PCA on that date is remembered by one Sister: ‘The very first morning, on my way to my post in the Convent Primary school, the yard between the old Secondary and the old Primary School was crowded with 2nd level students. They had come in from the recently closed Our Lady’s Secondary School in Coolarne, in Turloughmore with Fr. M.O’Grady, and were waiting for classrooms while Sr. Brid and Gerry Cloonan tried to make space for them all’.
St. Brigid’s Mercy Secondary School, Raford, Kiltullagh
Memories of Raford House and School from Sr. Imelda Gill, Convent of Mercy, Loughrea who was Principal of the School.
James Daly was the first to live on the lands of Raford during the late 17th.century and he willed the estate to his grandson, Denis Daly (1700-81), who married Anne De Burgh, daughter of the Earl of Clanricarde. In 1751 Denis decided to build an imposing Georgian mansion, Raford House, on the banks of the Raford River. Francis Bindon was the architect and during the five years it took to build, he incorporated many outstanding architectural features, which are still an attractive feature today. The Dalys became the predominant political dynasty in Co. Galway for over 200 years. Raford House was acquired by the Land Commission in 1925 and had several owners before it was acquired by Dr. Madden, who lived and practised in Harley St., London.Dr, Madden bequeathed the house to the Diocese of Clonfert. Bishop Philbin told the Mercy Sisters, Loughrea , to buy the House and start a co-ed secondary school. It appears that no assessment of needs or school population took place.Raford House is a beautiful stone building. The rooms on the ground floor were very lovely- very spacious with big windows, finely wrought doors, fire-places and friezes. The large entrance hall was particularly beautiful. It was two-storey high with a balcony, and both ceiling and walls were richly ornamented with stucco work. Sr. Imelda had a great love and appreciation of the house and regrets changes made after their time. The Sisters had a lot to do with the house to make it suitable for a school – including central heating, new floors in the top storey, and painting throughout. It was very comfortable. The Sisters lived on the top floor, the school occupied the second floor and basement, and the ground floor had a kitchen and dining room as well as the grand hall.
Sr. Imelda loved the students. The children of farming people, they were friendly and cooperative. The only problem she remembers was the perception among some parents that the boys especially had no need to do homework. Weren’t they at the books all day? She taught them Maths –her favourite subject – and Irish and also P.E., dancing and Computers. The boys were shy to take up the dancing, but gradually took part and even learned to waltz. Past pupils entered every walk in life, many doing very well for themselves financially, two at least becoming millionaires and another, the leader of the Irish battalion in Somalia.
Raford secondary school opened in September 1962. There were 50-60 pupils at its max; 3 lay teachers, Alice Cunnane, Mary Browne, and Nora Flynn, who lived in the steward’s house free of charge, Fr Stanley as teacher-chaplain, two teaching Sisters, Magdalen and Martha, and a house-keeping Sister.
Fr. Cathal Stanley remembers “a talented, charismatic group of pupils, who went on to distinguish themselves in many walks of life, and are still nostalgic about those memorable years they spent in that Georgian mansion, whose historical heritage and unique educational character, will stamp its memory on generations to come.”
Much to the regret of the Kiltullagh P.P. Fr.Dunne, who liked to refer to the school as his “little University”, the decision was made in 1967 to close down the school after students sat the Leaving cert for the first and last time. Factors involved were the scarcity of numbers in both Raford and New Inn, and the unsuitability of the building for expansion.
For Noreen Raftery (left), the fourth in a family of six children, the opening of Raford was a blessing. “The three older children had gone to Loughrea to be educated and with school fees added to train fees from Attymon to Loughrea, the financial burden on the family was rather onerous”. Noreen continues, “my mother, who valued education highly, told me later when I was married and had children of my own, that had Raford not opened, I might never have had a chance of secondary education due to the many demands on the small family income. The Rafterys were only one of many families in similar circumstances in the Ireland of that era. So I count myself lucky to have attended Raford for four years, otherwise I might not have had the nursing career I now enjoy. When Raford closed down in 1967 I found the transition to Athenry in my leaving certificate year rather stressful.”
Josephine Coen (left) attended Raford for one year: “students cycled to school in those days and we parked our bicycles in the courtyard. I remember well the beautiful buildings, the cobblestone yard and the cut stone sheds. There was an oratory in the school and Fr. Cathal Stanley taught religious knowledge. I recall he tried to introduce Camogie to the school but Sr. Imelda thought it more beneficial for us to be in class, so the Camogie never materialised.” Josephine continues: “when Raford closed I continued my education in Athenry. In the late sixties however, Fr. Stanley, realising the Camogie talent in the area, started a Camogie team in Raford comprised mainly of players who had attended school in Raford or Athenry. Some team members had in fact attended both schools”. In September 1967 the following students who had been attending school in Raford transferred to Presentation College, Athenry, to continue their studies: Brenda Concannon, Noreen Raftery and Teresa Whelan transferred to Leaving Cert class. Anne Kilkenny joined fourth year. Anne Mitchell and Marguerite Corcoran transferred to Intermediate Certificate class; Josephine Coen, Angela Martin, Michael McGloin and Ita McInerny joined the second year class.The closure of Raford extended the Athenry catchment area and started a trend of pupils from that locality to Athenry that continues to this day.
The Raford, Kiltullagh Camogie Team with Fr. Cathal Stanley (Trainer)
Front, l-r: Nora Kelly, Goretti Cannon, Ann Mitchell, Josephine Coen, Marcella Donoghue, and Ann Donoghue.
Back, l-r: Fr. Cathal Stanley, Carmel Earls, Margaret Fahy (Carnaun), Ann Connaughton (Castle Ellen). Noreen Naughton, Marion Kelly, Noreen Raftery and Ann Kilkenny.
Photo: Noreen Raftery-Duane.
Technical school in Newtown, Abbeyknockmoy
The small Technical school in Newtown, Abbeyknockmoy, was also closed but, according to former pupils and teachers, no students came to PCA. They transferred to the Vocational Schools in Tuam and Athenry.
The 1968 amalgamation of the Coolarne Secondary School with PCA.
Under the new system, small secondary schools would be closed and amalgamated with the new educational centres, such as Athenry.
The news was not welcomed in Our Lady’s Secondary School, Coolarne, which had only opened its doors to students in 1965 with the support of the Archbishop of Tuam. The schools’ Principal, Father O’Grady launched a controversial campaign to retain the school and its eighty pupils, 24 of whom would be sitting the first examination in Coolarne, and possibly the last, in June.
This rural co-ed school attended by the sons and daughters of farmers would, according to local farmer Gerry Kelly, die if the amalgamation went through. ’When the Coolarne classes end at 3.30pm, the boys can give a hand on the land, as indeed they can before nine in the morning. But with the extra travel, it would mean returning at five or six-and an earlier start-leaving them no time to help with the farm chores’, he said. Father O’Grady said, “You must first realise the set-up here. The setting up of comprehensive schools in central areas might work in other parts, but it cannot possibly be beneficial to this community. I hope we get a reprieve”.
The issue reached the floor of Dail Éireann and was headlined in the local (Tuam Herald) and national media (The Sunday Press).
The school’s science teacher, Mr. Bill Silke, left to take up a position in St. Mary’s Secondary School, Newport, Co. Tipperary and would, ten years later, become the science teacher in PCA.
(Source:The Tuam Herald of the 15th of March 1968)
(Source: The Tuam Herald of the 23rd of March 1968)
Fr. O’Grady, principal of Coolarne Secondary School sees four six-foot fifteen-year olds (l-r), Kevin Kearney, Pat Nestor, Michael Collins and Pat McDonagh, leap a pole held by Marian Duffy and Monica Fahy in the school’s sports field in June 1968.
Also pictured: Brendan Langan, Pat Shaughnessy, Paddy McDermott, Noel Kearney, Sean Glavin, Gerry Cullinane, Tony Murphy, Tom Keady, Gerry Holland, P.J. Murphy, Mattie Duffy, Michael O’Brien, Peter Gilhooley, Martin Feeney, Gerry Greaney, Cyril McDonagh, Patrick Gill, John Joe Kane, Bernadette Collins, John Shaughnessy, Joan O’Brien, Marian Curran, John Fahy, Mary Joyce, Frank Burke, Helen O’Brien, Walter Murphy, Freddie McGrath, Marian Coen, Moira O’Brien, Mary Feeney, Bríd Kearney and Lucy O’Brien.
Photo: The Sunday Press, June 2nd 1968
1968-Transfer from Coolarne to Athenry -Marian (Duffy) Glynn’s memories
A year before I finished my primary education at St. Patrick’s N.S. Cregmore a co-ed Secondary School opened in Coolarne. It was named Our Lady’s Secondary School and was housed in the old primary school building. For the first year the students were housed in the dairy as there were no toilets in the old building. The Principal of the school was Fr. O’Grady – a colourful, good-humoured character, charged with energy and good nature. He had a great love of sport and now he had an opportunity to exercise his coaching talents in Hurling and Camogie.
My class was called St Pricilla’s and we were next to the little room at the end of the building, which was used as the Staff Room. Other class names I remember are St. Vincent’s and St. Bridget’s. Teachers I remember are Sr. Rosalie, Sr. Angela, William Silke, Maureen Coppinger, Miss McHugh and Miss Gannon.
The School week was five and a half days and I cycled in all kinds of weather – carrying a lot more than the Ryan Air baggage allowance on the carrier. Punctures and broken spokes were a regular occurrence. On cooking class days we often sat at the side of the road on our way home and ate our goodies. Camogie training was after school and our matches were on Saturday afternoons.
The Daughters of Charity had a Domestic Economy School behind us and we had to go there for domestic science class. We had to walk through the farmyard and were often late for class because we would be talking to the farmhands – much to the annoyance of Sr. Angela. I went to the R.D.S. once with the Domestic Economy School and I can still remember reciting the Rosary in darkness on the bus that morning – while we accepted this in the countryside of Turloughmore our faith was tested as we made our way through O’Connell Street on our way home when the Rosary beads were produced again.
After two very happy years in Coolarne the Department of Education decided to amalgamate smaller schools to bigger centres. The future of our school was debated at length and parents were strong in their opinion that Fr. O’Grady and the staff of Coolarne be transferred to Athenry ‘to look after their children’. Free transport was introduced and in September 1968 my sister Anne and I made our way to Cregmore Cross to be picked up with our friends in this new shiny yellow bus. Frank Kilkelly was the driver and was very punctual and kept the bus very clean. We were all very excited about going to school in town and I suppose frightened as well but settled in quickly. Fr. O’Grady minded us and the Principal Sr. Bríd Brennan was lovely and a very caring person and understood our anxiety.
My association with Presentation College continues with my husband, Luke, (whom I met at school) still teaching there. Most of my brothers and sisters attended the school as did my own daughter and son and I still have nieces and nephews there.
However, the government were not for turning on the issue and they pushed through their policy that brought an end to small secondary schools.
In PCA the number on rolls rose from 122 in 1963 to 386 in 1969/70, an increase of 216% and would continue to grow right up to 2008.
Behold the Huts!
Lacking permanent classrooms, PCA, like hundreds of other secondary schools all over Ireland, reached for the only practical solution to the new and dramatic accommodation problem before them, namely the erection of pre-fabricated classrooms. They were positioned on the railway station side of the big field and over the years grew to 23 as the flood of pupils increased. It would take another 12 years and much campaigning for a permanent school before the last student left this warren of ‘classrooms’.
The centre of the field was retained for games, especially hurling and camogie, which over the coming years and with the drive of Vice-Principal Gerry Cloonan and Father O’Grady were to become the dominant and most successful sports in the college.
Sean Gohery and Gerry Cloonan with the huts in the background in 1968/69
Life in the Huts-A student’s happy memories
Even before free education, the numbers heading into secondary school were mushrooming. For too long an Irish person’s prospects had been drudgery on a farm or emigration to England to do the jobs it was beneath the natives to do. Education was seen not so much as a ladder to glory but an escape hatch to a life with some dignity.
In Pres Athenry, school space became a big issue. Originally, the main building had been constructed to take a second storey if required. However, fads and engineering evolve and the second storey remained pie in the sky. A new school was required and in the meantime huts would have to do. Only later did we learn the word pre-fab.
The first Hut
A two-room pre-fab was in situ before we arrived in Sept 1966 but it wasn’t enough. Our first year cohort of 50 was taught as one class due to shortage of rooms. Our base room was the science lab, which meant we were forever moving to other rooms to allow other classes in for practical work. Another hut was scheduled to be built but that didn’t happen for several weeks- I recall Sr. Eugenia going almost ecstatic with delight the day the builders arrived. She, of course, was looking forward to having our class divided and a more manageable number to teach. For other teachers, it meant the end of free classes because they would now have to teach a first year group. As it transpired, half of us (my half) stayed in the science room for a year of being pushed around.
3 room variety
A new three-room hut was on stream when we returned as second years in Sept 1967. It also served as an assembly hall when partitions were rolled back. Two years later, another block was added as the new school project got mired in politics and bureaucracy. Sr. Brid recalled a Department clerk ranting to her that the nuns were only turning out people who were “going off to England marrying non-Catholics”. It was almost as good as the old Christian Brothers’ exhortation to “think of the courage of the I.R.A. when they ambushed the Black and Tans” whenever you got bad thoughts. A former Christian brother, Minister Dick Burke, finally approved the project.
The Huts in the early 1970s
I loved the huts. They had a softer cosier feel than the main school and they weren’t bad for passive solar heating either, so good in fact that my second cousin Maureen Kennedy fainted on one stuffy Friday afternoon.
If you were in one particular room with thin partitions and could divide your mind, you could get 3 classes for the price of one. By default, I got a year of Civics classes from Miss Heaney and extra French classes from Sr. Carmel.
The thin partition also gave us opportunity for sabotage. One day in second year, my class was unattended and Miss Keary, bravely trying to teach a class next door, came in twice to tell us to ‘lower the noise levels’. On each occasion we did- for 60 seconds.
My own turn came one day in 1974/75. I was teaching in the same hut during my H.Dip year and a particularly wild class was screeching next door to me.
Heading fire extinguishers
Other delightful things happened. A first year set off a fire extinguisher in a pre-fab (A fine mess that got them into!). One day, I dozed off in Miss Heaney’s French class and woke with a start, jumping in my seat. I didn’t answer when that placid little lady roared at me- I know she thought someone had prodded me and that, of course, I wouldn’t rat on the perpetrator. The truth, had she known it, would have cost me dearly!
Retrieving a book I dropped one day, I stood up too quickly with the result that my head contacted and almost took a fire extinguisher off the wall. Headaches and blurred vision followed for the next few months. Nobody even noticed and I lived on until now at least. In those days, there was no talk of Health and Safety, or litigation.
First and Second Years in the Huts
Photo: Mary Keary
Debating with the ‘enemy’
For those of us involved in inter-school debates, the pre-fabs were the venue where we showed competing schools how it was done (Of course, the judges didn’t always get it right and we were beaten sometimes). I really enjoyed that time although, in fairness, it was more exciting to be the visiting team in an “enemy” school. Nothing like it since for me- I retired from debating when I left the Pres.
The huts disappeared with the building of the new (now rather old) school some years after my time. I, for one, preferred the huts to the main building and often wonder if all schools should be pre-fab. When populations shift, a school could be picked up and moved with them leaving the site cleared.
Shortly before leaving the Pres, a small group of us found some javelins in a storage room attached to a hut and imagined ourselves as Roman legionnaires sorting out the Gauls or the Parthians (We learned Latin in those days). The Romans were gone and we would soon be gone. The huts are gone and, yes, a day will come when the Pres will be gone. But that’s the way it is and, without change, life would be very boring indeed.
Coolarne’s very positive influences on the PCA in 1968
In 1968 after three years of successful educational implementation Our Lady’s Secondary School in Coolarne closed. In the previous year Raford Mercy Secondary School closed and Abbeyknockmoy Technical School closed also. Due to these closures a large number of children converged on Athenry for secondary education. The greatest number came from Coolarne – approximately fifty nine – the eldest of whom had just completed Inter. Cert. and so they went into Fourth Year, others into Third Year, and the remainder into Second Year. From Raford a number of students moved into second year Inter. Cert, others into Fourth Year, and a lesser number into Leaving Cert. Coolarne Secondary School at that time had a body of parents, more advanced in educational matters than those in other schools, who had formed their own association with chief spokesperson Gerry Kelly – an able local Co. Councillor. This group ensured that the educational needs of their students were well met on their transition to Athenry.
Sr. Bríd Brennan, newly appointed Principal of Presentation College Athenry, with great perception, understood the benefit of parents being involved in the educational progress of their children, so she encouraged and facilitated the formation of a Parents’ Council in 1968. Gerry Kelly, Ballyglass, Turloughmore was elected Chairperson. As far as can be confirmed, this was one of the first Parents’ Councils ever formed in an Irish school. That it was successful and continues to be is an understatement. As well as dealing with current school problems, this council later played a major role in negotiations and fundraising both for a new school and subsequently for the gymnasium. It also played a critical part in advising on and supporting all activities in the College whether of an educational, cultural, social or sporting nature.
Since 1968 subsequent Parents’ Councils have been and hopefully will continue to be assets of immense value to students and teachers alike who walk through the hallowed walls of Presentation College Athenry.
Sr. Bríd’s arrival in 1968-Sixties students’ memories of her
Sr Brid arrived. Looking back, I realise how her influence shaped education in the parish.
We were children of the sixties-loud, opinionated and fiery. We were educated, challenged and motivated and given responsibilities. A lesser mortal would have run a mile and tried to rule with rules and regulations.
Instead, Sr Brid elected a student council, gave us ownership of our own learning and challenged us to use the leadership qualities she instilled in us.
An innovative and inspiring teacher
I have very fond memories of her as Principal of the school and as our English teacher for my two years there. Her teaching methods were very innovative and inspiring. She also had the uncanny knack of being able to predict with great accuracy what was likely to come up on the exam papers. Her powers of prediction were doubly tested when we did our Leaving Cert. in ’69 because the original English papers were stolen in Dublin, and we had to re-sit the exam.
1969 School Staff
Front, l-r: C. McCarrick, Sr. Gertrude, M. Whelan, C. Heaney and Sr. Nuala.
Middle, l-r: Sr. Carmel, M. Keary, Sr. Eugenia, Sr Bríd and Fr. O’Grady.
Back,l-r: Mrs Cresham, G. Cloonan and Mrs Coppinger.
Most of the classes were housed in pre-fabs at the time with a green space where the “New School” now stands. We often used this open space for games at lunch time and we used “Raheen” for after school training. Many of our lunch breaks were spent wandering around town, a freedom that is probably not possible or feasible today. We enjoyed great freedom because of the smaller numbers and the fact that most people went home for lunch.
Most of our teachers at the time were Presentation Sisters. I remember while sitting an in-house exam in June ’68 one of the nuns came in to inform me that Robert Kennedy had just been assassinated. Robert Kennedy was a brother of John Fitzgerald Kennedy and was himself a candidate for the presidency in 1968. I was very interested in American politics and in particular the Kennedy dynasty at the time as were many others and I was very touched by her awareness and thoughtfulness.
First co-ed leaving cert class
Our time in Presentation College was a period of great change, but the Presentation Sisters presided over all the changes with great vision and ability. The Leaving Cert. class of 1968/69 was the first co-ed class to complete the five year cycle and three boys were fortunate and honoured to be the first boys from the school to receive ‘a call to training’. Many girls had of course received this honour previously.
I would like to remember here Michael Poniard who passed away recently. He was an esteemed member of our class. We remember also other comrades and teachers who have gone to their rest. Ar dheis Dé go raibh anamacha na marbh.
PCA’s Catchment Area
The eastern border stretched from Ryehill in the north, southwards to Attymon, Kiltulllagh, Carrabane and south of Craughwell. Its narrow southern end then swung northwards skirting west of Coldwood, Cashla, on past Laghtgeorge. It then swung east to Ballybrone, just north of Crumlim and back to Ryehill.
Irish in 1966 and 1968-A student’s memories
Our own language and I loved it, but in the same way as Latin. The idea of using it in a practical sense wasn’t on. However, like many Irish people, I have used it abroad- to warn a compatriot of a potentially embarrassing situation and, on occasion, it has saved me.
Before my time in the Pres most subjects were taught through the medium of Irish- a failed initiative introduced by Government against the advice of teachers. September 1966 saw the introduction of new courses. The only available textbooks were in English so the consequence was inevitable. Geography alone continued to be taught through Irish. I would liken the experience to that of watching a great hurling match on a TV with hopeless picture/sound quality.
In September 1968 Miss Keary informed us that she was now at liberty to teach us Geography through English if we agreed- it was the fastest decision taken by a class in my lifetime.
Later in the same school year, an Irish week was proclaimed where the language of our conquerors was to be unheard for 5 whole days. The initiative was faltering by 9:30 on Monday morning and had been quietly forgotten by Tuesday. So much for top-down decrees imposed on an unwilling populace- it took about another 20 years for the same lesson to be learned in the Soviet Union.
Still, I look today at the fortunes of Hebrew and Welsh as well as at the Gaelscoileanna. Different situations, different results. Any language can live but only if the will is there.
Retreats, evening study, blazers, a Strike and end of Saturday morning school
These were held in the school. I remember walking the grounds saying the rosary with the Sisters leading the prayers and exchanging cards in memory of the occasion.
Study was held Tuesday and Thursday between 4.30 and 6.30 and was supervised in turn by Srs. Gertrude, Eugenia, Loretto and Mary. The unusual occurrence here was that the girls were allowed home at 6.20 to prevent any chatting up after school – an unsuccessful ploy!
The boys wore maroon blazers with a school crest for a number of years.
There was a mini strike in protest over a suspension in 1969. Fourth Years refused to go to class. The parents of the offenders were called, so it was ended fairly quickly.
School on a Saturday morning was discontinued from September 1968 because the school buses bringing the Coolarne students did not operate on Saturday mornings.
Teachers and Subjects
Sr. Gertrude taught us Irish and Civics, which was new to us.
In religion classes there were often discussions on such issues as world poverty and even ‘liberation theology’. This was as a result of greater television and newspaper coverage given to matters in Central America and Africa. The nun came across as a very devout nun and she once remarked in class how lovely it was to see, from the convent window, the men working in the nearby railway station remove their caps when the sound of the Angelus rang in the newly opened (1968) parish church at twelve and six o’clock. I remember thinking at the time that my father was most likely one of those men as he worked in the railway station and would always remove his cap for the Angelus.
President De Valera
I particularly enjoyed European History in second year, and into third year.
Another experience which I remember is the day we were all asked to leave class and go to the rear of the school and look towards the station. The reason for this was that a train carrying President Eamon De Valera was due to stop en route from Galway to Dublin. This it did, and I remember seeing Mr. De Valera wave at the assembled students from the door of the train carriage.
The ‘facts of life’
Fr. Gleeson C.C. was brought into the school in our second year to tell us about ‘the facts of life’, an experience that I remember fairly well.
Sr.Loreto taught us French and had a very efficient style in her approach to teaching.
Miss Wynne taught me Latin in second year and into third year and Mary Keary taught us Geography.
Athletics: Peter Gillhooley (Cussane) came sixth in the Connacht Schools Junior Cross Country and later on completed the Dublin City Marathon in a very good time of 2 hours and 47 minutes. Maureen Gannon was also a very accomplished school’s cross country runner at that time. They came from a talented athletics family in that one or more of her brothers won titles at field events such as the shot putt. I think Eileen O’Hanlon competed in the field events.
Handball: PCA won the Connacht Senior Colleges handball Championships.
Basketball: This was the first year that serious efforts were made to introduce Basketball to the school. Among the school teams we played were: Dunmore and Ballinrobe. Great experience was gained from both defeats. The players involved: A. Feeney, A.T. Brady, M. Whelan, A. Doherty, M. Holland, L. Walshe, B. Kavanagh, C. Staunton, D. Murray and A. Caulfield.
The outside world
1968 was the year of protest by African Americans for civil rights in the United States, students in the Sorbonne University in Paris and students in Germany were protesting against their conditions and the war in Vietnam. Students in University College Dublin also protested against their facilities. Two American athletes each wore a black glove on a raised clenched fist when on the podium accepting their medals at the Mexico Olympics in 1968. Their protest was to highlight the plight of African Americans in the U.S. where in the southern states there was segregation of blacks and whites at the time. Two of the most notable events of 1968 occurred in the U.S. with the assassination of two of the most iconic men of the era, Rev. Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, the brother of the assassinated President John F. Kennedy.
Protest was everywhere it seemed and the civil rights march in Derry on the 5th October 1968 started a thirty year tumult in Northern Ireland. It also gave us the song which was sung by supporters of the school teams and was the anthem of people worldwide, who wanted to protest,’ We shall overcome….’
The Women’s Liberation Movement was gaining momentum in the U.S. in 1968. The first man landed on the moon in 1969 and we stayed up until the early hours of a July morning to watch Neil Armstrong put his foot on the moon. In music, the concert in Woodstock, New York in 1969 made the headlines in the U.S. and Samuel Beckett won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1969.
Locally, the new parish church in Athenry was officially dedicated by the Archbishop Walsh of Tuam in May 1968 and Canon Conor Heaney was the parish priest. While the church was being built, mass goers in Athenry attended mass in the old ‘bag factory’ in Caherroyn. That building later became a garage owned by Mattie McNamara and is now the Athenry Motor Works. I remember going to have my car repaired there and had the repairs supervised by a large statue of St. Patrick! – A leftover from the days up to 1968, when it was used as the parish church for Athenry.
Diary of 1968/69 School Year
Extract from PCA Students’ Magazine
Sept. 4th: New faces-all prepared for hard work
Sept. 7th: Frightened dials-results of the Inter.
October: A quiet month.
Nov. 5th: The Itinerants Settlement Committee set up. £25 from raffle towards Xmas food
Nov. 21st: Concert for Presentation Day-great display of all the talent in the school.
Dec. 5th: Muintir na Tíre Debate-School takes part for first time-put up a good show.
Dec. 17th: Tour to Dublin of the seniors with a few teachers. Visited the Eblana Theatre.
to see Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Visited the Zoo and Kilmainham Jail.
Dec. 21st: Holidays and rest.
Jan. 18th: Return to school. Low faces. No more dancing.
Feb 1st: Strike. Unofficial holidays for 3 weeks. All would be glad but for the long hours
that had to be set aside for study.
Feb. 5th: Recital of Handel’s Messiah in Galway. Not interesting for the non-musical.
Feb. 25th: All work again. No play to make up for lost time.
March 25th: Beginning of school mission. 3 Redemptorist priests presiding. Mission
helped us. Mass in classroom. Easy to communicate with priests.
March 27th: Sisters change back to their Baptismal names.
March 31st: A new P.T. teacher for the girls-went to Town Hall every Wed for lessons.
April 6th: Trouble begins-Turlough Carnival.
April 17th: Open day at the university. Toured 3 Departments. Helpful for career choices.
April 22nd: “Desert Song” in the Town Hall. Difficulty in hiring buses.
May 3rd: Quiz between 5A and 2A and winners challenged Leaving Certs.
May 8th: PCA forms Students’ Council. Goal to facilitate communications between
teachers and students.
May 13th: Juniors tour to Limerick and surrounding areas. All out in Sunday finery.
May 15th: Careers exhibition in Mercy Tuam-All finished up in Blakes.
May 23rd: 5th years organize Fashion Show. Collected £3-7-6. Donated to school mag.
May 26th; Tests begin-generally regarded as “lousy”.
June 5th: Cruise on the Shannon for Inter Certs.
June 6th: School sports and dance. Holidays for 3 glorious months. Thank God.
1968 onwards and Hurling and Football became serious business
September 1968 brought Fr O’Grady and the Coolarne contingent to the Pres Athenry. Gaelic games in the school, already thriving, became very serious business. Games- hurling, football and camogie- came thick and fast.
In the week leading up to a big match, there was absolutely no other topic of conversation in the school and, even if you were disinterested, you were afraid to be the pariah who wouldn’t support your team. Confidence was sky-high and All Irelands were coming!
Almost the whole populations of teachers and pupils travelled in bus convoys to matches all over the county and province. There was a remarkable sporting spirit in the College during those years and its source was the leadership of Gerry Cloonan and Fr. O’Grady, both of whom were avid Gaelic games enthusiasts.
From a sporting aspect, the influx of pupils from 1968 onwards was of great benefit to the college as it deepened the pools of hurling, football and camogie talents, and consequently heightened the prospect of attaining county, provincial and national championships. It would be only natural that Gerry Cloonan and Father O’Grady would dream of gaining Gaelic games glory for their college. The future held thrilling days on the sports fields for PCA. The sporting gods would mingle their coaching talents with the skills of the new students and wield them into the stuff of college sporting legends. A new and powerful sporting force was about to make its mark in the college hurling, football and camogie fields.
A student recalls his favourite PCA teacher in 1969
A hard call as my perceptions at the time and retrospectively might not agree. Somebody great at the time might look ordinary now. What seemed to be affection on my part might have been infatuation. Somebody I regarded as stand-offish might only have been making me stand on my own two feet. There was Sr. Stanislaus, who brooked no nonsense or Sr. Nuala Newell, a gentle lady at a time when severity was the norm. Mary Keary for me was synonymous with Geography, and did I like Geography!
Then there was lovely Catherine Heaney, who coached me in English for Inter Cert 1969 where I got my only grade A ever in any subject. That was the year of her H. Dip. Next year, she taught us French. I wasn’t the only pupil who felt a bit of sadness when she left the school after only two years.
I’ve been teaching in Pres Galway for a long time. Some years ago, boys from St Mary’s College came selling their school magazine and there on page one was a staff photo. I recognised my old teacher.
“Do you have her?”, I asked one of the boys. “She’s my favourite teacher”, was the reply.
1969-Sr. Aquin (Sr. Bríd Brennan) presenting Camogie Medals
Photo: Mary Keary
1969 hopes of extending the school
The “huts”, never intended as a long-term solution, were falling into disrepair. In 1969 approval was received for a new extension – six classrooms and a library – and a grant of £56,000 promised. In November, 1970, tenders for construction were sought, but then the idea of a Community School was mooted and plans were shelved.
PCA’s Golden Age of Hurling and Camogie began in 1970
1970 would initiate the golden age of Gaelic games in PCA that would last for most of the decade. That year PCA won the Connacht Colleges’ senior title in Hurling (beating Garbally in Ballinasloe) and Connacht Colleges Junior Camogie Championship, all for the first time.
All Ireland Colleges Senior Hurling Semi Final 1970
Twelve fifty-seater buses travelled to Birr for the All-Ireland semi final vs. Kilkenny CBS on Sunday, 22nd of March, 1970. Monday’s Irish Press reported that ‘Kilkenny CBS duly qualified for their first All Ireland senior final…but nobody, least of all the winners, could have anticipated the strength of the challenge put up by PCA, who made up for what they lacked in hurling skill with a thoroughly, spirited display that kept the teams level until five minutes into the second half’.’
PCA’s defence and midfield worked hard but their forwards were kept to long distance scores by the Kilkenny defence. Reporter, Aiden McCarthy, stated that ‘Connacht, with a dismal record in the hurling code behind them, can feel really proud of their representatives, Presentation College Athenry.’
PCA’s first Connacht Colleges Senior Hurling Championship in 1970
Sitting, l-r: Sean Hynes, Kevin Healy, Patrick Flannery and Kieran Barrett. Seated, l-r: Gerry Cloonan, Luke Glynn, Frank Burke (Capt.), Sr. Bríd Brennan (Principal), Mixie Donohue, Michael Farrell and Fr. Martin O’Grady.
Standing, l-r: Gerry Holland, Stephen Cloonan, Michael Poniard, Pat Kelly, Richard Donohue, Martin Lane, Gerry Corley, John Gannon and Michael Collins.
PCA’s first Connacht Colleges Junior Camogie Championship in 1969/1970
Seated, l-r: Bernadette Loughlin, Margaret Poniard, Maureen Gannon (Capt.), Sr. Bríd Brennan (Principal), Bridget Kelly, Ann M. O’Brien and Irene O’Brien. Standing, l-r: Anne Duffy, Marion Caulfield, Mary Cloonan, Helen Morris, Violet Glynn, Marion King, Kitty Kinneen, Nore Glynn, Anne Donohue and Cecelia Mullins.
This team played five games and scored 36 goals and 8 points and conceded only 4 goals and 6 points. Is this a record in Connacht Camogie Championship games? Photo: Fr. Martin Gleeson
The 1970 PCA’s Senior Football Team reached the Connacht Colleges Semi Final
Sitting, l-r: Gerry Doherty, Gerry Holland, Patrick Flannery and John Curran. Seated, l-r: Sean Hynes, Luke Glynn, Martin Lane, Michael Donohue, Michael Farrell and Keiran Barrett. Standing, l-r: Gerry Cloonan, Patrick Corley, Stephen Cloonan, Pat Kilkelly, Richard Donohue, Frank Burke, Gerry Corley, John Gannon and Fr. Martin O’Grady.
This team recorded an unexpected but wonderful victory over defending Connacht Colleges Champions, St. Mary’s, Galway by a decisive 4-7 to 0-11.
The newspapers of the time highlighted the facts that ‘Athenry’s victory is even more significant, considering that boys have only been attending the school for the past five years and…like many schools depend on country boys for the vast numbers of players and ..that these pupils have to return home on the free bus immediately after school is finished in the evening and this meant that there was little time indeed for training …all of this made the victory even more meritorious.’
They followed this up with a resounding win over St. Joseph’s (The Bish), Galway by 2-5 to 1-5 in Kenny Park. It was a tough but fair game with quite an amount of good football from both sides. Goalkeeper, Pat Kilkelly was outstanding, saving a shot that would have leveled the match just before the final whistle blew.
The newspaper reporter said that ‘Steve Cloonan and Johhny Gannon were sound fullbacks, while Gerry Corley and Keiran Barrett played some wonderful football at half back. Pakie Flannery and Sean Hynes were on top at midfield, while Luke Glynn and Frank Burke were the pick of the forwards.’
Leaving Cert Class of 1970
Front, l-r: Ann Langan, Michael Poniard, Margaret Delaney, Johnny Curran, Margaret Ruane, Gerry Corley, Mary Joyce, Luke Glynn, Elizabeth Curran and Sean Hynes. Middle, l-r: Richie Donohue, Marguerite Corcoran, Bernadette Collins, Betty Healy, Frank Burke, Marion Curran, Mattie Lane, Mary Feeney, Margaret Garvin, Nora Collins, Mary Costello and Paddy Collopy. Back. l-r: Steve Cloonan, Moira O’Brien, Mary Finnerty, Josephine Conneelly, Pat Kilkelly, Christina Healy, Freddie McGrath, Bríd Kavanagh and Pat Costello.
Front, l-r: Kethleen Cummins, Cyril McDonagh, Pauline McInerney, Patrick Corley, Mary Gill, Mixie Donohue, Anne Rabbitte, Patrick Feeney, Bernadette Duggan and James Rabbitte.
Middle, l-r: Christy O’Grady, Brigid Burke, Dermot O’Dea, Mary Duane, Brian Hardiman, Veronica Flannery, Johnny Gannon, Helen O’Brien and Patrick Flannery.
Back, l-r: Michael Farrell, Bernadette Mullins, Kieran Barrett and Mary Feeney.
That was the school year that was………1969/70
Extract from the PCA magazine ‘Target’ (Vol. 2)
Sept. 5th: Return to school. New faces prepared to brighten their ‘tiny minds’.
Sept. 26th: Fifth year anxiety reaches a climax-the Inter results.
Oct. 11th: ‘A terrible beauty is born’-Youth Club.
Oct. 15th: Sore backs, aches and pains for girls-physical torture-Ms. McMahon arrives.
Oct. 15th: Victory for the boys’ hurling over De la Salle, Loughrea.
Oct.31st: Mid-term break greatly welcomed.
Nov.: A month of organization-Itinerant Settlement Committee, Student Rep. Council.
Nov. 8th: Victory in football over St. Mary’s, Galway.
Nov. 11th: Gael Linn debate in Tuam -School teams put up a good show.
Nov.22nd: Victory in football over St. Joseph’s, Galway.
Dec. 9th: “Damask Rose” in Pres Tuam.
Dec. 18th: The Quaker Girl presented by St. Jarlath’s and Mercy, Tuam.
Dec. 19th: £20 from school raffle provided Christmas dinner for Itinerants.
Jan. 17th: Second heat of Muintir na Tire debate in Athenry, won by Tuam.
Feb: A ‘cleanup’ organized by 5th year students.
Feb: History students tour of Esker and surrounding area.
Feb. 27th: School mission, great fervour and guitar playing by the Reds.
March 11th: Invasion of chefs..with sporting, not amorous, intent…chefs shone.
March 22nd: PCA invades Birr on 11 buses, team beaten but great school spirit.
May 19th: Sale of work in aid of itinerants held in Town Hall.
May 22nd: ‘Student Prince’ in the Town Hall, Galway.
May 26th: Fifth year Geography students tour the Burren.
May 25th -29th: Exams.
June 1st: Congrats to Ms. Heaney on her engagement.
June 6th: Official closing day. School dance.
Compiled by Angels Martyn and Patricia Burke.
And as for the world in 2010 (from the same magazine):
‘I hope to be rich and have a dozen cars’, Eileen McNamara.
‘I probably won’t be here, but abroad’, Michael Feeney.
‘Gilbert McCarthy will be married and have a gang of kids’, Tom Coffey.
‘The world will be upside down and nuns will be saying mass’, Marian Kennedy.
‘Girls will be wearing trousers and the men minis’, Jimmy McDonagh.
‘There will be nothing but machines and electronics. Dogs will be driving cars while pigs will be watching telly’. ‘Going to the moon and back will be an everyday occurrence’, Danny Whelan.
Target (Vol. 2) was edited by Martina Cleary and Marion Kennedy. Treasurer: Michael McGloin. Artists: Louise Walsh and M.T. Kelly. Ads: Leo Coffey, Bridie McNamara and Josephine Connolly.
School Staff: Sr. Bríd Brennan, Sr. Eugenia, Sr, Nuala, Fr. O’Grady, Mrs. Coppinger, Wallie Murphy, Mrs. Cresham, Mary Keary, Mrs Manning, Gerry Cloonan, Sr. Carmel, Marie Whelan, Betty Dermody, Cabrini McCarrick, Sr. Agnes, Breege Doherty, Eveleen Wynne, Gabrielle Kyne, Gilbert McCarthy, Betty Ryan, Sean Gohery, Sr. Evelyn and Philomena Gill.
Back: K. Qualter, J. Loughnane, P.McGrath. L-r: , G. Cullinane, C. Duggan,
Front: B. Kearney, M. Browne. J. Loughnane, K. Qualter, M. Joyce, M. Quinn, M. Quinn.
John F. Kennedy Santry Stadium 1971
PCA students who competed in the All Ireland Colleges’ Athletic Championships.
Front, l-r: Helen O’Brien, Eileen O’Hanlon, All Ireland Shot Putt Champion, and Marian Kindregan. Back, l-r: Gerry Cloonan and John O’Hanlon
1971 was also the year that the PCA fielded its first Soccer Team.
On Wednesday 28th April 1971, we played St. Joseph’s school (the ‘Bish’) from Galway in Fahy’s field, Mervue on a dry and dusty pitch. Three fifth years, Gerry Connaughton (Castle Ellen), Kevin Healy(Mountain North) and I played for the school on the Senior soccer team with the ‘big lads’, amongst others: Packie Curley, Kieran Barrett, Francis Kilkelly, Leo Coffey and Gerry Doherty ( all from Caherroyn), who is presently teaching in the College, Packie Flannery, Sean Hynes (Castle Ellen) and Gerry Holland (Cregmore).
The Bish won 7-6, after extra time, a high scoring game! Eamon Deacy, who later won a EUFA Cup medal with Aston Villa, played for the Bish that day. Well known Galway city players Jim Noone and Derek Lee, who later went to play in England, also played. Fr.O’Grady got me out of class and I was packed into his famous white Volkswagen car with about five or six other lads for the trip to Galway, the rest of the team travelled by minibus.
PCA Senior Soccer Team that competed in the Connacht Championships
Front, l-r: Kevin Healy, Gerry Doherty, Sean Hynes, Mr. Sean Gohery, Gerry Connaughton, Michael Harte and Leo Coffey. Back, l-r: Mr. Gerry Cloonan, Gerry Holland, Francis Kilkelly, Patrick Curley, Patrick Flannery, Kieran Barrett, Dessie Glynn and Fr. O’Grady.
Sean Gohery, Soccer and the ‘Rat-hole’
In Second Year, we moved to the pre-fabs/Huts out near the railway. We spent two glorious years there, the three Second and Third Year classes in a three section Prefab.
It was cold, wet and miserable in winter and hot, sticky and wet in summer, but we were happy that we were farther away from the staff room. One day in Second Year we were in a prefab and Sean Gohery was teaching Fifth Years the far side of the partition. I could hear him on about the Balkan crisis, the shooting of Frans Joseph (or was it Frans Ferdinand) and the road to World War 1. I have no recollection of what class I had but I decided I wanted to be a History teacher.
Mick Shaughnessy arrived and brought us to the Sports Ground in Galway to see the All Blacks as they managed to thrash a Connacht side. So rugby never managed to replace hurling despite his best efforts.
In Fifth year we moved farther down the line of prefabs and farther from the control centre. We had a television in the room and played music at lunch time to serenade us as we played our break-time push penny league. And there was ‘the rat-hole’ at the rear of the prefabs where we played soccer with a ball affectionately called ‘the black hole of Calcutta’.
Over the next three years, History with Sean Gohery was enlightening, informative, interactive and entertaining.
Connacht Colleges Senior Hurling Champions 1971
Front quartet, l-r: Kevin Healy, Brendan Langan, Gerry Connaughton and P.J. Murphy.
Seated, l-r: Sean Hynes, John Joe Kane, Fr. O’Grady, Gerry Holland, Sr. Bríd Brennan, Principal, Michael Joyce, Kieran Barrett and Leo Coffey. Standing, l-r: Gerry Cullinane, John Gannon, Pat Nestor, Michael Collins, Gerry Cloonan, Vice-Principal, Francis Kilkelly, Patrick Corley and Patrick Flannery.
On Thursday 2nd December 1970, Pres. College played Garbally College from Ballinasloe. On Sunday March 14th, 1971, Connacht Colleges Senior Hurling Final: Pres. College 2-11, St. Josephs College, Garbally, Ballinasloe 2-9.
The result led to a big crowd of the students celebrating through the streets of the town afterwards. The game was played in Kenny Park, Athenry and was noteworthy for the fact that Athenry had only thirteen players for much of the game. Thirteen of the players involved that day were;
Francis Kilkelly (Goalkeeper),J.Gannon, J.J. Keane, Leo Coffey, M. Collins, Kieran Barrett, Sean Hynes, Patrick Flannery, Gerry Connaughton, Gerry Holland, Kevin Healy, Gerry Cullinane, and Michael Joyce from Bellville.
Two weeks later on Sunday March 28th 1971, in the All-Ireland semi-final in Limerick, Pres. College Athenry played the champions of Cork and Munster, Farrenferris. A train was hired for the journey from Athenry to Limerick. Unfortunately, the result this time did not go in our favour as Farrenferris won 4-8 to Pres. College, Athenry 2-6.
Leaving Cert Class of 1971
First row, l-r: Sean Hynes, Louise Walsh, Delores Murray, Michael McGloin, Marian Loughnane, Michael O’Brien, Mary Conneely, Richard Mulkerrins, Margaret Mullins, John Joe Kane, Emily Melia, John Kennedy, Angela Martyn, Patricia Burke, Pat Nestor and Mary Fahy. Middle row, l-r: Paddy Collopy, Dorothy Rooney, Kieran Barrett, Brenda Cahill, Eileen Fox, Muireann Kennedy, Francis Kilkelly, Marie Coyne, Patrick Corley, Marie Staunton, Agnes Cannon, Ita McInerney, Mary Farrell, Carmel Coady, Yvonne Doran, Anne Kelly, Nora Feeney, Eilish Loughlin, Marian Conneely, Gerry Doherty, Maura Greaney, Christy Quinton, Pat Costello and Clem Walsh. Back row, l-r: Gerry Holland, John Fahy, Claire O’Brien, Brendan Langan, Marian Hession, Patrick Gill, Josephine Coen, Paddy McDermott, Johnny Gannon, Mary Burke, Martin T. Kelly, Marian Duffy, Paul Holland, Teresa Coleman, Michael Collins, Teresa Treacy, Bernadette Concarr and Leo Coffey.
1971/72-Students’ Representative Council 1972 Students
L-r: Frances Mulkerrins (Treasurer), John Touhy Claire O’Brien and Breege Kearney
(Secretary), Martin T. Kelly (Chairperson),
Eileen O’Hanlon (P.R.O.)
A 1972 Leaving Cert student’s memories of PCA teachers
She was my English teacher and had a big influence on me as she had a great ‘feel’ for her subject, and this transmitted to me. She was thorough in her preparation of the material to be taught at each class session and had an infectious enthusiasm for English. It was her role to introduce us to the writings of Shakespeare, other poets and short story writers. An appreciation of Shakespeare’s sonnets and the plots in his plays were conveyed to us by Marie for Inter. Cert. We studied Shakespeare’s play ‘The Merchant of Venice’ for the Inter. cert. exam. She also left us in no doubt as to the high regard that Frank O’Connor and Irish short story writing in general was held in world literature, comparing it to the great Russian writers like Chekhov.
This is probably why I have ‘The Oxford Book of Irish Short Stories’, ‘The Phoenix Irish Short Stories’ and ‘Stories from the Great Irish Writers’ in my library today. It wasn’t just the genetic endowment I received from my once-a-fortnight library going father!
She encouraged us to have pen pals in other countries, so I found myself writing to a French girl from Paris and later a German girl. This was a very useful activity on two levels: it improved my French and it was a good experience at that age to write to another of similar age, especially a girl!
Part of the Leaving Cert Class of 1972
Front, l-r: Mary Poniard, Nuala Staunton, Marian O’Grady, Helen Gurley, Doreen feeney, Michael McGloin and Marion Kelly. Second row, l-r: Gerry Cloonan (Teacher),
Bríd McDonagh, Marion Quinn, Assumpta Cummins, Irene Costello, Breda Cahill, Bosco McDermott, Maureen Cannon, Kevin Healy, Eithne Kennedy, Goretti Cannon and Des Glynn. Third row, l-r: Seán McDermott, Joe Mannion, Mary Donoghue, Anne Warde, John Kennedy, Eileen O’Hanlon and May Jordan. Back, l-r: Norman Farrell, Eugene Kelly and Kieran O’Connor.
Fr. Martin O’Grady
He taught Religion and Latin for Leaving Cert. He was my Latin teacher for two years during fifth year and leaving cert year. He gave me an appreciation of the Roman Empire, and on one occasion that led me to visit Rome when coming home on holiday from my teaching job in the United Arab Emirates. He had a great feel for Latin and the study of it gave me an appreciation of the grammatical structures of different languages that I was to use later as a TEFL teacher in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Poland. He told us that his style of Latin was ‘ecclesiastical Latin’, as a result of his seminary days, presumably.
His passion for hurling is legendary but less well known is the fact that as a result of the time he spent in Rome, he could discuss at length teams like AC Milan, Roma and Juventus. This resulted in his wish to have us entered in the Connacht Schools Soccer competition in 1971. I have no doubt that the fact that he had a group of lads who, in general, were talented at field sports also influenced his interest in entering us in the schools soccer that year.
He drove a famous white Volkswagen car that was well known on the roads of County Galway, especially around Tuam. I remember one day when he gave a ‘lift’ to a few of us returning to Athenry after a match in Tuam. On a back road out of Tuam, when passing a row of itinerant tents, he waved at many of the men and they shouted back ‘hello Martin’ and he knew many of them by name. I’d say they all knew him through he great interest in horses. He was a man who loved to know people.
He held the view that because women at the time spent a lot of time in the home, they needed education more than men for their own development and, presumably, if they had children, to be educated to guide them. On that matter, he was expressing an idea that it seems the rest of the world was only to catch up on in the 1980s.
I remember standing at the porch of the house across from the Post Office the day after the Leaving Cert results came out and he was coming from the direction of Esker, possibly returning from his home town of Kinvara, when he stopped and asked me if I had got the honour in Latin. I told him I hadn’t and I could see the regret in his face.
I feel that even though I once incurred his wrath, he was a man who saw the ‘bigger picture’ regarding a person’s character.
Part of the Leaving Cert Class of 1972
Front, l-r: Marian Walshe, Mary Feeney, Eileen McGrath, Goretti Cannon.
Middle, l-r: Seán Gohery (Teacher), Teresa Connolly, Josephine Spellman, Marian Jennings, Bernadette Kilkenny and John Touhy. Back, l-r: Marion Kelly, Gerry Cullinane, Mary Cloonan, Marion King, Marian Coen, P.J. Murphy and Gerry Cloonan (Teacher).
Sr. Brid Brennan-a student’s memories
She taught me English both in ‘fifth’ and Leaving Cert years. Under her guidance we studied such novels as Jane Austen’s ‘Persuasion’ and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby’. We had a choice of six novels in all.
The play we studied for Leaving Cert was Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’. The poetry book was ‘Soundings’ and contained a good mixture of the most famous poets: Yeats, Shelley, Keats, Shakespeare and Hopkins, to name but a few. We studied John Millington Synge’s ‘Playboy of the Western World’, and got from Sr. Bríd an appreciation of the distinctive dialect of the English language of the West of Ireland used by Synge, based on what he had heard the people speak. Very often, the English was influenced by the formerly widespread Irish language. She came across to me as a very professional teacher in that she was thorough in dealing with her subject.
She held the view that a school was ‘more than buildings’; it also had an ethos or guiding principle. At the time she said this, I’m sure she was being mindful of the famous prefabs or ‘huts’ in the field and that the school was trying to get assistance from the government to build a new school, which eventually arrived.
She told us on one occasion that the challenge for our generation would be that we would be exposed to so much media information and entertainment that we would have to be very selective in what we viewed, listened to or read. She probably could not have foreseen the internet of today, the ‘explosion’ in the number of TV channels, and the consequent ‘dumbing down’ of many channels, was certainly the realisation of what she was speaking about.
Another opinion held by her was that recognition of sporting achievements in sport was important for those students who achieved it because they may not have got recognition in other areas of endeavour like academia. She said, of course, that many students had ability in both of these endeavours and in numerous other areas, for example, music, art, drama and debating etc.
It was as if she saw in the language used in Coole and the poetry of the ‘Tower’ by Yeats the same ‘music’. These descriptions of the west are evoked somewhat in me when I have photographed, while bird watching, the landscape around the Rahasane Turlough near Craughwell. The shiny grey of the ash trees in the evening wintery sunlight…..was it the colour of pale skin in the moonlight in Synge’s Playboy?
She was my mathematics teacher for two years at pre-Leaving Cert year, also called ‘fifth year’ and Leaving Certificate year.
She left a lasting impression on me. She had a relaxed and measured style of teaching. In her teaching, her style in teaching us the Theorems in mathematics, for example, was methodical and logical. This, I feel, was exactly what we needed as seventeen year olds, as any training in logic is beneficial at any stage of life, and particularly at sixteen and seventeen. Of course her ability in mathematics, like other women teachers, ensured that we did not even begin to harbour ideas that this or other subjects were exclusively the domain of men. In this matter, the rest of the world caught up with PCA about ten to twenty years later, in the eighties and nineties, with the recognition of equality for women.
Gerry was my Irish teacher for the two years of the leaving cert. cycle. He had a great ‘feel’ for his subject and a good style of teaching in that he was at ease with Irish and good rapport with the class. We read the books ‘Rotha Mor an tSaoil’ and ‘Scothscéalta’ for Leaving Cert.
Sr. Katherine Burke
Although I never had her as a class teacher, she coached us in the music room of the Convent building during the third term of Leaving Cert year for the oral Irish exam. She came across to me as a very deep and intelligent person who, I believe, was an educational psychologist.
Debating Success in 1972
L-r: Eugene Kelly,Martin T. Kelly L-r: Stephen Jordan, Eithne Kennedy
and Eithne Kennedy Michael McGloin and Valerie Coen
‘Debating on school teams was a feature of school life and Sr.Brid Brennan was the promoter of this activity. We had debates against other schools and I remember going to Tuam, Mountbellew and Galway to debate against other schools. On Monday, 8th November, 1971 we won a debate against Salerno Convent from Galway. We also had a debate against Presentation Galway in Galway to which a large number of supporters travelled on buses. One motion I can remember was on the environment; definitely foretelling the importance of the issue today. Before debating, we got thirty minutes preparation time to read newspapers for research and to decide order of speakers. We had already got the motion and were told to either defend or propose the motion. Ann Keary (nee Ward), Eithne Kennedy, Eugene Kelly, Bosco McDermott and Martin T. Kelly were the main students involved in debating. Michael Hession and I were also involved.’
Martin T. Kelly, speaking in the All Ireland Debating Final, sponsored by the Safety First Association of Ireland, held in the Irish Life Building, Dublin in May 1972. Also on the team were: Eugene Kelly and Eithne Kennedy. Chief Justice, Cearbhaill O Dalaigh, centre, later President of Ireland, presented the prizes. Also pictured is Rev. D. P. Kennedy, S.J.
Photo: Evening Press of 2nd May 1972
Classmates of 1972
Michael Hession (uncle of Olympian Paul Hession, Beijing 2008) Ballydavid North, Anne Ward (from the ‘Farmyard’, now known as Mellowes Agricultural College, and is today Principal, Lisheenkyle N.S, Eileen O’Hanlon, Eugene Kelly and P .J. Murphy all from Turloughmore. P.J was the son of Phelim Murphy who was for many years Secretary of the County Board of the GAA, Sean McDermott from Lackagh, Mary Donoghue, Caherroyn, who went to live in Paris, Mary Cloonan, sister of Jarlath and who later married Noel Treacy, Minister and T.D., Marion Hardiman, Lackagh, Peter Gillhooley, Norman Farrell, Clamperpark, Damian Duddy, Old Church Street, Joe Mannion, Ryehill, Paul Burke and Ossie O’Grady, Tiaquin, Mary Kilkelly, Ballydavid, later became a teacher and holds a post in the school. Mary White and Eithne Kennedy from Cross Street, Marion Cannon, Knockatogher, Kiltulla, Kevin Healy, Mountain North, May Jordan, Newcastle/Shudane, Doreen Feeney, Ballydavid Middle, Maureen Cannon, Knockatogher, Kiltulla, Nuala Staunton, Caherfinsker and Michael Joyce, Belville.
Other Pre-Leaving Cert students in the other class: Monica Gilligan ,Caherfinsker, Marion Kindregan, Cahertubber, who was a great camogie player, Seamus Staunton, whose mother ran the library in the town at her home on Northgate Street, Marion Quinn, Cross Street, Michael Harte, Raheen, Marion Kelly, sister of Martin T Kelly, Castle Lambert, Gerry Connaughton, Castle Ellen, Gerry Cullinane,Turloughmore, John Tuohy, Newcastle, Frank Duane, Toorkeel, Goretti Concannon, Kiltulla, Jarlath Loughnane, Ryehill/Monivea and Chrissie Kinneen, Cahercrin.
Connacht Colleges Juvenile Champions 1972
Front, l-r: Gerry Connelly (Abbeyknockmoy), Michael Delaney (Turloughmore), Pascal Ryan (Killimordaly), John Ryan, Killimordaly), Mattie Mannion (Abbeyknockmoy), and Gerry Naughton (Turloughmore). Middle, l-r: Tommy Ryan (Killimordaly), Gerry Dempsey (Athenry), Jody Murphy (Turloughmore), Sr. Bríd Brennan, Patrick Kenny (Capt. Turloughmore), John Doyle (Turloughmore0, Joe Holland (Turloughmore) and Michael King (Pádraig Pearses). Back, l-r: Gerry Cloonan, Denis Hynes (Turloughmore), Seamus Collins (Athenry), Richie Walsh (Athenry), Tom Carr (Athenry), Patrick Quirke (Athenry), Basil Holian (Athenry), Albert Glynn (Athenry) and Fr. Martin O’Grady.
A 1972 student’s lasting memories and influences of PCA
It was a co-educational school and the experience of a co-ed school was a very positive and social one for the students. It reflected the real world outside where men and women have to work together.
On average, girls were better ‘readers for pleasure’ and linguists. This was very evident to me in pre-leaving year when Mary Donohue (B.A., NUIG), Mary White (Nursing) and Eithne Kennedy were great readers of the Austen novel ‘Persuasion’.
Their own personal insights were deep regarding Gatsby but I now feel that it was more of a ‘man’s’ novel. On that score, Steinbeck’s ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ merits a revisit.
1972-PCA’s First Annual Past Pupils Re-union in the Sacre Coeur Hotel, Galway
L-r: Sr. Grace King, Mary Joyce, Margaret Delaney, Gerry Cloonan and Helen O’Brien
Physical prowess and participation in a team sport was catered for through competitive games. Athletics (Cross Country and Track and Field) and Basketball also featured.
Debating, promoted by Sr. Brid, definitely was valuable. There was, I think, debating between schools in Irish but I cannot remember if it was while I was in second year or which teacher promoted it. Drama was also promoted and, sad to say, the curriculum was not able to accommodate enough of this except for Sr. Brid’s efforts.
Art was taught as a subject to Leaving Cert. Music, I remember a visiting quartet playing some classical pieces. This was a good way of exposing the students who did not take Music as a subject, if it was available, to alternative music to the popular lunchtime music of the radio that those of us who went home for lunch would hear.
Additionally, the teachers had a great understanding of the background of most of the students and that helped the rapport they had with the students. Most of the students came from the ‘country’, from a farming background. As many of the teachers also did, there was a rapport with many of the students. Looking back now, we did have some teachers from Galway city and from the town of Athenry (Marie Whelan, for example).
Discipline was a challenge for a Principal and Staff to deal with, especially the discipline issues that a co-educational school of young and adolescent students might present. Generally, the girls had a calming effect on the lads and that helped. I remember a meeting about discipline between Fr. O’Grady and all the senior boys at which at times you could ‘hear a pin drop’ but we all came out of the meeting after arriving at a ‘consensus’, so to speak.
I feel that the school education, academically and socially, was very good.
1973- Students at PCA 1973 Students
Front, l-r: Carmel Burke, Claire Fahy. Front, l-r: Helen Monaghan, Daphne McGrath,
Standing, l-r: Geraldine Lyons, Anne Bernie Duffy. Back, l-r: Mary Rose Kelly
Donohue, Freda O’Dea, Bernadette Mullins, and Claire Duddy.
Helen Morris, Ann Marie O’Brien, Kathleen
Staff Sack Race on Sports’ Day in the early 1970s
Pictured: Sr. Carmel Raftery (Front, 2nd left), Marie Whelan, Gabrielle Kyne, Maureen Coppinger, Sr. Nuala Newell and, in the background, Gerry Cloonan.
The 1970s were PCA’s Unsurpassed Years of Camogie Glory
By Midge Glynn
It would be impossible to tell the story of the Presentation Sisters in Athenry without visiting the unforgettable camogie years in the 1970s. Our lives at a glance are made up of high and low points, great and sad events. Some of my most vibrant memories are from those years spent in Presentation College from 1969 to 1975 and, naturally enough, they were centred around the camogie fields.
We achieved success at the highest level of Colleges’ camogie in those years. We won our first Connacht Colleges Senior Camogie title by beating Connacht and All Ireland champions, Presentation Convent, Oranmore by 3-4 to 2-1. Our forwards on the day had the ability to take their scores and outpace the strong Oranmore defence.
This would never have been possible without the structures that were put in place for us by Sister Brid Brennan, who was Principal at the time, Fr. Martin O’Grady R.I.P. and all the sisters in the Pres. We were looked after, probably spoiled a lot and allowed an extra bit of freedom as we travelled the country playing a game that I grew to love and which has remained a huge part of my life to this day. For many of us, the only time we got the opportunity to see the rest of the country was when we travelled to play camogie games.
1973-PCA was defeated in All Ireland Colleges Senior Camogie Final by Mountmellick: 4-2 to 1-2.
Front, l-r: Irene O’Brien, Lucy O’Brien, Ann Donohue, Teresa Duane, Bernadette Poniard, Margaret Poniard.
Back, l-r: Sarita Coady, Gretta O’Brien, Ann Duffy, Marion Kindregan, Anne Marie O’Brien, Helen Morris.
Bernie, my sister, says the first time she saw round bales was on our way to Kilkenny. Sure, we thought there were only square bales!!
Presentation College Athenry contested seven Senior All-Ireland Camogie titles in a row from 1973, won three in a row from ’74 to 77 and two Junior All Ireland titles in ’74 and ’76. They were great days, great teams, nurtured and supported by Sr. Brid and everyone in the Pres and inspired by that amazing motivator, Fr. Martin O’Grady, R.I.P., a man way ahead of his time.
Bernie Duffy, captain of the victorious PCA Junior team making her speech after receiving the All Ireland Cup in 1974. She finished her speech by saying: “We’ll be back in an hour for the Senior Cup.”
April 6th 1974 is a day which will always remain etched in my mind: the day we won both the Senior and Junior Colleges camogie All Ireland Finals in Croke Park. What a thrill for youngsters to play in Croke Park, not to mind taking home two All Ireland titles! This was the first ever Junior Colleges’ camogie competition and both finals were fixed together in Croke Park. Central Council had not reckoned on the same school being involved in both finals and four of our players playing on both teams. They were Bernie Duffy, Noreen Treacy, Olive Coady and Eileen Hynes.
Photo: Midge Poniard shouldered around Croke Park in 1974 by brothers, Anthony and Michael Poniard.
We were in a serious dilemma. Sister Brid and Fr. O’Grady battled furiously to get the games separated but the powers that be weren’t understanding or accommodating of our predicament. The games had to go ahead together. A harsh decision – but in hindsight what a day it made for us!
The juniors played and beat Cashel to set the standard for the day. We played Callan, Kilkenny who had the much acclaimed Downey twins: Angela and Ann on their side. At the final whistle it was a drawn game. We played extra time and left Callan and the Downeys in our wake in what was one of the most thrilling half hours of my life. It must have been doubly so for the four players who had just won two All Ireland medals on the same afternoon. I will always remember when the final whistle blew looking back out the field – Angela Downey was on her knees out at the line. Heroes could be beaten and we were the new heroes.
1974 in Croke Park, and Midge Poniard, Captain, raises the All Ireland Trophy to the cheers of team and supporters
It was a very special event in our house. We had three All-Ireland medals. Bernie played alongside me on the senior team and Anne was on the junior side. There were other days, but for me this was the day of days. I could talk forever about it: the excitement, the homecoming, the celebrations, the feelings that you never forget. But this is more about my acknowledgement and appreciation of the school and the people who made that occasion and all the other occasions possible for us.
It wasn’t all about camogie either, as the nuns took their responsibility as educators very seriously. Sr. Brid continuously encouraged us to keep a balance with our academics. Many is the “roasting” I got from little Sr. Carmel, my French teacher when I arrived late back to class after training. She used say to me that when my leaving cert came and I wouldn’t know the answer, I wouldn’t be getting any marks for writing down “I was at training the day we did that.”
I laugh now at the memory but I have huge respect for her and the way she pulled and dragged at me to keep the balance and “mind the books”. Our camogie wasn’t allowed to overshadow all else. Sr. Agnes and Sr. Eugenia were of a like mind in my first year. Academics were most important.
We often played the Juvenile hurlers in challenge games in Kenny Park – the Ryan twins Paschal and John R.I.P., who has now sadly passed away, Gerry Dempsey and all the others. I loved those games and as we walked back to the Pres., Sr. Brid would buy us all sixpenny ice-creams in Somers’. Irene O Brien played with us in the first All-Ireland in Croke Park in ’73. She was always the life and soul of the party but has also sadly passed away (R.I.P).
I think you don’t truly appreciate things that happen until you look back on those years later. I hold only fond and grateful memories of the years I spent in P.C.A. The Presentation Sisters provided a caring and creative environment in which we were supported and allowed to develop our talents and personalities unhindered.
I am grateful for this opportunity to acknowledge their wonderful work and their generous, caring dedication to us as students. Above all else, I thank them for giving us the opportunity to create the “rich and mighty” memories which I know we all hold so dear.
PCA Senior and Junior Camogie teams in Croke Park in 1974 after winning a double All Ireland Colleges Camogie Championships.
Front, l-r: Freda Shaughnessy, Geraldine Healy, Bernie Duffy, Midge Ponaird, Fr. O’Grady and Ann Duffy. 2nd row, l-r: Helen Naughton, __________, Eileen Hynes, Olive Coady, Madeline Coen and Dolores Ryan. 3rd row, l-r: Ann Delaney, Angela Broderick, Agnes Haverty, ___________, Breda Coady and Mary Delaney. Back row, l-r: Nora Connelly, Ann Culinane, Angela Hynes, Noreen Treacy, Teresa Duane, Enda Ryan, Bernie Ponaird, Gretta O’ Brien, Sr. Bríd and Ann Ponaird.
1974 PCA Senior All Ireland Colleges Camogie Champions
Front, l-r: Noreen Treacy, Ann Duffy, Sr. Bríd Brennan, Midge Poniard, Fr. Martin O’Grady, Teresa Duane and Breda Coady. Back, l-r: Olive Coady, Sarita Coady, Bernie Duffy, Geraldine Healy, Bernie Poniard, Gretta O’Brien and Eileen Hynes.
1974 PCA Junior All Ireland Colleges Camogie Champions
Front, l-r: Agnes Haverty, Madeline Coen, Sr. Bríd, Bernie Duffy, Fr. O’ Grady, Ann Poniard and Ann Delaney. Back, l-r: Olive Coady, Noreen Treacy, Helen Naughton, Dolores Ryan, Anne Cullinane, Eileen Hynes and Freda Shaughnessy.
1976 PCA Hurling and Camogie Teams
Front row, l-r: Stan Lawless, Mary Higgins, Sharon Cullanan, Annette Hanley, Ann Morris, Christina Cannon, __________, Grace Coen, Una Jordan, Helen Shaughnessy, Gabriel Cloonan and Ray Coen. Second row, l-r: Ann Burke, Gerry Naughton, Bernie Duffy, Gerry Dempsey, Ann Delaney and Helen Naughton. Third row, l-r: John Coen, Maura Murphy, Ann O’Shea, Eileen Hynes, Mary Kelly, Madeline Coen, Ann Poniard, Agnes Haverty, Valerie Callanan, Bernie McDonagh, Kevin Jordan and Bernie Poniard. Fourth row, l-r: Gerry Hardiman, Richie Walsh, Michael King, Padraig Lally, John Ryan, Philip Powell, Jody Connolly, Gerry Burke, Michael Delaney and Pascal Ryan. Back row, l-r: John Costello, Martin Duffy, Gerry Kelly, Louis Kennedy and Pat Hurney.
1974-PCA’s Treasure Trove of All Ireland and Connacht Cups
L-r: Ann Duffy with the Connacht Colleges Senior Cup, Midge Glynn, the All Ireland Senior Cup,
Fr. O’Grady, Bernie Duffy, the All Ireland Junior Cup and Madeline Coen with the Connacht
Colleges Junior Cup.
1975 PCA Team in Croke Park after winning the Senior Camogie All Ireland Title
Front, l-r: Sarita Coady, Gretta O’Brien, Breda Coady, Geraldine Healy, Midge poniard, Teresa Duane, Fr. O’ Grady, _________, and Ann Burke. Second row, l-r: Una Jordan, Ann Delaney, Dolores Ryan, Bernie Duffy, Madeline Coen and Bernie Poniard. Back, l-r: Olive Coady, Noreen Treacy, Helen Naughton, Ann Poniard, Sr. Bríd, Agnes Haverty, Ann Cullinane and Eileen Hynes.
1976 PCA Connacht Colleges Senior Camogie Champions All Ireland Finalists
Front, l-r: Una Jordan, Ann Poniard, Anne Morris, Bernie Duffy, Eileen Hynes and Noreen Treacy. Back, l-r: Anne Delaney, Geraldine Healy, Bernie Poniard, Madeline Coen, Anne Burke and Olive Coady.
Mascot: Fiona Gormley.
1976 PCA Senior and Junior Teams in Croke Park after the All Ireland Camogie Finals
Front, l-r: Sarah Higgins, Ann Morris, Christina Cannon and Ann Poniard.
Second row, l-r: Helen Naughton, Geraldine Healy, Dolores Ryan, Agnes Haverty, Mary Kelly and Una Jordan. Third row, l-r: Madeline Coen, Eileen Hynes, Maura Murphy, ____________, Bernie McDonagh, Grace Coen and Ann Delaney. Back row, l-r; Bernie Duffy, Bernie Poniard, Olive Coady, Ann Cullinane, Fr. O’Grady, Noreen Treacy, Annette Hanley, Cepta Forde, Helen Shaughnessy,, Mary Higgings, Sr. Bríd, Ann O’Shea and Ann Burke.
Memories of Catering after home Matches
‘During my time in Athenry we enjoyed the glory years of hurling and camogie and we travelled far and wide in support of the various teams. My initiation into the hurling culture took place at a Pres Athenry v St. Mary’s match and, oh, how the trainers of both teams loved each other! Catering for the at home matches seemed to go on forever, sandwich and cake making was very often the order of the day. All hospitality for those occasions took place in the Home Economics kitchen, so Noreen Cunney and I were very much part of extra curricular school activity.’
No voices for days after matches
We had competitions to make up chants and songs to inspire the teams and there was great excitement around the school. There were also poster competitions. At that time most of the school would attend the matches. We had buses or even a train hired. Mary Hynes (RIP) and myself were cheerleaders and would rally the call on the buses and then on the stand. We would have no voices for days after.
Fr. O’Grady was one of the main forces behind the Camogie and Hurling as well as Gerry Cloonan and Gilbert McCarthy. Mary Keary was great at organising buses, etc. and getting support.’
1978-PCA won the All Ireland Colleges Senior Camogie Title
Ecstatic supporters shoulder Ann Poniard to the Hogan Stand to receive the Cup after defeating Colraine Loretto by 2-3 to 2-2 on 15th of April 1978.
Photo: Kevin Jordan
PCA Team: Ann O’Shea, Anne Cullinane, Ann Burke, Maura Murphy, Helen Shaughnessy, Anne Delaney, Una Jordan, Bernadette McDonagh, Ann Morris and Della Callanan. Subs: Agnes Haverty. Grace Coen, C. Cannon, Nora Gannon, Martina O’Brien, Valerie Callinan, Sharon Kennedy and Sarah Higgins.
1978-Ann Poniard, Captain, raises aloft the All Ireland Junior Camogie Cup
1973 School Staff
Front, l-r: Sr. Loretto Raftery, Bernie Conneely, Mary Joyce, Sr. Bríd Brennan and Pauline McCarthy. Back, l-r: Fr. Martin O’Grady, Sr. Nuala Newell, Luke Glynn, Frank Canny, Gerry Cloonan, Sean Gohery, Sr. Catherine Burke, Sr. Evelyn Geraghty, Gilbert McCarthy and Sr. Genevieve Kilbane.
The Charismatic Renewal 1973
A Sister’s memories
‘As well as teaching French in the college, I also taught Religion, and became very involved in the charismatic movement when it started in Athenry. It began and was organised from one of the classrooms, and flourished for a number of years.
This was a great opportunity for students and towns’ people alike to explore their faith in an atmosphere that was joyful, participative and prayerful.
As well as attending our weekly prayer meting, we travelled to conferences in Dublin and to other prayer groups all over the county. Later when I moved to Carraroe, the Athenry Prayer Group visited us on a few occasions, and learned to praise the Lord ‘Tri Gaeilge’.
Two of the most committed students were Mary Caulfield and Hilary Duddy, who both stayed with the group for a few years. Mary had a very interesting article published in the Charismatic Renewal magazine, and judging by the feed back we got, it was an inspiration for very many young people.’
1973 – Testimony of a Leaving Cert. girl who attended a prayer group each week in Athenry
About a month before Christmas 1973, one of our teachers mentioned that there was a prayer meeting being held the following evening, in connection with the Charismatic Movement. I thought a little about this and decided to go just to see what it was all about.
I was impressed by the obvious deep faith of the people who had organised the meeting; so I began during the following week to question my own faith. I realized that I was not really living my religion at all. I was only half-hearted in comparison to the leaders of the group. So, after some thought I made up my mind to continue going to the meetings for a while anyway. At this time there was no one else of my age group there. I liked it that way as I could express myself without being afraid of their opinion of me.
As the weeks passed I learned to love God more and to enjoy the peace and joy that comes from loving and trusting Him. At these prayer sessions I got a chance to think of my relationship with my heavenly Father, in a tremendous atmosphere of peace, faith and quiet. Above all I had an opportunity of praising and thanking God openly, for all His wonderful gifts to me especially for giving me the chance of reviving my faith in Him.
I like particularly the Gospel reading at the opening of the prayer session. Now I have an extra chance to listen to the Word of God, to think about it in peace and quiet, to share in the thoughts of others and to share any thought I have with the group. This has given me a clearer understanding of God’s goodness to others and indeed to me too. In my opinion this makes people who attend the meeting more aware of the Person of Christ and of His Heavenly Father and of their influence in their lives. This it has done for me. I must also say that I have a greater interest in the sacraments, especially in the Mass. As a result of these meetings I have become aware much more than I ever was of the needs of the people around me and I have a greater respect for people because now I realise that Christ is in each one of us, and that in His eyes all people are equal.
I would like to see similar groups being set up for school-goers alone as it would give them a chance to get to know their Heavenly Father better and to love Him. As a result they would be better able to face the world. However, I personally prefer the mixed age group because I feel very conscious with people of my own age group. There are three other Leaving Certs. now in the group but I am at home with them and we are by no means in the majority. All in all there are 15-20 adults present, men as well as women. This I like.
At these meetings it is very interesting to hear the Testimonies of other people whose lives are influenced by the Holy Spirit. The changes that have come about in their lives as a result of being baptized in the Spirit are simply marvellous. I myself have experienced a great joy and peace and renewal in my life since I prayed with some others that I would be more open to the Spirit of God working in my daily life. These are my thoughts on this movement and again add that since I joined it I am ever so much happier and peaceful. I have a new strength to help me in my work and prayer.
Extract from the PCA Students’ magazine of 1973.
Advice to first Years
1. Never avoid the eyes of the teacher (you’d never know what you’d miss).
2. Sing enough because you’ll never get the chance again-maybe an odd hymn.
3. If you’re late for school in the morning, you can always blame the bus.
4. Volunteer to clean the blackboard, you’ll look good.
5. Hold on to your childish ways-they can often be a means of escape or excuse.
6. If a teacher looks as if he’s going to ask you a question, accidentally drop your biro and dive after it.
7. Bring a big lunch every day in case any of us BIG LEAVING CERTS should forget ours.
8. During class, try and get the teacher into a lengthy discussion on the weather.
9. If you haven’t got your homework done and if you’re asked a question, shoot up out of the desk and your copy shoots onto the floor. By the time you rescue it, the teacher will be fit to ‘shoot’ you, but will have forgotten what he asked you.
10. Always be on time for class. This way, to the teacher, you’ll be just one more face. But if you arrive late, you’ll be in the teacher’s black books and he won’t forget your ‘mug’.
11. In Geography class, complement the teacher on his lop-sided map of Africa, even if it looks more like modern art than it does a map.
Extra Curriculum Activities
‘During my time in the PCA we had many visits from the RTE light orchestra, or the RTE string quartet. We had a concert by Frank Patterson and his wife Eily. We had drama groups and we had a visit from a lady, Mary O’Hagan who spoke on alcoholism to us while we were in second year. She brought a member of AA to speak to us and what shocked me was his age. He was a young man, even in the eyes of a thirteen year old.
We had a two day seminar with Fr. Brian D’Arcy and Fr. Pat O’Brien on the Mass Media. It was a really interesting two days as we learned a lot about the world of advertising, marketing, sales techniques and we also learned how to review a record! It was later in the RTC when studying Communications and Office Management that I reaped the benefit of what we learned during those two days. I do not know any other person who had such a course during their schooling at that time.’
1974/75-A ‘MacArthur’ Year
Memories of a former PCA student doing the H.Dip
I couldn’t wait to leave the Pres in June 1971 but, like some people before me, I found the change to 3rd level to be traumatic and anti-climactic. One was exchanging what was almost a family for a more individual and unglamorous beyond where I learned the meaning of loneliness in a crowd. – A big fish suddenly stranded on a beach. However, memories faded and life moved on. It circled and I returned to Athenry in Sept 1974 for my teacher-training H.Dip. year.
My first impression was of bigger student numbers and more pre-fabs. Previously unknown subjects like Biology were now being taught and there was co-operation with the Vocational school in some areas.
A lot of staff had moved on in my absence- the likes of Cabrini McCarrick, Miss Dermody, Miss Kyne and Mrs O’Donnell- and, for me, there were new unfamiliar faces. There was the bespectacled Brendan Galvin and the lovely Bean Ui Iarnain. Frank Canny and Michael Shaughnessy were new to me, as was Noreen Cunney. Kathleen and Sarah caught my eye but their surnames always eluded me- and there were more.
My distant cousin Mary Cresham was out ill so Sr. Brid kindly kicked me in at the deep end to teach her Science classes. A welcome cheque followed to assist my finances after a student summer fling on the continent but I got something more valuable- 2 weeks experience in full-time teaching. After that, my 3 hours a week teaching practice with a 1st Year Science class was a stroll downhill.
It was a great year. One of my pupils was Una Jordan, good Science student and camogie player who put manners on Kilkenny and the great Angela Downey in 1975. Declan Whelan became a guard and in later years related to me some of his hilarious experiences with the Dubs. There was Mary Conroy who became a teacher and finally settled to married life in America in the 1980’s (the dark decade when we lost thousands). Another was Pat Fox who recognised me at a hurling match some years later and came up to ask how life was treating me- an incident like that, being remembered by a past pupil, makes teaching worthwhile. There were 28 in all in that class and I still remember them- there’s no class like your first class.
School Staff Christmas Party in the 1970s
Front, l-r: Betty Ranahan, Evelyn Wynne, Breege Doherty, Sr. Attracta Leonard, Catherine Heaney, Sr. Nuala Newell, Marie Whelan, Maureen Coppinger and Rosemary O’Donnell.
Back, l-r: Gabrielle Kyne, “Wally” Murphy, Gerry Cloonan, Mary Cheshem, Sr. Brid Brennan (Principal), Gilbert McCarthy, Sr. Carmel Raftery, Cabrini McCarrick and Fr. Martin O’Grady.
In 1974/75, the new school was finally on the way and the financing for it dominated staff meetings. As a H.Dip. student, I wasn’t obliged to be at meetings but I was curious and wanted to see how the system worked- I slowly lost my innocence as I saw how politics could undermine principles. On another level, I saw life as a game involving strategy, skulduggery and magnanimity.
Transition Year was due to be introduced in Sept 1975 and this brought a visit from an inspector to brief the interested teachers. I overheard Sr. Brid introduce the teachers and their subjects e.g.; “Frank Burke, Maths…” to which the inspector dismissively replied “Well, these programmes are interdisciplinary so….” That put them in their place!
I learned a lot in that year but probably the staff member who inspired me most was Michael (“Mick Shocks!”) Shaughnessy. He helped bring out my natural belief that, although you should work in life, you shouldn’t take it too seriously. Who’ll remember any of us in 100 years anyway?
As the year wound down I headed for job interviews. The first, for a post in Manorhamilton Comprehensive, was so tough that I never feared an interview again. The second, at the Mercy Secondary in Foynes Co Limerick, went well. 4 days later, Luke Glynn told me I was wanted on the phone- I had a job for September! Fears/hopes that I would have to emigrate evaporated.
I got one final surprise. Pat Kilkelly was also doing the H.Dip. and, in May 1975, he got an immediate position as an accountant in Tullamore. I took over his lively 1st Year Maths class for a month and left the Pres with a little extra experience.
General MacArthur was driven from the Philippines by the invading Japanese in 1942 –He swore he’d return, and he did. He later had a successful experience in governing beaten Japan but shot himself down in flames when he made a ‘hames’ of the war in Korea.
I had my MacArthur year at the Pres in 1974/75 and it cemented my affection for the place. I was unsuccessful when I applied for a position there in April 1975 but I still got my ‘Japan’ when I was appointed to the Galway Presentation in September of the same year. It was all for the best- I loved Pres Galway and I had my memories of Athenry. I’ll never know but, had I got the job in Athenry, it might have been my Korea!
School Tour to London, Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris
School trips were always part of school life in those days. These were generally to Dublin, but in 1974 we became a bit more adventurous and ambitious and took PCA’s first European tour.
On the banks of the Thames
On Easter Tuesday of that year, a group of 42 students, aged between fourteen to eighteen years took off on a ten day tour of four European capitals with their tour leaders: Sr. Evelyn Geraghty, Ms. Mary Keary, Ms. Mary Joyce, Ms. M. Ruane, Ms. B. Kavanagh, Mr. Frank Burke and Sr. Carmel Raftery.
We took the boat from Rosslare and travelled to the U.K. and visited London before travelling by ferry (left) to Ostend, which was to be our base for the ten days.
We toured Brussels, Amsterdam and Paris, did all the tourist spots of the cities, and arrived home exhausted, but very happy to have visited at least the main cities of four countries.
The trip was under the leadership of Sr. Carmel Raftery. Fahy Travel, Galway was the booking agent and it cost £41 for under 14s and £45 for others. This paid for: full board accommodation (breakfast, lunch and dinner, berths on board the ferries and a fully comprehensive insurance for each participant.
Centre of Brussels
The students were: Eileen McNamara, Mary Heneghan, Geraldine Whyte, Siobhan Harte, Helen Walshe, Louis Duddy, Martina Murphy, Marguerite Taylor, Antoinette Duddy, Tony Killarney, John Burke, John O’Donnell, Helen Quinn, Margaret Greaney, Daphne McGrath, Claire Duddy, Teresa Fahy, Marie Dempsey, Cathleen Coppinger, Geraldine Holian, Bernadette Duffy, Mary Rose Kelly, Valerie Murphy, Regina Flannery, Ann Flannery, Mattie Mannion, John Murphy, Paul Barrett, Gerry Dolan, Eilish Costello, Christina Greaney, Mary Ann Holland, Margaret Morris, Eileen Collins, Bernadette Delaney, Philomena O’Connor, Monica Collins, Marguerite O’Kane, Frances Rohan, Gabrielle Cloonan, Myles Dooley and Michael Delaney.
1974 Leaving Cert (1)
Front, l-r: Rita Jennings, Helen Walshe, Stephen Jordan, ________, Michael Kenny, Christina Gilhooley, _________, Marina Murphy, Antoinette Coady, Marjorie Delaney, Tom Quinton, Anne Duffy and Monica Greaney. Back, l-r: Norrie Shaughnessy, Marion Burke, Celina Mullins, Margaret Hession, Margaret Bohan, Mary Connors, John O’Donnell, Mary Gill, Ellen Collins, Mary Coleman, Mary Hynes, Peter Feeney, Nora Igoe, _________, Geraldine Whyte, Kathleen Morris, Nora Forde, Siobhan Harte, Mary Caulfield, Mary Maloney, Emily Doyle, John Burke, Anne Finnerty, Anne Moran and Eileen McNamara.
1974 Leaving Cert (2)
Front: Stephen Jordan, Michael Feeney, Danny Whelan. Second Row: Gerry Coady, Naoise Kennedy, Carmel McDermott, Mary Heneghan. Marjorie Delaney, Ellen Collins, Marina Murphy, Gerry Holian.
Third Row: Breda Greaney, Helen Walsh, Antoinette Coady, Margaret Forde, Kathleen Morris, Mary Coleman, Tony Killarney. Back: Patrick Quirke, Geraldine Whyte, Michael Higgins, Eileen McNamara, Siobhán Harte, Vincent Glynn, Mary King, Mary Maloney, Josephine Healy,
Margaret Poniard, Michael Kilkelly, Anne Duffy.
1974 Graduation-a student’s memories
‘Graduation was a very simple affair then. After school finished they would open the prefab to its full size and all the Leaving Certs and their parents would arrive and take their seats. After Mass we would be awarded a certificate by Sr. Bríd and Mary Keary took our photo. After the speeches there was tea and biscuits. Then the main event was the dance in Murphy’s Hall. The bands I remember most were ‘The Works, Doves, Bullet Head (a rock group from Galway)’.’
Graduation Mass Sr. Bríd addressing the Students
Members of the Leaving Cert Class
1974 saw Hopes fulfilled for a new secondary school
Sr. Bríd, teachers and parents met Mr. Richard Burke T.D. Min. of Education
in Athenry Presentation Convent to lobby for a new school.
Front, sitting, l-r: Paddy Delaney, Phelim Murphy, John Donnellan T.D. and son, and Gerry Clonan. Standing, l-r: Michael McGrath, Maureen Duddy, Sr. Bríd, Christy Barrett, Jimmy Cleary, Sr. Nuala Newell, Mrs Burke, Minister of Education, Mr. Richard Burke T. D., Matt Dermott and Gerry Kelly.
The Long Awaited News Arrives
The following day, Minister Burke sanctioned a new PCA and a new era was about to begin for the school’s teachers and students
“New Beginnings” – 1970 -1975
In 1879 Orison Swett Madden wrote “There is no medicine like hope, no incentive so great, and no tonic so powerful as expectation of something tomorrow.”
So it was in September 1970 when approximately 100 new students entered P.C.A. The same sense of hope and the sense of a new beginning prevails to a large extent in most first year gatherings but 1970 was one of those years that saw rapid expansion of the college.
A new decade had begun! The previous few years has seen the introduction of co-education. Coolarne had closed down a few years previously as well and this resulted in another jump in numbers with the “Turlougheens” joining us. Donnacha O’Malley free education bill was passed and the school transport scheme all came together in those few years prior to 1970. The new Regional Training College was opening in Galway and this heightened the sense of new opportunities. So it was against this background that we started our second level education.
Hence I think, even if it was only in our subconscious, we had this feeling that things were changing for the good in Ireland and we as first years in 1970 were going to be part of a Great Journey. Remember as well that at that time Ireland was attracting a lot of multinational companies. A mini industrial revolution was taking place in Ireland. Foreign companies were setting up manufacturing plants here and creating a lot of employment. Digital and Thermo King had came to Galway and many stories began to circulate about the wonderful employment opportunities to be had with them. Ireland had joined the “Common Market” and we were now receiving money from Europe to get the country moving. There were still going to be difficult times ahead but nevertheless it was this sense of hope and beginning that prevailed when we started our Secondary School Education in 1970.
So how did the college cope? How did it prepare us for the years ahead in this new changing Ireland? Let’s go down memory lane to see if we can come up with some answers?
First of all let’s remember the facilities! Prefabs! Prefabs! Prefabs! Who can remember the Sports Storage Room? It could hold about 20 Hurleys and a few footballs – that’s all! I don’t think we were even aware of the concept of the sports hall or a gymnasium. Remember the rush to the storage heaters in winter at the beginning of class. Yet somehow lack of facilities was never an issue for us. Sure we were aware that the planning of a new School had started about this time but overall we were happy in our prefabs – after all they were all we had ever known! Certainly lack of sporting facilities never impacted the performance of the many teams who represented the college with so much distinction in those years but more of that later!
So what of our teachers? Thinking of them brings many good memories back. The sense of leadership shown by Sr. Brid Brennan was palpable. The feeling she instilled in us as been every bit as good as students in other schools in Ireland was inspiring. She taught English brilliantly and a lot of us used to look forward to her classes. She put so much energy into the debating team. Of course that team achieved considerable success during her tenure.
1972-Tom Carr (centre at back) and members of 1972-PCA School League Runners-up
the PCA School League Finalist team
Fr. Martin O’Grady was the driving force behind the emergence of the school as a major sporting force. What he achieved as camogie and hurling manager will never again be equalled in terms of second level college sport in Ireland. The very fact of his winning two camogie All Irelands in Croke Park on the same day still stands the test of time. Then when you consider he came so close to wining All Senior Colleges Hurling Final a few years later with the lads, you can begin to understand the spread of his achievements! “Oh, mouse (Kevin) Jordan why did you not put that last minute chance over the bar!” His often quoted saying “snow again I didn’t get your drift” was often repeated among us. Everyone knew he was a man not to be messed with but if you were fair with him he was fair with you.
Quite a few teachers had good quotes at the time:
Mr. B. Galvin- “If you ever want a boy to remember anything – associate it with food”.
Mr. Sean Gohery – “Oh, to be that man outside the window digging the hole – we can see the progress he is making.” Sean was, of course, the school cynic!
Mr. Gilbert McCarthy in reply to excuses for being late for morning class that “I slept it out”, replied “slept it out where boy”?
The old black gowns that teachers wore were disappearing. There were a lot of new young trendy teachers being hired – Frank Burke, Luke Glynn, Gerry Doherty among them and, of course, who could forget the tall blonde Miss Kyne and the very chic and fashionable Miss Dermody. Quite a few of them had gone through the school as students and were now back as teachers – this also helped to create an atmosphere of new beginning. There were still quite a few nuns on the teaching staff although the mix was changing. Sr. Carmel was certainly not a lady to be messed with but she loved her French language and encouraged us all to travel. She certainly had control over all the boys in her class – specially this one! One of the quotes at the time was “oh, how could one so small instil such fear.” Sr. Catherine Burke was able to set all our pulses racing! Poor Sr. Evelyn had the daunting task of trying to knock some music into us. Then there was the ever-present Gerry Cloonan – always there to help and support any initiative that was going on! Therefore I think it’s fair to say we were well served by all the aforementioned teachers and by all the others on the teaching staff at the time.
I think it’s also only fair to remember some of the school events at the time. School tours to Europe were beginning to happen. Religious retreats in Killiney Co. Dublin were organised and were inspiring and were also great craic! Student representative bodies were encouraged. We felt we were being empowered and treated as adults. This, I believe, gave us all great confidence in the new emerging Ireland.
The first musical / nativity play was performed in Athenry Church and indeed musical endeavour was encouraged! Yes I think our teachers prepared us well.
Indeed in discussions with students from other schools years later we realised how forward thinking our school was. The first transition year even started in our time in the college.
Carl Bard wrote “Though no one can go back and make a new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new end” and that I think is what P.C.A. achieved with us day after day – 1970 to 1975.
Macra na Tuaithe and the 1975 PCA CO-Operative Society- A Sister’s memories
Another very important aspect of my life in Athenry was youth work. This was most rewarding as it implemented my work in the class room, helping me to get to know the students and work with them in a way that was totally different from that in the classroom.
We were privileged to be attached to Macra na Tuaithe, whose philosophy was personal and community development, and
Photo: Front, l-r: Anne Monaghan, Sr. Carmel Raftery and Sylvia Farrell.
Back, l-r: Sharon Kennedy, Hillary Duddy, Francis McNamara, Padraic Ryan and Brendan Barrett.
stressed the importance of youth work in achieving closer harmony and unity of purposes between home, school and community, and giving young people an opportunity to contribute to the betterment of society. Other youth leaders, who worked hard and were totally committed to youth work, were Sr. Laura Boyle and Gerry Doherty.
The club was set up in 1972 and had 40 members between the ages of 12 and 18 years. Training was offered at national level and the members learned to run their own club and be actively involved with other clubs in the area.
The high point of our youth activity in those days was the setting up of a Co-Operative Society that was formed and run by the members of the club. This was part of the ‘Macra na Tuaithe Young Achievers programme’, and sponsored at national level by Allied Irish Banks. In this we were supported the whole way through by the Regional Youth worker, Mr. Michael McGee.
The company was set up; shares, ranging from 10p to £l, were sold. Brushes, buckets, hoses, polishes, clothes and all the necessary equipment were bought, and it was ready to roll! Charges for the service varied from 30p to 50p. Workers were not paid for their services; all profits, when all overheads were paid, were given to the shareholders.
The service offered was washing cars. This, according to the Managing Director, Francis McNamara, was greatly needed in the town. Its function was to give the young people a useful personal development experience and to provide a service to the community.
Getting the local people involved with the club and its activities was very important from the beginning. Several adults volunteered their services; among them were Mrs. Houlihan, Mr. Christy Archer, Mr. M.T. Kelly and Mr. Tommy Mooney. The club was lucky to be able to avail of the services of business teacher, Mary Keary, (left) who advised on the technical side of things. She was delighted with the opportunity to be able to put into practise what she was teaching in her ‘Commerce and Business’ class.
The group elected its own officers: Chairperson and Managing Director, Francis McNamara; Secretary, Sylivia Farrell; Accountant, Hilary Duddy; Production Manager; Brendan Barrett, Assistant Accountants, and Sales Managers; Sharon Stanley and Ann Monaghan.
Cars were washed very Saturday in a lay-by outside the town, which was serviced by running water. The service was offered from Easter to the summer holidays. The business then went into voluntary liquidation. This also helped the students to learn about this side of business.
The hope was to set up that co-op or a similar one again after the summer holidays, so as to give other members a chance of experiencing officers’ positions.
The activity of the club was high-lighted by our appearance on national television. We got extensive coverage one evening on ‘Roundabout’ after the six o’clock news. Some students were interviewed while others were shown as they expertly went about their task of washing cars on the college grounds, in a make-shift situation specially set up for the TV cameras!
The school enjoyed success on the courts during 1974/75 registering the follwing achievements: Junior Boys’ Connacht Schools league, Runners up in Senior Boys and girls with Pádraic Ryan outstanding.
L-r: Martin Donoghue, Paddy Doyle, Gabriel Cloonan
Members of School Staff circa 1975
Sitting, l-r: Maureen Coppinger, Sr. Gertrude Morrin, Catherine Heaney, Sr. Eugenia Murphy, Sr. Nuala Newell and Mary Creshem. Front, l-r: Sr. Carmel Raftery and Cabrini McCarrick.
Praise and plaudits for the supporters from Fr. O’Grady (Trainer), Sr. Bríd Brennan (Principal) and Tom Carr (Chairperson of the Students Council) following a successful camogie campaign.
1975-Galway Hurling Star and PCA Staff member, Frank Burke, brings the National Hurling League Trophy to the school.
1975 School Uniform
It was exciting getting the uniform of bottle-green tunic or skirt and beige jumper. In our senior years there was a relaxed attitude to the style of uniform worn, as it was being gradually phased out to make way for the new maroon/grey one about to be introduced. The creative girls among us customised their green uniforms; trousers were allowed for girls – fashion ran from flared trousers with high waistbands through to drainpipe cords, with various skirt styles from pencil to 1960s circle types inspired by the hit film Grease – all in green, of course!
The huts in various state of repair
My time there was also in the old building and two rows of prefabs in various states of repair. One day I opened the window and the entire frame dropped to the ground. Michael McCann, later principal of the Presentation School in Galway, was teaching in the prefab opposite. I think he knew by the look of shock on my face that no foul play was involved and it certainly silenced the class!
PCA function rooms
The same Home Economics kitchen which was very basic served as H.Q. for the cleaning staff, Catering Department for, matches, debates, parent teacher meetings and graduations. Two prefab buildings which could be opened up to form one room served as our functions room for Graduation ceremonies. There was every opportunity to keep fit as everything, furniture, crockery and food had to be carried to the ‘functions Room’ for the occasion and back again afterwards to be in order for classes on the following morning.
1976 Connacht Colleges Senior hurling Champions and All Ireland Finalists.
By 1976 the PCA Connacht Colleges Juvenile Champions of 1972, ’73, ’74 and ‘75 had matured into an excellent team of outstanding hurlers and potential All Ireland Senior Colleges Hurling Champions. Having being nourished by Gerry Cloonan and Fr. O’Grady over the years, this team poised the college on the very edge of long-hoped glory.
They cruised through the Connacht Championship with crushing victories over Portumna (11-10 to 3-5) and Gort (12-16 to 3-0) in the initial rounds and defeated Loughrea in the final by 3-8 to 2-7 in a match they dominated in the first half, but allowed Loughrea to score 2-3 against their 1-3 in the second half. It was this second half performance that would temper expectations of further glory in the championship.
The Semi Final V Kilkenny CBS.
PCA were pitched against Kilkenny CBS in the All Ireland Semi Final. Opinions within the college were divided as to the team’s ability to beat the Leinster champions who had defeated defending All Ireland Champions, St. Kierans.
On the positive side: ‘This team is the best the school ever had’; ‘With their talent and ability, they’ll beat Kilkenny’.
On negative side: ‘They are not as enthusiastic as former teams’; ‘I don’t think the team played as they are capable of in the Connacht final’; ‘This is a potentially good all round team that did not do itself justice in the Connacht final’.
The team did their college and themselves proud with a fine victory over the Leinster champions.
The Irish Times reported: ‘Kilkenny CBS had broken the grip of St. Kieran’s in Leinster and entered the semi final as strong favourites by dint of that achievement. However Athenry PCA lead all the way and won the game comfortably’.
The Evening Herald stated: ‘The “Pres” boys’s win was full of merit, for it is a rare feat to beat a Kilkenny team in any grade in hurling nowadays’.
Team: C. Kilkelly, R. Walsh, G. Hardiman, P. Lally, P. Powell, G. Naughton, P. Ryan, J. Ryan, M. Duffy, J. Connolly, P. Hurney, G. Dempsey and L. Kennedy. Subs: P. Tully, G. Burke and J. Costello.
All Ireland Final V St. Flannans
The game was fixed for Nenagh on the 2nd of May and the newspapers of the time made St. Flannans favourites-‘St. Flannans have won the All Ireland title on three occasions. They enter this game confidently, but will be playing 13-a-side for the first time and are slightly wary that the transition may upset them’ (Irish Times).
The same paper said: ‘Presentation, Athenry, is the first co-ed school to qualify for an All Ireland Colleges hurling final. Their semi-final victory over Kilkenny CBS was hard-earned but deserved. The majority of them are eligible for junior grade and Gerry Dempsey and Pat Hurney should poach sufficient sources to make matters really difficult for the Munster champions’.
1976 Connacht Senior Hurling A Champions & All Ireland Finalists
Front, l-r: (Inset) Stan Lawless, Jimmy Corley, Joe Murphy, Kevin Jordan and John Costello.
Middle, l-r: (Inset) Gerry Naughton, Gerry O’Dea, John Ryan, Pádraig Lally, Christy Kilkelly, Gerry Dempsey, Paschal Ryan, Louis Kennedy, Pat Hurney and John Coen.
Back, l-r: Gerry McDonagh, Gerry Hardiman, Martin Duffy, Philip Powell, Gerry Burke, Richard Walshe, Jody Connolly, Pat Tully, Michael Delaney, Gabriel Cloonan and Gerry Kelly.
The rip-roaring encounter, played before huge crowds of supporters and neutrals, ended in a thrilling draw, PCA 4-4 to Flannans 3-7.
The newspaper headlines summarized the match thus:
‘Presentation fight back for second chance’-Connacht Tribune.
‘Thrilling draw in Croke Cup Final’-Irish Press.
‘Powell’s long-ranged point from free saves Athenry’-Irish times.
‘Athenry snatch late draw’-Cork Examiner.
‘Ryan twins save Athenry’-Tuam Herald.
Team: Christy Kilkelly (Athenry), Philip Powell Loughrea), Gerald Hardiman (Killimordaly), Gerry Naughton Turloughmore), Richie Walsh (Athenry), Padraic Lally (Abbeyknockmoy), Pascal Ryan (Killimordaly), John Ryan (Killimordaly), Joe Connolly Craughwell), Gerry Dempsey (Athenry)(Capt.), Padraic Hurney (Turloughmore), Martin Duffy (Turloughmore) and Louis Kennedy (Craughwell). Subs: Michael Delaney Turloughmore), Kevin Jordan (Killimordaly), Michael King (Gurteen), Stan Lawless (Kilconieron), Pat tully (Craughwell) and John Costello (Abbeyknockmoy)
The replay took place in Nenagh on the 16th of May and excitement was intense with expectations of victory were high. Team manager, Fr. O’Grady adopted Julius Caesar’s Motto-“Veni, Vidi, Vici”-as PCA’s battle-cry for the upcoming encounter. He further added, ‘we did have victory in so far as we won the confidence and gained the assurance that our 13 are as good as any in the country-let Sunday prove that we are better. We are on the crest of the wave’.
Alas, the hopes of all were dashed and Flannans went on to win the game, a match that saw PCA not hurl to their full potential.
Team: Christy Kilkelly (Athenry), Philip Powell Loughrea), Gerald Hardiman (Killimordaly), Gerry Naughton Turloughmore), Richie Walsh (Athenry), Michael Delaney Turloughmore), Pascal Ryan (Killimordaly), John Ryan (Killimordaly), Joe Connolly Craughwell), Gerry Dempsey (Athenry) (Capt.), Padraic Hurney (Turloughmore), Martin Duffy (Turloughmore) and Padraic Lally (Abbeyknockmoy). Subs: Louis Kennedy (Craughwell), Kevin Jordan (Killimordaly), Michael King (Gurteen), Stan Lawless (Kilconieron), Pat Tully (Craughwell).
PCA reached the All Ireland Senior Boys and Girls’ Finals with I. Murphy and G. Holian giving great performances in the girl’s competition. In the Boy’s section, Pascal Ryan and J. Corley surpassed themselves and stunned onlookers with their skills and potential. J. Connolly and E. Corley won against Munster and the team finishing third overall.
Champions All 1976. Badminton Champions 1976
Standing: Pádraig Ryan, Gerry Dempsey, Gerry Standing: Madeleine Murphy
Naughton. Seated: Sarah Higgins, Geraldine Healy, Seated: Geraldine Holian, Frances Rohan,
Frances Rohan. Irene Murphy.
1976 Re-Union Diners 1976 Students
Front: Mary Poniard, Derrydonnell. L-r: Sharon Stanley, Annette Doran, Siobhán Conroy,
Back, l-r: Fionnuala Cleary, Athenry, Gerardine Lally, Linda Farrell
Lucy O’Brien, Turloughmore,
Breege Kearney, Turloughmore.
1976-Connacht Colleges Junior Hurling A Champions
Seated, l-r: Luke Glynn, Gerry Kelly, Gerry Hall, Christy Kilkelly, Gerry Naughton, Martin Duffy, Stan Lawless and Fr. Martin O’Grady. Standing, l-r: Frank Burke, Gerry McDonagh, Gerry Hardiman, Jimmy Corley, Michael Delaney, Raymond Coen, Gabriel Cloonan, Louis Kennedy and Pat Tully.
L-r: Jacqueline Monaghan, Mary Carr, Richard walsh, Helen O’Donnell, Bernie Duffy, Helen Monaghan, Geraldine Healy.
Death in a School Prefab
by Brendan Galvin
In Secondary School, Friday afternoons are regarded as being a very distinctive and unique part of the school week. It is when the educational influence on the student gradually begins to fade, and the social and environment influence become dominant. The excitement of the weekend discos, sports games, weddings and other family occasions and outings become evident in the giddiness, day dreaming and general not-with-it attitude, of even, the best of students.
It was on such an afternoon in late April that I put my English Intermediate Certificate Poetry book in my briefcase, grabbed a small pile of unmarked exercise books from the staff room shelf and made my way for the last class of the week to the appropriate class prefab. In the late 1970s, these prefabs provided temporary classroom accommodation for the phenomenal increase in Secondary Education numbers, following the Government introduction of free Secondary Education. These were located in serried ranks in the field, which stretched northwards from the old small Convent Secondary School to a rather high embankment, which fronted a road leading to the Railway Station. Students were housed in year groups in adjoining prefabs and each of these became a sort of home-from-home for each class. Teachers taught most subjects in these rooms and it was only when they were specialist subjects, like Science, P.E. etc. did students move from this base. Prefabs were mostly of the semi-detached type with one class on either side of a folding partition, and the teacher’s desk and blackboard at the opposite end. There was no spare provision for students’ equipment, so that all outdoor wear, sports bags, hurley sticks, lunch boxes, etc. were stored haphazardly in the space between the back seats and the partition.
As I proceeded to my class in the Inter Cert Prefabs, I noticed that a very dedicated teacher of Irish who was also regarded to be rather lady-like but also a down to earth Presentation Sister was on her way to the adjoining prefab. Further down in the field next to the embankment, I could see the rare sight of a group of soccer players practising their skill under the watchful eye of a very popular History teacher.
Athenry and the surrounding parishes at that time played only the game of hurling and so dominant was that game that the School playing field was reserved entirely for that game, so that the History teacher and his small band who oddly chose soccer had to be content with the ever diminishing swampy green space near the embankment. His coaching skill wouldn’t match those of Benitez and the ‘grounds’ could be best described as ‘no great Kop’. As a mark of distinction from other soccer stadia, he named it ‘The Rat Hole’ with some justification, I’m sure. Unfortunately, in the interest of progress, the Rat Hole later became the site of the long awaited new two storied Secondary School. The History teacher/Soccer Coach, among others regretted the fact that the architect hadn’t included any rodent symbolism in its design but the same teacher remarked in his own cynical fashion that he felt sure that the odd two-legged rodent would make good that loss in the future! Sadly the same much loved teacher died prematurely shortly after retiring. While much of the content of his well-prepared history lessons may be now forgotten, I’m sure he must be very proud as he gazes down from his heavenly abode of how that acorn, which he and his dedicated group of soccer players planted in the ‘Rat Hole’, has grown and flourished into a mighty oak tree whose branches have spread out to all the local villages and that the Beautiful Game played at all levels is now pre-eminent in the area. He often shared the ‘Rat Hole’ with another much loved and enthusiastic hurling and camogie coach who regretfully predeceased him. May both their souls rest in peace.
Everything was ready when I entered my Inter Cert poetry class. On opening their text book at the page I mentioned, they found that we were studying a love-poem and the prescribed one that year was Robert Burns ‘My luv is like a red red Rose’. We read it through several times for meaning, rhythm, music, etc. I explained the folksy Scottish text, the literary features, geographical details of the poet and mentioned some other of his poems that like this one, had become songs e.g. “Auld Lang Sine’. We compared Burn’s to last week’s poem of Patrick Kavanagh and mentioned how both poems took their inspiration from common rural everyday things. I mentioned Burn’s poem ‘To a field mouse’ and wrote its first line on the blackboard. “wee sleekit cow-rin’ tim-rous beastie”.
Then any questions only produced one query: “Had any of Burn’s songs made it into the charts?” My answer was that, if in the late 18th century there was a Top of the Pops type programme, Burns would surely ‘make-it’ on the grounds of how few words he used, how folksy they were, how repetitive they were, loads of sentimentality and after all its excellent iambic pentameter beat. Finally, I wrote a few questions on the board, got them to mark a few others in their text book, encouraged the boys to memorise one or two verses for future reference and finally intimated that that was their homework for the weekend. I was surprised, having glanced at their watches, how assiduously they got down to work.
A few minutes later a similar silence descended on the Seomra Gaeilge next door as ‘An tSúir’ and I set about finalising our weekly marking. Little did any of us humans realise what a disturbing effect the classroom silence was having on a ‘wee sleekie cowrin’ timorous beastie’ who lived contentedly with his peers, parents, grandparents and numerous cousins below the floor boards of the prefab. They were looking forward to the weekend too. As soon as the humans vacated the room, they emerged through the holes made by hurley sticks, which in time dislodged all the wood knots in the pine floor boards.
The well-lighted and furnished classroom would become a sort of recreational centre for the whole colony. There would be plenty of exciting games, racing, sprinting, obstacle races between desks and plenty of challenging climbs especially on the smooth legs of chairs, remains of lunch boxes to be explored and consumed and lots and lots of paper to be played with and chewed. It really was the good life. There was even the possibility of Inter Prefab Mousey Competitions.
But to get back to our under floor “wee cowrin’ timorous beastie” on whom, for shortness and his Scottish connection, I am to bestow the ridiculous name of Brave Heart. Well, since lunch time he had become very disturbed psychologically because a wonderfully appetising and alluring aroma emanating from the half eaten contents of a lunch box had descended through the floor boards and registered on Brave Heart’s olfactory radar. It was driving him crazy. He searched frantically for any means of egress in the area underneath the lunch box but to no avail. He was determined that this was one tit-bit, which he would not share with his peers. Finally he found a small hole on the other side of the room. The hole made by the dislodged knob seemed to be at an angle, so that when he peeped up, he first could only see the blackboard but as Brave Heart became braver and came higher up, he noticed the legs of the teacher’s chair. He became excited as he had been climbing them successfully (despite their smoothness and polish) on a previous excursion. Easing himself a little higher he spotted the toecaps of two well-polished shoes sticking out from under the folds of a voluminous black skirt. He reckoned that the shoes were only about twenty inches from the point of entry and also that even, if he were entering into dangerous enemy territory he could safely seek temporary cover by dashing from the hole to the little tunnel between the toecaps. From there too he was guaranteed to feast later on the contents of the lunch ahead of any of his peers.
The Múinteoir Gaeilge was just returning a marked cóipleabhar to the top of the pile on her table when unexpectedly her large brown eyes came eye-ball to eye-ball with the tiny beady eyes of the emerging mouse that seems to be coming straight at her. In the silence, the instant ear-piercing muss phobic scream that followed caused a pandemonium in both prefabs. Pens dropped limply from sixty hands and clattered on the desks, mouths opened and blood began to drain from rosy cheeks.
As a result of a scrum, I’m afraid Brave Heart dishonoured his false name and turned tail and darted unnoticed under the desks and hid himself under the bags next to the partition. Robert Burns was prophetic again in the following stanza:
“But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain!
The best laid schemes of ‘mice an’ men
Gang, aft a gley,
An leve us nought but grief and pain
For promised joy”.
No one except the mussophobic one could understand the raison d’étre of the commotion and she wasn’t talking, only screaming! My own first suspicions of the cause of the uproar were medical, a seizure or cardiac arrest. But as I looked through the glass panels, half way up the glass partition and saw her rising from her chair seat to the top of the table, my medical prognosis became untenable. Maybe then it was religious. I had seen pictures in books of hazy saintly figures, suspended between heaven and earth, when I was young.
Then I remembered that all of those had happy and benign expressions on their faces in contrast to the terrorised face now clearly visible. There is always option ‘C’ we’re told. Could it even be some form of levitation practised by oriental fakers? After all, since Vatican 2 had cast doubt of some verities, more and more people including The Beatles were examining the mysticism of Oriental religions and we had become familiar with words like Guru, Mantra, etc. But as I rose from my seat, I could see clearly that the levitated one was making contact with the table in what I might describe as a Flatleyesque fashion!
Then quite unexpectedly from the other side of the partition came, in a theatrical whisper the keyword spelled slowly: “M-O-U-S-E”. The reactions from both classrooms were traumatic. I could see about twenty new heads, complete with coloured ribbons and ponytails rise “Triffid-.like” to the top of the chairs. They did not rise in unison however, as some of the more clever ones needed only M-O- before they got their feet off the floor! Anyway, our Leading Vocalist had now a backing group! In my own room there was a general en masse movement away from the partition and I was amused to notice that the four lasses who made a point of coming in early ‘to bag’ the back seats now led the posse. One rather plump student was about to mount a rather rickety chair when she happened to see my rather disapproving eye, and instead, after much huffing, puffing and bodily distortions miraculously managed to get her vulnerable feet on her chair.
Apart from the Whisperer (who later in life was to become a C.I.D. Officer) the boys, including Sir, had remained rather inactive, if thoughtful spectators in this rather bizarre classroom drama. Now it was their turn to demonstrate their latent gallant medieval chivalrous spirit. Immediately each armed himself with that lethal weapon called ‘The Camán’. Bags by the partition were lifted gingerly and placed on desks. Of course the lads in my room were playing a defensive role. There they were hurleys held in the striking position, examining every possible point of entry, with that determined World War 1 expression, “Ne passeront pas” on every face.
There was the excitement of the odd sighting, pre-emptive strike and regretful miss from the other side. They had removed all of the bags but two and a boy called Tom who was the top forward in the Senior hurling Team (a sort of Joe Canning of the nineteen seventies!) positioned himself between the two bags. When one bag was raised and Brave Heart darted as never before to the other bag, Tom struck and produced the coup-de-grace. It was both sad and ironic that the last bag on the floor contained the half eaten remains of the much desired lunch box! But ce la vie!
Amid the cheering from the boys and the clapping from the girls (whose hands were free) Tom caught poor Brave Heart by the very tip of his long tail, did a little triumphant gyration ala Ronaldo or Torres, and proceeded to the múinteoir’s desk to show that her ordeal was over. Just then the school bell tolled the end of the week’s lesson. This resulted in the general descent. As Tom approached with the dangling lifeless “beastie”, An Muinteor was pointing to the door, uttering the word “Amach” three times in a dismissive Thatcherite way. She collected her belongings and hesitated before exiting with three other words. “Criochnu”, “Cleachta” “Baile” and departed still ashen-faced and rather dishevelled for the sanctuary of the Convent and no doubt any welcome refreshments, which her Pioneer Pin would allow.
Her parting words were received with a universal groan and one boxing enthusiast remarked something about an unfair blow after the bell!
An all male cortege, each with camán on shoulder in military formation moved quickly after the dangling remains of Brave Heart and detoured toward the Rat Hole. With school buses waiting, the committal was swift, unceremonious, reminiscent of Charles Wolfe’s poem, entitled, “The Burial of Sir John Moore at Corunna, 1809”.
“Not a drum was heard, not a funeral note,
As his corpse to rampart we hurried”.
On the following Monday morning, it was evident that the school repair man had a busy weekend nailing large tin coverings over every hole in every floor of the prefabs.
Firstly, this guaranteed happily a full complement of mussophobic teachers in the future.
Secondly and regretfully, a rodent famine, of Ethiopian proportions, underneath the same prefabs.
Thirdly and opportunistically, a supply of tin bands for split hurleys into the future and more than likely, as a result, a return to the ‘state’ of New York position happily once more!
Memories of Transition Year 1977/1978
The children learn to cipher and to sing,
To study reading – books and histories,
To cut and sew, be neat in everything
Among School Children W B .Yeats
Transition Year (TY) (Irish: Idirbhlian) is an optional one-year programme that can be taken in the year after the Junior Certificate and is intended to make the senior cycle a three year programme encompassing both Transition Year and Leaving Certificate. Transition Year was created as a result of the Programme for Economic and Social Progress, which called for a six-year cycle of post-primary education.
The mission statement of the Transition Year is: To promote the personal, social, educational and vocational development of pupils and to prepare them for their role as autonomous, participative and responsible members of society.
Sr. Bríd offered students the option of TY
‘I consider myself fortunate to have been taught by Sr Brid. 1977 saw a tremendous opportunity for alternative learning when she gave us the option of a Transition Year. A group of us decided to do this extra year, where we were encouraged to explore and experience new subjects. Great emphasis was placed on self-expression through Art, Music, Drama and related modules. Seventeen students took up the challenge.’
1977-PCA Entry in the Athenry St. Patrick’s 1977 School Tour to Paris
Sr Brid’s own forte was English and she introduced us to creative writing. She shared her love of words and gave us the space and freedom to compose and express ourselves without inhibition. Her passion for books was contagious and to this day I still treasure her gift to each student of two books in particular, Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach, and The Ascent of Man by J Bronowski.
Transition Year also gave us the opportunity to write short stories and plays, compose poetry and put lyrics together for songs.
Students were taught to believe in their own abilities and unique talents, whether these lay in sport, musical instruments, public speaking, singing or other areas.
Our classroom was a hive of activity and would often resound with laughter and fun.
Sr. Brid had a holistic approach to teaching. Academic success was important, but personal development was also a primary concern. She had the ability to zone in on each person’s particular traits and talents and offered encouragement and support towards developing individual potential.
T.S. Eliot, Brendan Kennelly, Patrick Kavanagh, W.B. Yeats were just some of the poets we studied. I learnt their lines, tried to understand their thought process, appreciated their style, their pictures, and their words. Then I decided to write a few poems myself. Sr. Bríd encouraged and complemented me. ‘Well done’ she said on more than one occasion when I got called into her office in the convent. So, I wrote poems in school. Some got published in the Connacht Tribune and some in the year book. I still write and writing is very much part of my professional and personal life. But what is even better is that I can still recite lines from lots of the poems we had to learn off for Sr. Bríd – a great testament to a great nun who encouraged us to take our English subject seriously. And this is what I pass on to my children.
Encouraged the Arts
For my own part, my particular interest was Art and Sr. Brid supported my participation in various competitions and projects. A good example of her encouragement was when she presented me with a plaque with the inscription; “Artist to the College”, in 1979. Classmates were acknowledged in similar fashion for achievements in their chosen subjects and specialities. During these years, I believe that we were privileged to have had a tutor with such a keen interest in fostering the individual talents of each one of us.
One such experience was a trip for a few days to Stratford-on-Avon to immerse us in Shakespearian culture and improve our understanding of English literature. Sr. Nuala Courtney was in charge of logistics and no better woman could have been assigned to the task as her pupils enjoyed what for many of them was their first time away from home on a foreign trip.
I recall we had an off-site trip to Carraroe, which was a bonding activity for the group. We also went on Retreat to Dundrum in Dublin which was a truly different experience for us. This type of activity helped our emotional and psychological development.
Crumbs on our jumpers
Fr. O’Grady (R.I.P.) thought the Latin class, a motley crew of six or seven, who because of their small number and the shortage of space had to move from classroom to classroom like nomads for a few weeks at the start of each year until a permanent arrangement was established.
On one occasion we were housed in the home economics room where the previous occupants had been baking queen cakes which were cooling on wire trays. Naturally temptation proved too much so we sampled a few prior to the arrival of our teacher, Fr. O’Grady. Some time later the home economics teacher came to inspect the queen cakes, noticed some were missing and accused the Latin scholars of feasting on them. Naturally we protested our innocence supported by Fr. O’Grady, so she retreated, defeated and we thought we were in the clear. When class was over on the way out the door Fr. O’Grady said there are some crumbs on your jumpers. He had known all along.
Peig was the bane of every school child in Ireland, me included. I remember slogging through it, trying to understand the story of hardship and misery. And why did it always rain in the Great Blasket. Sr. Katherine did her best to make it more appealing. She translated easily. She was this dramatic, glamorous nun with great presence who really knew how to work the room. Yes, we all listened and we all learned because there was no where to hide. So I worked hard at my Irish because nothing else was acceptable-a wonderful foundation for life.
We have a strong memory of Sr. Bríd Brennan. She was Principal of the Presentation during our time there, which was lucky for us as she unwittingly protected us from our parents finding out that we were suspended for two days by herself during our Transition Year.
We will explain. Lots of the students in the school went down town during lunch hour, knowing full well that this was totally against school rules. So many students took this risk however and it led to some of the teachers walking around town at lunchtime policing the area, as it were. (We reckon some of the teachers took great delight in catching these brave students!)
We were two of the unfortunate brave that were indeed caught downtown. Mr. Cloonan and Mr. Gohery spotted us. So of course we ran into a shop. The owner obviously thought we were great customers, so he helped us escape out the back door. We managed to get back to our classroom by two o’clock without being caught face to face by the two teachers.
A loud knock on our classroom door at 2.10 p.m. alerted us to trouble. Sure enough Mr. Cloonan came in and asked for us to call to see Sr. Bríd.
Sr. Bríd was really nice to us. She said to us, “I am very disappointed in both you girls as you are both such good, polite students who never get into trouble. Because of this, I am not going to send the usual letter to your parents notifying them of the two-day suspension I am imposing on you both. I trust you both to tell your parents of the suspension and why it happened”. Then Sr. Bríd said goodbye to us.
We never told our parents what happened and took the bus to school as usual for the next two days – then hopped on the train to Galway City and hung out around the shops. No one was the wiser and we, of course, thought we were so clever. We did tell our parents eventually (twenty years later!)
The class also became involved with the local St. Vincent de Paul by becoming the junior wing of the local St. Vincent de Paul Society, which was a great opportunity for us to work with a local community group and experience the difference they make to our society
Seeing us as the angels we could be
My one recollection was not so much about my activities within the school grounds, but an activity outside of it – playing pool! As much as I enjoyed learning with about 500 other students, I found it necessary, at times, to supplement this with an excursion to ‘The Three Horseshoes’ for a game of pool. I suspect that this was not exactly what they had in mind when they said ‘promote social development’ but I was at that age, 15, where I knew what was best for me. As was also sometimes the case, I was caught. I often wondered how anyone ever managed to sneak out of the school unnoticed and worse still, how they would make their return. I guess on this particular day, I didn’t make a surreptitious return and I found myself sitting outside Sr. Brid’s office awaiting my punishment.
I look back fondly on my time with Sr. Brid and her staff. Had you asked me at the time I might have likened it to Alcatraz or Spike Island. But I knew everything then and now, I realise, I don’t! I think that being a teacher and being a nun or a priest puts you into a very select group. God knows, dealing with 13-18 year olds is probably the closest you can come to hell without actually getting burned. I’m sure Sr. Brid Brennan and all of the nuns tried daily to see us as the angels we could be and as the adults we were about to become. To Brid and all of the nuns, I say a most sincere Thank You and can assure them that here is one person who admires them and will be eternally grateful for their guidance and tutelage.
French polish and car mechanics
Transition Year was the highlight of my years in PCA. We learned so much about ourselves and each other. We were so fortunate to have had this opportunity. We did so much. We learned to French polish. We learned about the engine of a car. We did a play. We went on a super retreat to Dublin. We learned how to debate and to public speak. It gave us the chance to mature and think “outside the box”.
I count myself very lucky and fortunate to have had such great memories of school.
We were encouraged to be creative, to read, to write, to dream, to learn, to enjoy and never be afraid to ask. The Nuns were professional and complete. They were modern and a step ahead, confident and committed.
School Staff 1977/78
Sr. Bríd, G. Cloonan, Fr. O’Grady, M. Creshem, M. Keary, Sr. Nuala Courtney,
N. Cunny, S. Gohery, G. McCarthy, W. Silke, P. McCarthy, M. Shaughnessy,
M. McCann, E. Morris, Sr. K. Burke, B. Galvin, Sr. Genevieve, F. Canney, L. Glynn,
S. McGuire, Sr. Raymond, Sr. Ann Donohue, Sr. Mary McDermott, Sr. Evelyn, Sr. Pascal, F. Burke, G. Doherty, M. O’Connell, E. Kelly, Sr. Eugenia, M. Kelly.
1978 PCA Students presentation of £500 to Trócaire
Five shocks-A teacher’s first impressions of PCA
The first shock was the five-person interviewing board and its formality. All interviews I had attended before that whether as interviewer or interviewee had been on an informal, one to one basis. In spite of the fact that I felt I did not make a good impression, I was offered the job. I then travelled to Athenry to meet Sr. Brid Brennan, the Principal, for a further discussion and to look over the school. This was when I got the next shock. There did not seem to be any school – only a motley collection of prefabs! There was one small permanent building, however, which housed a domestic science room and what masqueraded as a science room. This was shock number three!
My next shock – the tiny staff room with only benches to sit on, that is, if you were lucky enough to find a seat! However, the staff members were very welcoming and I settled in quickly enough. I even got used to teaching in prefabs, but I never did get used to sharing the “Science Room” with several other teachers.
One other shock awaited me. This was our first staff meeting. In Newport, staff meetings were very informal, in PCA they were very formal.
Impressions of Sr. Bríd
I have had experience of several very good principals, but in my opinion Sr. Bríd was an absolutely outstanding one. I find it difficult to express just how highly I estimate her, because she was everything a good principal should be. She was a true educationalist and very progressive in her thinking. The principal’s job is a very difficult one insofar as he or she is at the behest of many different forces. Sr. Bríd, however, managed to balance them all and keep everybody happy. Indeed, she was an adept at managing the bureaucratic demands of the Dept. of Education as I witnessed on several occasions. She would tell them just enough to get maximum advantage to the school.
She also showed very good leadership qualities in the encouragement and support she gave to all of her teaching staff and in her understanding of the problems a teacher faces in dealing with a wide range of abilities and attitudes. Teaching can be a lonely and often frustrating job (while it can also be very satisfying) but after a chat with Sr. Bríd about the progress of my various classes I always went back to the classroom with new enthusiasm.
European Tour-Student’s memory
In 1978, Sr. Nuala Courtney took a group of students to Belgium and Germany via Holland, Luxembourg and England, and I got my first taste of foreign travel thanks to her adventurous spirit. The tour involved boat trips between Ireland, England and the continent, and coach tours on land. Who would dare to bring a group of teenagers on such a trip now? We took in the sights such as the Atomium and European Headquarters in Brussels, the twin spires of Koln cathedral and the endless straight ‘autobahns’ in Germany, at a time when we hadn’t seen or heard of dual carriageways or motorways in Galway.
Representing Presentation College at the 1978 London-Athenry Association Function in London.
Seated, l-r: Nora Kilkelly, Betty Farrell, Pauline Loughnane. Inset: Noreen and Noel Kelly Middle, l-r: Kieran Barrett, Gerry Doherty, Mary Joyce, Sr. Bríd Brennan (Principal), Pauline Molloy, Florrie O’Shea, Seán Hynes, Joe Dolan. Back, l-r: Stephen Cloonan, Patrick Corley, John Burke, Anne Marie O’Brien, Michael Morrissey, James Kavanagh, Luke Glynn, Tony Kelly, Gerry Corley, Michael Poniard, Norman Farrell, Fr. Martin O’Grady.
The New PCA
Finally, approval was granted by the Department of Education for a new school. A lease for 99 years of the grounds to the Department would be required for government funding to be granted. The balance of the construction costs would have to be raised by the Sisters and school community. In a very short time, a fundraising campaign was set in motion and one of the highlights was a ‘Mayor of Athenry’ competition among several local candidates, the winner eventually being Athenry and Galway All Ireland medal winner, P.J. Molloy. Among the many fund raising events organized by the PCA Parents’ Council under the leadership of Gerry Kelly (Chairperson) and Ned Burke (Secretary) were: sponsored walks, sales of work, raffles, card drives, dances, tea parties and a monthly draw. The amount collected for the new school, which opened in1980 was approximately £128,739.
Conon James Gibbons P.P. presents P.J. Molloy with the Mayoral Chain in Athenry Town Hall. Also pictured are: Sr. Bríd Brennan and Fr. Charlie O’Malley C.C.
Planning of the new PCA-a teacher’s memories
Sr. Bríd had the mammoth job of managing the transition from the cluster of prefabs to the new school. Apart from the obvious chores of negotiating with builders and the Department, many details had to be finalised regarding the new building. She invited the staff members to look over the proposed plans, and one thing that struck me and a few more members was the peculiar design of the proposed new staff-room. It envisaged a large “social area” and a tiny “work area”. Brendan Galvin and I suggested that it would be a good idea if the work area were enlarged so that each teacher could have their own desk where their pupil records could be kept and preparation or corrections could be done. We drew up a plan of the staff-room, which incorporated thirty desks in an enlarged Work Room area, and still left adequate room for the social area. I can remember presenting this plan to a staff-meeting and it met with general approval. When Sr. Brid discussed this with the builders, however, they felt unable to comply with it fully because of structural difficulties and the result was the compromise, which is there today. At least, the work area was much enlarged from the original and has been reasonably successful, but the individual desks never materialised.
It also struck me that there was no access to the preparation and storage area behind the two new science labs except through the science classrooms. This meant that it if a teacher wished to prepare an experiment or organise materials ahead of his or her own class, that teacher would have to disturb another teacher’s class. The science lab is also the most dangerous place in a school due to the presence of inflammable and poisonous substances and the use of Bunsen burners by the pupils. So I suggested that a rear door to the preparation area should be installed which would allow both independent access and also act as a fire escape. This was done.
Construction begins on the new PCA
Finally, after years of lobbying, Martin McNamara & Co, who had also been given the contract to erect the new Scoil Chroí Naofa, moved into the big field and dig the foundations of the new school. Some classes had to be moved to the Canton Hall and PE classes were held in the Community Hall, Clarke St.
The Dream was about to be fulfilled!
June 1979-Signing of the Contract for the PCA Sports Centre
1979 Staff Football Team v Students
Back, l-r: Seán Gohery, Fr Martin O’Grady, Gilbert McCarthy, Michael Shaughnessy, Gerry Cloonan, Frank Burke, Brendan Galvin, Billy Silke. Front, l-r: Kevin Jordan, Luke Glynn, Michael McCann, Gerry Doherty, Brendan Kelly, Tom Ward.
Friends and Teachers on Graduation night in Galway
L-r: Mrs. O’Connell (Teacher), Alison Sherlock, Eileen Morris (Teacher), Gerardine Lally, Siobhan Conroy and Mary Conroy.
Sr. Bríd and Alison Sherlock
The official logo of PCA is the representation of the large window of Athenry’s medieval abbey of St. Peter and St. Paul. Sr. Bríd first noticed the window as having potential as a symbol for the new college. Alison Sherlock (McGreal), seen above being presented with her graduation certificate, drew a sketch (above, left) of this window that became the school’s logo with the blessing-Moladh go deo le Dia-printed beneath.
Memories of a 1976-1981 student
During this time the new national school was now occupied, and a canteen was opened in the old national school, serving apple pie and cream and even coffee made with milk. The Murphys from the Arch bar operated a shop from their estate car and Mary Keary had a shop operating from her press in the present old secondary school building.
1979 All Ireland Community Games Champions
Front, l-r: Orla Ruane, Mary Burns, Fiona Ruane, Carmel Burns, Maeve Kearns, Anne Conroy.
Back, l-r: Donnacha Ruane, Joe Rabbitte, John Burke,
Music, concerts and acting
Music was the most important think in my life. When Sr. Evelyn Geraghty and later Sr. Colette McCluskey, prepared us for Scor na N Og competitions.Sr. Brid, Gerry Cloonan, Fr. Martin O Grady and Sr. Katherine Burke had offices in the convent, accessed through the side door. Sr. Evelyn also had a music room complete with piano and a metronome, something I had never seen before.
We would on occasion be asked to play the piano in the convent sitting room, if the nuns had visitors or, when we were doing our practical exam in music for the leaving cert.
Around this time, Sr. Nuala Courtney, had a relation who was looking for a backing group. As he was going to make a record, Hillary Duddy and a group of us travelled to Lad Lane studios in Dublin to perform the backing vocals for the record “The Isle of Inishfree” which was later voted the ‘yousa yousa’ record of all times on the Mike Murphy show. This was indeed a wonderful experience for us, even though none of us ever bought the record!
In fifth year, Sr. Colette took four of us to Dublin to the National Concert Hall, as we were studying music as an extra subject for leaving cert. We travelled in the convent car, attended the performance of Stravinsky’s The Fire Bird Suite in the concert hall, and travelled down to Drogheda and stayed in her brother’s hotel, The El Marino. I am sure that this was the first time I had stayed in a hotel. We all called her mammy and it was wonderful.
Sr. Colette gave me my first introduction to classical music; we learned to sing, such wonderful pieces: Ave Maria, Panis Angelicus, Keryia. Mary Burns and I put this learning to great use and through our years in secondary school when we sang at many weddings. Gerry and Noreen Doherty, Anne Poniard and her husband. Teresa Ruane transported Fiona Ruane, Mary and I to Kinvara to sing at Bridget and Hugo McGowans wedding.
The most flamboyant and glamorous nun of this time, was Sr. Nuala Courtney. Sr. Nuala taught French and organized a yearly trip for students to France. My school tour trip on the ferry to France, was my first trip out of Ireland, again what a wonderful opportunity.
Because of my various singing performances, I was spotted! I was approached one day by Kitty Lardner and asked to play the part of Sive in the John B Keane play of the same name.
1979 Progress report on the Construction of the new PCA
The ‘Contact’ magazine of that year: The past twelve months or so have seen major changes in Presentation landscaping. A spacious and comfortable Primary school is open and the new secondary, designed by the same architect, nears completion.
The school will have a very distinctive shape, not just a replica of other modern schools all over the country. The two schools should make an attractive campus when site works are complete. These include plans for outdoor basketball, volleyball and tennis courts. Students and staff look forward to taking over the new school in the new year.
The sports complex should also be completed within the next few months.
1979 Educational Tour to London.
Front l-r: Maura Murphy, Mary Bane, Paula Houlihan, Bernadette Prendergast. Second Row, l-r: Margaret Murphy, Maria Lyons, Ann O’Shea, Niamh Conroy, Clare Thorton, Ann Cooke, Marie Ruane, Mary Burns. Third Row, l-r: Hilary Walsh, Sarah Jennings, Bernadette Kelly, Bríd Kilkelly, Pauline Kelly, Helen Joyce, Marian Nestor, Maeve Tully, Patricia Dempsey. Standing, l-r: Vincent Feeney, Francis Hynes, Pat Fitzpatrick, Edward Mooney, David Mannion, Michael Coppinger, Seán Monahan, Michael Haverty, Patrick Keane, Gerry Greally, Martin Higgins, Pat Fox, John Melody, Gerry Cloonan, Teresa Haverty, Marie Clancy, Myriam Mangan. Insets (top) Maura Morrissey, (middle) Clare Jennings, (bottom) Bríd Duffy
Pope John Paul’s visit to Ireland in 1979
PCA past pupil, Captain Stephen Cloonan escorted the Pope on his arrival at Dublin Airport.
Culchies versus Townies
Bernadette Prendergast (PCA student 1980-1985)
Bernadette Prendergast is Head of News at Galway Bay fm and is the lecturer in broadcasting on the Masters in Journalism course at NUI Galway. She’s a member of the board of Learning Waves, the training authority for the independent radio sector. She’s married to Declan Varley, the Group Editor of the Galway Advertiser, and they live in Claregalway.
The culchie versus townie rivalry I observed on my first day at Presentation College Athenry was a source of great amazement to someone who proudly considered herself a city slicker. I had gone to national school in Mervue in the city, and to me Athenry was a country town. I didn’t see any difference between the country town and its feeder rural areas. My 12-year-old heart was still in my old home in the city and not in my newly-moved-into one in Turloughmore. So here I was, a city slicker coming from a Mercy Sisters school in a city suburb to a Presentation Sisters school in a country town.The Aloof City Slicker
So on my first day at Presentation College Athenry in September 1980 this city slicker remained aloof from the battle of wits between the Athenry townies and the culchies from places like Coolarne, Esker, Kiltulla, Attymon, Killimordaly, Newcastle and Moyvilla. Despite thinking my aloofness would render me immune from classification, my peers nevertheless placed me firmly in the ‘culchies’ category with my Lackaghmore address. Fellow 12-year-olds care little for your previous address.
The realisation that I was now a culchie reinforced my view that my parents were wrong to move from a house in the city suburbs of Ballybane to what seemed to me was the outpost of Lackaghmore. In later life I myself followed the same pattern and moved from Knocknacarra to Claregalway. So now my moral high ground is gone and I think I’m finally close to forgiving my parents for that decision made a few decades ago.
Smell of fresh paint
All in all then not the best frame of mind to start my secondary school adventure, but my mood began to lift considerably when I noticed my surrounds. The class of 1980 made history in P.C.A. as we were the first pupils to complete a five-year cycle in the state of the art and much campaigned-for new school. To this day the smell of freshly painted walls and new carpet catapults me back to my first days in secondary school.
I looked around at the spacious classrooms, the well equipped science labs and kitchens and the beautiful high ceilinged assembly hall and realised that these were far plusher surrounds than any of my city friends had in their secondary schools. Maybe after all it wasn’t so bad being a culchie.
Blend of warmth and authority
Our principal Sister Brid Brennan had the right blend of warmth and authority and I enjoyed having a different teacher for every subject, which is of course the big change from national school. I had always been a good student and so I embraced old and new subjects alike. I had always loved Irish, but Vice-principal Gerry Cloonan’s natural, easy
and effective teaching style allowed me to develop my spoken Irish to a high level. I have fond memories of French with Maura Kiggins and Máire O’Connell, and English with Pauline McCarthy, Brendan Galvin, and Dympna Fahy. The school had the right blend of discipline and freedom and provided a healthy learning environment and a chance to develop our personalities.
Took up camogie
One subject where I found myself floundering was one not on the timetable – hurling. I learnt P.C.A. had a proud tradition of hurling and camogie and considerable achievements in both down through the years. I realised that unless I upped my knowledge I would be excluded from many conversations. My Dad, an all round sportsman himself in his time, has a good knowledge of all sports and so it was to him I went for my higher level course in the subject of hurling and camogie. It helped that Galway were doing well on the hurling field at the time and one of the players on the All Ireland winning team that September was my Maths teacher, Frank Burke. With the encouragement of my Dad, my PE teacher Ann Fahy and my close friend Anne Ryan of the famous Ryan hurling dynasty of Killimordaly, I went a step further and actually took up camogie.
I can now inform you with great authority, that difficult and all as it is for a sporty person to take up hurling at the age of 12, it’s near impossible for someone like me who is at best mediocre at all sports, apart from swimming where I did show considerable talent.
However I persevered with the camogie and was a dedicated, if permanent, sub. I enjoyed myself thoroughly and in particular enjoyed cheering on our team and my friend Anne, who with her great skills, made it all look effortless.
In later years there were hurling successes but by this stage the memories are taken up with remembering which of the lads on the team we fancied, and resentment that they were forced to go home early from the graduation disco because they had a major match the next day. Of course at the time there was one I had my eye on and felt I had missed out on one of life’s great opportunities.
Later when I returned to Pres Athenry to do my H.Dip, I accepted Ann Fahy’s invitation to help train the junior camogie team and was glad to contribute in this small way to the school’s proud tradition in our national sport.
1980 European Tour to London
L-r: Mary Walshe, Carmel Glynn, Martina O’Brien, Anne Kavanagh, Dympna Archer, Eithne Archer.
Plenty of other sporting activities
There’s no doubt hurling and camogie were the school’s heartbeat, but there were plenty of other sports on offer during my years as a pupil. We groaned about having to do PE out in the cold air or in the cold gym, yet how ironic it was that after school we didn’t groan about playing volleyball in the rain outside or table tennis or indoor soccer in the gym. There were also snooker and pool tables in the old school. These were great ways to while away the time until the school bus came back for us as we were on the second run.
The ‘soup girl’
One of my fondest memories from P.C.A. is getting my first ever paid job from Tim Collins who ran the school canteen. I had the proverbial Irish ‘pull’ to get the job as Tim’s daughter, Geraldine, was one of my friends. I felt I had truly arrived. I was earning an income – the princely sum of £1.50 a week for dispensing the soup. However, my job behind the soup counter brought with it more than an income, it brought fame. Everyone in the school now recognised me as the ‘soup girl,’ and I loved it.
Akin to a University
P.C.A. was akin to a university campus in that the new school, the gym, the outdoor
courts, the old school, the convent and the parish church were all used for our day to day activities. While there was only a small number of nuns on the teaching staff, the Catholic ethos was strong and we regularly went to Mass in the convent or church.
Seeds for my broadcasting career were laid when I was given the task of reciting the Angelus as Gaeilge over the school intercom daily at noon, and my love of using a microphone to talk to a large audience was born.
Religious instruction was broad and, while Catholicism was at the core, we were taught to respect all religions, an enlightened concept that proved to be ahead of its time given the multi-denominational society we now have in Galway and across the country.
We also enjoyed regular retreats and, while they were a welcome break from class, they also played a great role in allowing us to explore who we were. Our career guidance sessions in fourth and fifth year were also important in developing our personalities. P.C.A. was one of the first schools in the country to recognise the importance of having career guidance in the timetable. Our teacher Rita Wall guided us well and the classes were as much about life skills as career focus. Although that wonderful opportunity of Transition Year was regrettably still in the future, it is of some consolation that our career guidance classes made up for it to some extent.
Mixed secondary schools
Around this time too, in the senior years, our focus landed on the opposite sex from time to time. P.C.A. was co-educational and having gone through such a school I hold the strong view that all second level schools should be mixed. There’s less wonderment about the opposite sex, they’ve always been there after all, and it creates a healthy and constructive competition between the sexes, which leads to better exam results in the long run.
Now, don’t get me wrong, we still spent a good deal of time discussing who fancied who but less so than in single sex schools. The latter years were peppered with the joys and disappointments of fancying someone, but my friend Mary Griffiths and I still managed
to focus on our studies, and often studied with the object of our fancy, which made studying a good deal easier.
Secondary school is never easy as it coincides with the growing-up years and all the problems they bring. The first three years are about finding your feet and your friends, and the last few years are about finding yourself and what you want to do in life. For us we were facing into very uncertain times in a recession economy and were glad to have a beautiful graduation ceremony to send us off into the world. We had Mass in Athenry church and a function in the school where we had been the first ever first years in the new building five years earlier.
Warm welcome for trainee teacher
Despite enjoying my five years in P.C.A., it was with a great deal of trepidation I returned four years later as a trainee teacher. I can confess now that I waited outside the staff room door for quite some time before I summoned up the courage to enter on that first day in a new role.
I got the warmest of welcomes, and in the classroom I enjoyed being on the other side of the desk. And yes, I discovered that the culchie versus townie rivalry was still alive and well. Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.
Bible and Faith-memories of 1980 Leaving Cert student
On our last day Sr. Brid gave every Leaving Cert. student a pocket bible: “Good News, New Testament”. Not surprising you might think when we are talking about a Presentation Sister who hoped we would continue to practice our faith, which meant so much to her. What was amazing for me was that Sr. Bríd had carefully inscribed each Bible with the following:
Presentation College Athenry
Leaving Cert. 1980
Be glad of life
Because it gives you a chance to love
And to work and to play
And to look at the stars.
Bríd Brennan (Sr.)
As kids do, we spent the day getting all of our classmates to sign the bible, not really giving much thought to it. Twenty eight years later, I still have that bible and as I get older I appreciate the time Sr. Bríd had taken to handwrite this verse in each bible. She must have thought very highly of the pupils she taught. I often think of her and the many other Presentation Sisters who taught me during my school years. It is only now that I have my own children that I appreciate the time, energy and sheer talent it takes to run a school to the standard achieved in the Presentation College during Sr. Bríd’s watch. We got an excellent academic education but, more importantly, were given an education for life.
The McCarthy Cup-1980
This was the year that Galway, after more than two generations, won the All Ireland senior hurling championship. Frank Burke, a member of the school staff, was a member of that historic team and the McCarthy Cup got a tremendous welcome on its visit to the college Assembly Room two days afterwards.
1980-Staff with the McCarthy Cup
Standing, l-r: Sr. Colette McCloskey, Dympna Fahy, Michael McCann.
Seated, l-r: Maura Kiggins, Máire O’Connell, Colette Lee, Sr. Genevieve Kilbane,
Mary Teresa McDonagh.
1981 PCA Students’ Council Committee
Front, l-r: Martin Coady, Éanna Ryan, Carmel Glynn, Bríd Kilkelly, Michael Dolan and Alf Martyn. Back, l-r: Francis Hynes, Marie Scully, Tom Cleary, Winifred Cosgrove and Peter Feeney.
New PCA completed in 1980
The new PCA in all its glory-A Dream Realised!
Opening of the new PCA on Monday, 13th April 1981
Sr. Bríd’s memories from PCA’s ‘Beginnings’ magazine, May 1982
“The Opening of that Holy Door”
We all remember April 13th and the days of preparation as a sunshine time. There must have been worries and tensions, come to think of it, but, like old people recalling their youth and not-so-good reminiscing on school-days, we only remember joy and wonder of achievement-“The achievement of, the mastery of the thing!”
Since 1968 we had been dreaming this dream of a new school. For a few years it warmed the cold days in the pre-fabs, turning the holes in the floors and ceilings into-at best-a bit of a laugh, and, -at worst-a state where some souls suffer for a time before they go to Heaven”.
The, gradually, euphoria changed to disillusionment. Staff members and year-after-year of Leaving Certs left without sight of the Promised Land. Obstacle after obstacle presented itself. It was during these years that we adopted the motto “Beireann buan bua”. We needed that slogan in everyday life, as well as on the hurling and camogie fields. The cynical began to say: “it will never happen”.
Then there was the day, in July 1979, when, getting off the train, I saw a J.C. B. in the middle of the playing field. We began to believe again. An active Parent’s committee had, some years previously, initiated a series of fundraising activities to collect the twenty-per-cent local contribution. This fund now became the basis of a campaign to build a Sports’ Centre, as the Presentation Sisters, at provincial level offered an interest-free loan of £125,000, twenty-per-cent of the total estimated cost for the school: a half-a million pounds.
We began to plan our official opening. It was to be a big day for pobal na scoile, staff, students, all the people of the catchment area who had waited and watched and delved deep in their pockets during the lean years. We advertised our open invitation in the local papers, and our Committee members undertook to issue invitations in their own areas. Our only regret was that we couldn’t personally invite all past-pupils, and ‘past’ parents. That would have been a task for a mighty computer! In the event, a thousand guests were entertained by our efficient catering staff.
I suppose each of us has his/her own visual and aural images of the day itself, packed away in a mental audio-visual album. There was the tremendous sense of occasion, meeting parents, special guests, friends, past teachers and past-pupils, many from a distance. The truly ‘meitheal’ spirit which ensured smooth running. The grey and navy Guard of Honour, impeccably presented. The packed church. The beautiful rendering of Colmcille Mass by the choir. The Mora Dhuit banner, symbol of our welcome and gratitude.
During the Mass one could begin to feel the texture of this special occasion, the peculiar blending of the presence of many generations of people who had touched the school in some way or other.
Archbishop Cunnane recalled for Canon Gibbons P.P.-ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam-and for all of us the founders of the Presentaion education in Athenry: Canon Canton and the first four Sisters who came to Athenry in 1908. Quotations from letters still extant brought alive the personalities of these patrons of education in this century.
Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, Aire na Gaeltachta recalled other presences: the Sister and teachers responsible for the developmemt of the school from the Secondary top, through a girls’ secondary school, to a large co-ed College. And digging farther back into our less recent local history she evoked for us the ghostly presences of famous Athenry families: the Berminghams, the Burkes, the Dominican monks. To the present and future generations-now no difference between descendants of noble families and cos-mhuintir stock-she prophesied: ‘As the Dominican Abbey in this town once did, Presentation College will continue to provide a rounded education for all who attend it’.
Speaking on behalf of the students, S.R.C. Chairperson, Michael Dolan, conjured up a vision of the many past-pupils who had contributed to the tradition of the school, all of whom, he thought, were more worthy than he to speak for students on this occasion. However, Michael was not at all intimidated by the occasion and observed, philosophically that the same see-saw of fortune governed the political chances of Aire na Gaeltachta and Mr. Richard Burke. Mr. Burke’s presence and witty speech reminded us of his place among our benefactors. As Minister for Education he visited the school in 1974, saw for himself what the pre-fabs were like, and rang next day to say we had secured permission to build.
When I spoke, my sentiments were those of thanfulness and hope for the future. Thankfulness for the years of effort and achievement, for all the ‘anonymous performers’, for the many friends who couldn’t be with us, for the Providence that made that day possible. Hope that parents and teachers would combine, even more firmly than before, to give as complete an education as possible to students. ‘Parents and teachers will work together to make students more politically aware, more capable of independent thinking, better able to look at society and see its problems and pressures’.
The school grounds, supposed site of the Battle of Athenry, contains part of the old wall of Athenry and one of its towers. Among so many ‘shrads of a lost tradition’, I hoped for the restoration of the town’s historic buildings, and the renewed use of the Irish language.
Central to the value-system of the school is the following of Christ. The readings from Isaiah (42:1-7) and John (12:1-11) at Mass presented a portrait of a compassionate Christ, concerned about justice, about helping people achieve true freedom.
A school with these values looks out beyond itself-out to the parishes of the area, to the national schools, at which it looks compassionately and critically; beyond that to Europe to which it offers-in Mansholt’s words-‘the human touch’.
Favourite poet of most Leaving Cert classes, Patrick Kavanagh, and the last word:
“I thank you and say how proud
that I have been by fate allowed
to stand here having the joyful chance
to claim my inheritance.
For most have died the day before,
the opening of that holy door”.
Aire na Gaeltachta, Maire Geoghegan-Quinn T.D. opens the new PCA watched by, l-r: Frank Fahy T.D., Mark Kilillea T.D., Archbishop of Tuam, Dr. Joseph Cunnane D.D., Sr. Bríd Brennan, Mr. Mr. Gerry Cloonan, Vice-Principal with his daughter, Helen Cloonan, Bernard McNamara, Contractor, Mr. Richard Burke T.D. and Mr. Gerry Kelly, Chairperson of the PCA Parents’ Council.
Archbishop Cunnane blessed the new PCA The Mass of Celebration
Reception Room in new PCA Sr. Bríd and special guests
Aire Máire and Mr Frank Burke Aire Máire and Michael Dolan of PCA SRC
“Ultra Modern Athenry College Opened”
Connacht Tribune of 17th April 1981
‘One of the country’s most modern second-level co-educational schools, Presentation College, Athenry was officially opened by Minister of the Gaeltachr, Mrs. Máire Geoghegan-Quinn on Monday. Over 1,000 people were present for the opening of the £3/4 million college, which will cater for 550 students.
The day’s programme got under way with mass in the Parish Church, concelebrated by the Archbishop of Tuam, Very Rev. Joseph Cunnane D.D., assisted by Canon James Gibbons, P.P. M.V.F., Archdeacon Conor Heaney P.P., Monsignor Michael Mooney, P.P. and Rev John Flannery, C.C. The master of ceremonies was Rev. Charles O’Malley, C.C.Following mass, a procession led by the Athenry National School Band made its way to the new School where it was greeted by students (in their brand new uniforms) of the College who formed a guard of honour along the route. The college was blessed by Very Rev. Dr. Joseph Cunnane, D.D.
After the official opening by the Minister, the attendance congregated in the spacious assembly hall where they were addressed by Mr. Gerry Kelly, Chairperson of the Parents’ Committee. Mr. Kelly said it was a dream come true for the people associated in any way with the building of the new school.
Mrs Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said that it was a great honour and privilege for her to be present, and after giving a detailed account of the college’s history and the facilities in the new school, the Minister added; ‘People must be accustomed to change, and adapt themselves to a changing world. While keeping an eye on the future, we must also have an appreciation of the past.’
Sr. Bríd Brennan, Principal of the College, who was paid many glowing tributes for her work in the college, told the large audience: ‘It is a great say for all of us, and this has climaxed a lot of hard work.’ She thanked everyone associated with the building of the new school, particularly the hard-working parents’ committee, and local community, caretaker Tim Collins and his staff and the financial institutions.
Facilities at the ultra-modern college include seven general classrooms, an art room, a dress design room, a language room, a library and two science laboratories which are equipped with the most up-to-date facilities.Work commenced on the school in September 1979. It had been sanctioned in 1974 by the then Minister for Education, Mr. Richard Burke, who was present at the opening.
The cost of building the school was £750,000, which has all been paid. 80% of this figure was supplied by the Government, while the remainder was raised by the Presentation Sisters.
Thirty-five teachers are on the staff at the college. The Presentation Sisters came to Athenry in 1908; co-education was introduced to the college in 1964.However, it is not just the students’ educational needs that are been looked after-a modern sports complex, which is nearing completion, will cater for diverse sporting activities on the students. When the sports’ complex is completed, it will have cost something in the region of £200,000, of which £110,000 has been raised by the Parents’ committee. They are keeping their fingers crossed that the Government may come to their assistance, by providing the outstanding £90,000. The school was constructed by Michael McNamara and Co. Ltd. of Llisdoonvarna.
1981-Fund Raising Committee for PCA Sports Centre
Front, l-r: Carmel Kennedy, Lena Conroy, Gerry Cloonan, Carmel Farragher, Gerry Kelly, Bridie Conroy, Sr. Bríd Brennan (Principal), Fr. Charles O’Malley (Chaplain), Patricia Cooke, Peggy Murphy and Molly Walsh. Middle, l-r: Carmel Burke, Nellie McNamara, Sr.Bríd Kenny, Catherine O’Brien, Birdie Kineen, __________, Mary O’Brien, Florrie O’Shea, Ann Fitzpatrick, Kathleen Ryan, Kathleen Kennedy, Mary Keary and Mary McGovern. Back, l-r: Tommy Maloney, Pádraig Ó Coimín, Peadar Monaghan, Mattie Fitzpatrick, Tony Sherlock, Tom Caulfield, Ned Waldron, Frank Burke and Tom Kelly.
1981-PCA are Connacht Colleges Senior Hurling B Champions
The Irish Press headline: Naughton the Hero.
Presentation College, Athenry 1-7 St. Jarlath’s, Tuam 1-6
It went on; ‘In a tremendously exciting game, Presentation College, Athenry, had the narrowest of margins to spare over St. Jarlaths, Tuam, in the replay of the Connacht Colleges Senior Hurling B Final at sunny Pearse Stadium yesterday.
A point by right half forward Martin Naughton two minutes before the end proved to be the winning score, after a spirited fight-back by Jarlaths had brought them level just a minute beforehand.
Jarlaths trailed by 1-0 to 1-4 at the interval, having played against a strong wind and just when it seemed that they had fought back to earn a draw, Naughton sent over the winning point.’
Scorers: Athenry- D. Maher (1-0), E. Burke (0-3), M’ Naughton ((0-2), E. Ryan, B. Caulfield (0-1) each. St. Jarlaths- M. Kearns (0-4), P. Qualter (1-0), L. Brennan, P. Geraghty (0-1) each.
Sr. Bríd Brennan Leaving Certs 1981-Front: Mary Walshe, Josephine Hanley
and Billy Caulfield Back: Marine Duffy, Geraldine Carty, Carmel Glynn,
Past-pupil Tom Donohue PCA’s Anne Ryan-All Ireland
All Ireland Hurling Medalist Camogie Skills Champion
With Offaly Trophy Presenter: Mary Moran
The Last of the Attymon Ryans –Ann Ryan, PCA student 1980-1986
Paschal, John, Billy and Dolores were finished and Éanna was in Leaving Cert so my memories of Presentation College, Athenry, began long before I ever walked through the school gates in 1980. I already knew many of the teachers. Some were afforded their full titles in conversations at home: FR O’Grady, Sr. Bríd, Miss Keary; others weren’t! I heard much talk of Cloonan, Doc, Gohery and Lukie but all were held in high esteem in our home. I remember talk of All-Ireland Finals and how the name Flannan’s kept popping up in hurling circles. Dolores won two All-Irelands in the same day, something I’ve been reminded of regularly.
I had played hurling with Killimordaly so when I arrived in Athenry I was looking forward to playing camogie for the school. I soon got my chance. I was picked on the senior team. On the day of the match, the senior camogie team were told over the intercom to report promptly in the assembly hall. I tentatively asked to be excused from class to play in the match. This request was refused, the lady teacher didn’t believe me: it was a senior match, that I couldn’t possibly be playing as I was only a first year, much too young, much too small. Even the intercession of my class mates didn’t work. Finally, I was excused when Mrs. Fahy, our trainer, called to the classroom wondering what was keeping me.
I recollect being ‘out town’ one day without permission when I came face to face with the Vice-Principal. To my delight, he only inquired if Éanna would be fit enough to play in a school game the following day and let me off. Winning the Connacht Colleges Senior Camogie ‘B’ Final in 1985 is one of many fond memories of my years in PCA.
Bill Silke’s memories
Hurling and Camogie were both well catered for under Fr. O’Grady and Gerry Cloonan in PCA. Indeed, in my first year there I remember heading off to Croke Park with the entire school by train to support the Camogie team in an All-Ireland final which we duly won. But I soon became aware that there were also some talented athletes who were not being catered for and while a full-time PE teacher was employed, she did not have any interest in athletics, as such. Remembering the enjoyment I got from competing in athletics in my own school days, and even though I had a full teaching load in science and maths, I thought it would be good to give the PCA students the same opportunity.
We started off by competing in cross-country events – which take place in the winter and early spring – and I immediately got a great response from the pupils, both boys and girls. There were four grades, minor, junior, intermediate and senior for both boys and girls with six on a girls’ team and eight on a boys’ team. Trials were necessary to select the chosen six or eight for each team so great was the response.
Most of those pupils would not have been selected for hurling or Camogie teams, so this gave them a great opportunity to compete for the school. Many students turned up for the training who told me they had no hope of competing, but just wanted the exercise. When one considers that they would have been bussed into school at an early hour and then bussed home, after which they would have to do their homework, there was very little opportunity for them to get any other exercise.
My problem was that I had to do all the training during my lunch-hour and even if I had a free class, I was very reluctant to take any students out of their classes. In spite of the constraints, we had many successes at Connacht schools level. But I saw many other advantages for the students. It was very good for school spirit to see those not engaged in a particular event cheering on whichever PCA team was competing at the time. I also had a policy of only bringing competitors – owing to the large numbers involved – to the various meetings, so it was a day out they will remember when many more humdrum school days will have been forgotten.
Track and Field was a much more complex affair. Since we did not possess a proper running track, I decided to concentrate on the longer distances which did not demand lanes, and on such events as the long jump, short putt, javelin and discus. We also tried our hand at relays. I had no training in those events myself (apart from relays) but I did attend some coaching courses in my own time.
I also tried to learn the quite intricate techniques involved from a book! In any case there I was during my lunch-hour trying to coach forty or fifty students in all those intricate sports while worrying would anybody be decapitated by a discus, transfixed by a javelin, or felled by a short-putt.
In spite of those handicaps we had considerable success at Connacht level, where athletes such as John Hardiman, Paul McNamara, Martin Fitzpatrick, John Nolan and Damien Hayes all won titles. The Connacht finals for track and field were always held in the Tullamore Athletic club grounds – no suitable venue being available in Connacht!
The first two in each event in Connacht qualified to represent the province in the All-Ireland athletics championships which are usually held in the UCD campus at Belfield. There was a very high standard at those All-Ireland meetings because they were open to all Irish schools, both north and south of the border, rugby playing schools as well as GAA schools.
All of those mentioned above represented their province there and in the face of strong opposition, both John Hardiman and Paul McNamara won their events. I will also never forget the bravery of Martin Fitzpatrick who was spiked while taking the water jump in the 3,000 metres steeplechase but carried on uncomplainingly to the end.
Mary Lavin visited PCA in 1981 for the naming of the College Library in her Honour
Pictured, l-r: Sr. Genevieve Kilbane, Mary Lavin and Sr. Bríd Brennan
School Staff 1981
Front, l-r: F. Burke, G. McCarthy, L. Glynn and S. Gohery. 2nd Row, l-r: G. Doherty, G. Cloonan, Sr. Mary McDermott, Mary T. McDonagh, E. Morris, M. Cresham, P. McCarthy and M. Keary. 3rd Row, l-r: D. Jennings, M. Naughton, Sr. Genevieve Kilbane, M. Kiggins, Sr. Peter, M. Gardner, Sr. Bríd Brennan, A. Fahy, Sr. Raymond, M. O’Connell, N. Cunney and Sr. Katherine Burke. Back, l-r: E. Kelly, W. Silke, M. Shaughnessy, D. Fahy, B. Galvin and F. Canny.
Opening of the PCA Sports’ Centre on 14th of December 1981
Extract from PCA ‘Beginnings’ magazine, May 1982
L-r: Kathleen Ryan, Carmel Farragher, Ned Waldron, Gerry Cloonan (Vice-Principal), Michael Keating (Minister of State for Youth and Sport), Mattie Fitzpatrick, Sr. Bríd Brennan (Principal), Noel Madden, Bridie Conroy, Paddy Joe O’Reilly (Contractor), Gerry Kelly, Paul Connaughton T.D. and Fr. Charles O’Malley (Chaplain).
Mr. Michael Keating T.D., Minister for Youth and Sport officially opened the Centre in the presence of parents, teachers, students, members of the Parents’ Council and the public.
The Centre’s facilities include: a gymnasium comprising of four badminton courts, and catering for volleyball, indoor soccer and basketball, two squash courts, table-tennis and keep-fit equipment and a snack bar.
The centre is run by four directors representing the Presentation Sisters, staff, local clergy and Parents’ Association. A Management Committee of twelve administers the day-to-day running and supervision of the centre.
Prior to the official opening, there was an open weekend, December 4th -6th, for the public to view and use the facilities. Exhibitions games were organized by Mrs. Fahy, P.E. teacher, and Ms. Keary, Centre Manager.
Excitement was high and there was obvious appreciation of the very fine facilities. Judo, squash, badminton, volleyball and basketball were demonstrated by some of Connacht’s top players and by college students.
The facilities are also available to local clubs and the community in general.
1982-A Varied Sporting Year for PCA
Top honours went to the Staff Golf team of Mrs. Mary Cresham, Mrs. Pauline McCarthy, Mr. Gilbert McCarthy and Mr. Luke Glynn who, for the third year in succession, won the All Ireland Secondary Schools’ Golf Competition in Thurles on May 1st.
The Mighty Six
During the Easter holidays, six PCA students-Eddie Gibbons, Bernard Gibbons, Donnacha Ruane, Noreen Ryan, Orla Ní Ruadhain and Benedict Hardiman-pushed a Giant Bean Tin from Galway to Dublin and collected £5,000 for the Rehabilitation Institute in Galway.
The team of: Martina Hynes, Josephine Geraghty, Eleanor Jordan, Anne Maloney, Mary Gilligan, Betty Greene, Pauline Joyce, Noreen Burke, Mary Killeen, Niamh Lawless, Anne Ryan, Kathleen Murphy (Subs: Martina Coen, Rosaleen Furey, Breda Grealish, Mary Cummins, Phyllis Haverty and Anne Walsh) had resounding victories over Mountbellew and Moneenageisha, but suffered a one point defeat against Glenamaddy that eliminated them from the Connacht Colleges Competition.
Coached by Mrs. Fahy, the team tried hard and had wins against Moneenageisha and Mountbellew but were defeated by Loughrea and thus were out of the Competition.
Team: Geraldine Duffy, Irene Lovett, Blaithin McDermott, Julie Larkin, Brid Higgins, Carol Keane, Karen Molloy, Maura Burke, Ann Ryan, Martina Heavey, Marie Higgins, Anne Walshe, Maura Kelly, Evelyn Cooley, Bernadette Prendergast, Caroline Freaney, Honor Curran and Eithne Gilligan.
Senior and Junior Hurling
The senior team was defeated in the semi-final of the Connacht Colleges Championship, while the junior and juvenile teams also ended the year without a trophy.
The college athletes had an excellent year in this sport and were winners in the Connacht Regional qualifying rounds, second and third in the Connacht Colleges championship. The top minor boys were: Denis Lally, Tommy Lane, Gerard Keane and Paddy Jordan. John Hardiman, Martin Fitzpatrick, John Haverty and Frank Healy were the outstanding members of the Junior Boys team. The PCA girls who put up great performances in the Connacht Finals were Keelin Walsh and Eithne Gilligan. At the Connacht Championship Finals in Castlebar, John Hardiman came second with Martin Fitzpatrick in 4th place. Also prominent in the Finals were Donnacha Ruane and John Haverty.
The under-14 and under-16 teams, while putting up strong performances under Trainer, Mr. Frank Canny, were defeated in their respective competitions.
The girls’ team came fifth in their league, while the boys achieved third place in a very competitive championship.
The PCA girls’ team of Jackie Burke, Orla Kearns, Marie Kennedy and Margaret McNamara played well. The boys’ team of Brian Cleary, Donal Kennedy, Sean McGovern and Enda Somers reached the semi-final only to be defeated by St. Jarlaths.
Miss McEnroe introduced this sport and gave lessons during lunch break.
1982 PCA ‘Beginnings’ magazine Editorial Panel 1982 Leaving Certs
Back, l-r: Anne Marie Donoghue, Breda Grealish.
Middle, l-r: Patricia Fahy, Mary Cummins, M.Fahy.
Front, l-r: Margaret Mitchell and Noreen Ryan.
Leaving Cert Graduation 1982
Front: Deirdre Holland, Mary Killeen. Rita Brady, Mary Burns
Middle: B. Greaney, R. Walsh, M. Murray
S. Duffy, E. Mooney. Back: J. A. Kennedy
Mary Killeen, M. Murray, B. Greaney Marie Scully, Ethna Archer, Caroline Higgins
Linda Farragher, Mary Killeen B. Grealish, I. McGrath, J. Morris, P. Dempsey
Marie Gardner, Ms. Morris and Gerry Doherty Sr. Colette McCloskey and Leo Gardner
L-r: Margaret McNamara, Sarah Walls, Jacqueline Burke, Margaret O’Shea, Anne Conroy, Caroline Burke, Niamh Conroy.
Sr. Bríd and Presentation College Community Values.
(Extract from PCA ‘Eadrainn Féin’ Newsletter, October 1983)
The ethos of the Presentation Order has always been faithful to the Christian values laid down by its foundress, Nano Nagle. That ethos is based on the Gospel of Christ, which calls and challenges everyone associated with the Order to humble and loving service of others, especially the poor.
Fifteen years after her arrival in Athenry, Sr. Bríd reiterated those values again in 1983 in the October PCA Newsletter, ‘Eadrainn Fein’ that was sent to each family with students attending the College. She emphasized that the College’s Community rules derived their essence from those values.
She listed the values as follows:
1. A loving relationship with God, Our father, Jesus our Friend, and mary, our Mother, and Model.
2. Courtesy to staff, visitors, one another and to all.
3. Taking care within and without the school and of its natural environment.
4. A Christian attitude to work means paying attention in class, co-operating with teachers, doing homework and revision conscientiously.
5. Punctuality to class.
6. Regularity in school attendance.
7. Order in relation to permission to leave school, wearing of school uniform and non-interference with other people’s lockers.
8. Freedom from addiction in not smoking on the school campus and abstaining from alcohol on school trips and at school functions.
9. Respect for property in not damaging of interfering in any way with school property orother students’ property.
10. The Good name of the College to be preserved through good consistent conduct within and outside the school.
Tours of 1983-Memories of a teacher
School Tours had been discontinued before my arrival in Athenry, but following a request from Orla Conroy, Maura Farragher R.I.P. and Orla Ruane in 1983 I approached Sr. Brid with promises and guarantees and permission was granted immediately.
Holy Saturday morning 33 students, Mr. Doherty, Mr. Glynn and myself set off. Sr. Katherine Burke was in Portlaoise at this time and at her invitation we took it in en route for Morning Coffee. Our destination was Valkenburg in Holland, also visiting Germany and Belgium. As I said we had 33 students, so we found ourselves self sufficient when it came to our discos.
I remember hearing of an incident in Cologne, but Thank God it happened before hearing of lit. The students were given some free time for shopping and most of them stayed together. On entering a large Woolworths-style shop, some fun-loving boys spotted a whole counter of alarm clocks, so while the attendants were serving other customers our darlings set ALL the clocks to alarm approximately five minutes later- enough time for them to depart from the counter and position themselves to see the distress of the poor attendants trying to cope with 30-40 alarming clocks.
There were a few more trips, but these were to the Boyne Valley where our overnight accommodation consisted of floor-space in Our Lady’s College, while the school was closed for Ascension Thursday.
We were gone before school began on Friday, and back after it closed on Friday. Though very simple these were enjoyed by all, and being local myself we had no need of a guide. I passed on what I had learned from my father all the treasures on the walled and history laden ancient walled town of Drogheda.
Presentation Sisters and Department of Education sign 99 Year Lease in 1983
The lease states that the total cost of the new PCA came to £575,862.78. In order to acquire the Government funding of £459,775.23, the Sisters signed the lease of that part of the grounds (college building, car park and old PCA) on which the college stands over to the Department of Education for 99 years.
1983 Leaving Cert Graduation in the Sacre Couer, Hotel, Galway
L-r: Kathleen Murphy, Johnny Higgins, Claire Jennings and Mr. Michael McCann
Eleanor Jordan and Noel Martyn.
L-r: Stephen Canavan, John Flaherty, Johnny Higgins, Paul Greaney, Noel Martyn
John Kennedy and Gerard Hynes.
1984-Connacht Colleges Junior Hurling ‘B’ Champions
Seated: Kieran Rabbitte, Denis Lally, Tomás Mannion, Eddie Fox, Noel Greaney,
John McGlynn, Brian Cooney, Joe Rabbitte. Standing: Pat Burke, Paul Morrissey, Michael O’Brien, Tommy Lane, Eddie Crowe, Kieran Gilligan, Gerry Keane, Brian Feeney.
Seán McBride’s visit to PCA in 1984
Making students aware of important Christian and social issues was another unique feature of the varied curriculum that PCA provided for its students down through the years.
In 1984, Justice was the theme discussed by students and staff. Luckily, that year Nobel Peace Prize Winner and founder of AFRI (a Human Rights Organisation that works for Justice and Peace in Ireland and the Third World) Sean McBride, was visiting the Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe to open an extension, and he accepted an invitation to visit the college to talk and discuss with students about Justice in Ireland and the world at large.
It was a most memorable event that remained vivid with all present for years afterwards.
1984-PCA Connacht Colleges Senior “B” Soccer Champions
Seated, l-r: Francis Holian, Dermot Lally, Eugene Maher, Michael Maloney, Eamon Burke and John Caulfierld. Standing, l-r: Frank Canny (Trainer), Niall Cannon, Paul Earls, John Burke, Eddie Crowe, Mark Curran, Adrian Devally and Pat Fahy.
1984 and Sr. Bríd departs to take up a new challenge in Headford Presentation College
Front,l-r: Rita Wall, Michael McCann, Sr. Colette McCloskey, Beatrice Shaughnessy, Noreen Cunney and Frank Canney. Second row, l-r: Nuala Creedon, Sr. Kevin, Marie Killilea, Sr. Maura Twohig, Mary Teresa McDonagh, Sr. Alphonsus Allen, Máire Bean Mhic Fhíobhuí, Luke Glynn, Ann Fahy, Mary Naughton, Gerry Doherty and Dymphna Murphy. Third row, l-r: Máire O’Connell, Mary Creshem, Seán Gohery, Sr. Bríd Brennan, Gerry Cloonan, Marie Gardner, William Silke and Sr. Eugenia Murphy.
Back row, l-r: Eileen Morris, Eugene Kelly, Brendan Galvin, Maura Kiggins, Pauline McCarthy, Gilbery McCarthy, Michael Shaughnessy, Frank Burke and Maureen Byrne McKeown.
Thanks to the following for their contribution to this part of the story:
Paul Holland, Bridie Conroy, Alan Prendergast, Sr. Catherine Leonard, Anne Donohue, Midge Glynn, Angela Ryan, Mary Holland, Bernadette Prendergast, Anne Keary (Ward), Rita Brady, Mary Conroy, Des Glynn, Kathleen Dodd, Ann Ryan, Sr. Carmel Raftery, Pat Fox, Kevin Jordan, Geraldine Lally, Bernie Poniard, Sr. Mary McDermott, Alison Sherlock-McGreal, Bill Silke, Marie Quinn-Dempsey, Geraldine Collins.
The Principalship of Sister Anne Marie Codd
Sister Anne Marie’s overview of those years
In July of 1984 I joined the community of Athenry, and I remember being warmly welcomed by Sr. Kevin and the sisters there as I made my transition from east to west.
I remember having mixed feelings about my appointment to the post of principal of Presentation College. In my view, even then, the practice of selecting only members of the religious congregation for this post was no longer tenable. My first two years of teaching in the mid-1970s had been in a Catholic Comprehensive in Acock’s Green, Birmingham. There I had been introduced to a very different system of governance – one which evoked and gave structured, practical expression to ownership of the educational task by the Catholic faith community. It was clear that the system in Ireland would change on my watch. I understood that the management structure of the voluntary Catholic secondary school in Ireland was already under review and that this was an essential plank of developments to come. From the start, I considered it part of my task to work myself out of a job!
I was well aware of the long and proud tradition of Presentation College Athenry, and while I was not a little in awe of those who had cultivated and sustained it, I was committed to playing my part in its continuing development. My teaching in Presentation schools in Ireland had rooted me in our tradition and ethos. What I did not know was how the ideals of presentation education, which had informed deeply my practice in the class-room, would play out within the demanding realities of principalship.
While I was still coming to terms with the intricacies of the day-to-day running of the school, with its busy calendar of events, internally and in the wider circles (especially sporting), on to the horizon came International Youth Year, 1985. It was decided that Athenry would be a choice venue for an event to be hosted by the Presentation Sisters in Ireland. The outcome of months of preparation and of huge collaboration across school, families and community was a celebration in July which is still a highlight in my memory of Athenry.
In 1986, the first Board of Management (among the first five in the Northern Province) came into being. In preparation, there was a long and painstaking process of dialogue with the school community, initiated by the Trustees and ably led, in our case, by Sr. Maura Twohig. The need for this rearrangement of roles and responsibilities, with the cooperation of the staff and the Parents’ Council, now appears self-evident. In its time it was as demanding as all organisational change, but it was the platform on which further development would rest. Two years later the posts of principalship in both Athenry and in Galway were advertised for the first time. It is still a matter of pride and joy for me, and a validation of my intuitions, that two senior members of our staff were appointed to these posts. To them I could say with sincerity, ‘I hope there will always be people who will be for you what you have been for me’.
On the difficult subject of finance, there was that marathon 3000-member draw! The features which remain in memory long after the details have faded are the courage, the teamwork between school and community, and the eventual successful outcome.
While maintaining the school’s long-standing commitment to academic excellence, we were creative and practical in our search for ways to extend the range of extracurricular activities. We stretched the time-table – sometimes we stressed it – in pursuit of this goal. On this front, it seems to me now, one of our greatest achievements was the production of Oklahoma in 1988. This first musical was co-ordinated by Marie Gardner and there was wide-ranging cooperation and sharing of talents from staff and pupils alike.
I mentioned proud history and investment in sport. An abiding memory for me is the journey to and final success in the Senior Hurling B Championship of 1985. On the sideline, as one with the legion of supporters, I could ‘be myself’. My passion for the game was hardly surprising, having grown up in Wexford of the 50s, in a family with strong GAA loyalties. I remember the cup’s ‘tour’ of the parish clubs, where we played and replayed the video from that great day in Birr. We had song and dance, tea and sandwiches until late, and there was no evidence of the dreaded ‘generation-gap’.
I remember the pride we took in our graduation dinner-dances, and the commitment of staff to upholding the practice. We held adamantly to the view that this was an occasion for the young men and women about to finish their secondary schooling to play host to and thank their parents in a celebratory event. And while I may be reviewing these occasions through rose-tinted glasses which reveal mostly my own dreams, I do recall specific moments which assure me that it is not all foolish imagining. I returned for the graduation in ’89 and have fond memories of seeing off the very fine group which had arrived with me five years earlier.
I have been reminded of many aspects of life in PCA recently, on the retirement of Mr. Gerry Cloonan, vice-principal. I remember in particular Gerry’s unfailing support throughout the four years we worked together, his valuable sense of the local culture and his dedication to duty in all things relating to the tasks of the school.
I cannot end this cursory foray down memory lane without acknowledging how my experience in Athenry pointed my way ahead. Our many connections with parents, family, neighbourhoods and parishes – some highlights of which I have recounted – nurtured my interest in the place of the school in its wider community. And so I selected with ease my sabbatical programme in adult and community education. My assignments in Carlow followed, where involvement in community and parish led me to a deep engagement with the underlying theology of the Christian community. Being part of the evolution of sound organisational structures in the school system was a learning experience which is still pivotal to my work of facilitating pastoral development.
And so, for all that has been, thanks, for all that will be, yes.
The Coolest Nun Ever-students’ memories of Sr. Anne Marie
Sr. Brid was replaced during my time at Presentation College by a new principal, Sr. Ann Codd, who was considered the coolest nun ever because, not only did she abandon the veil, but had the audacity to go down the town and get her hair done! And she was a very good-looking woman! I’ll never forget how she would take Leaving Certs into her office for a casual chat, treating you like an adult. Each Leaving Cert got a gift of a pocket-sized New Testament from her, and I treasure mine still. I’ll never forget how she wasn’t embarrassed to talk about her own vocation story and, in particular, I was struck by how she talked about Jesus capturing her heart, as if he were a human lover. It really brought my faith down to earth and made it very real.
She brought energy, positivity and fun to my experience at school.
Sr. Anne-Marie Codd was an elegant and graceful woman.
‘Toilet Blues’-memories of a 1984 first year student
The move from a small rural national school in Clarenbridge to Athenry was a tumultuous occasion in 1984. Only two other students from the two national schools in Clarenbridge went to PCA, thus making new friends and fitting-in in those first weeks was critical to avoiding the “toilet blues”- lonely girls and boys crying quiet tears in the toilets. The first few weeks were hard. I really missed my old teacher, Sr. Carmel and friends from Scoil Mhuire. I kept getting lost trying to find my classroom. I couldn’t remember people’s names. I had to get up at 7.30 a.m. and didn’t get home until after 5.00 p.m. I now was a “culchie” and people smoked in the toilets, which made my hair and uniform stink!
Students’ fond memories of their teachers
I have particular memories of the following teachers that I had and was fond of over my years in PCA: Gerry Cloonan, Luke Glynn, Sean Gohery, Frank Canney, Marie Gardner, Mick Shaughnessy, Marie Killalea, Frank Burke, Pauline McCarthy, Maura Kiggins, Mick McCann.
Aside from the above, I was also taught by Sr. Kevin (left) (Irish & English First Yr.) and Sr. Kathleen (English Leaving Cert). Both were lovely people. However, I had a particular fondness for Sr. Kevin who was a lovely gentle person and, even though I only had her for one year, she is someone who I’ll never forget.
Sr. Mary Caulfield supported and channelled the energies of those interested in the environment and wider global issues through activities and events well beyond her own remit as a teacher. Many other teachers- Luke Glynn, Ms. Byrne-McKeown, Mr. Doherty Ms. Creedon and Mr.Galvin brought the dullest and anodyne subjects to another dimension by indulging our idiosyncrasies and obsessions, and by tolerating our insatiable need to find humour and innuendo at every opportunity.
Teachers had a relaxed and engaging relationship with students, which lent itself to an active proliferation of extra-curricular activities.
Musical Sisters-a student’s memories
Sr. Colette Mc Closkey (left) taught us music, and I’ll never forget that magical moment when she let it rip on the piano, playing Santa Lucia, transporting us from cold, gray, boring Athenry as it was then, to the sunny streets of Italy.
During my second-last year in Presentation College, a young nun came to Athenry, Sr. Carmel Boyle, now a famous liturgical composer and retreat giver, based at the An Croi retreat centre. She was a real breath of fresh air, had a wonderful way with young people, and even started a folk-group which, unlike most folk-groups, involved the congregation as well. I well remember her teaching me new chords on the piano in the convent parlour and she also got me going on the guitar. If you get the chance, listen to her CDs. She has several out and they are very healing and life-giving, based a lot on her own journey.
1985- PCA become Senior B All Ireland Colleges Hurling Champions
Front, l-r: Tom Fahy, Sean Hallinan, Denis Lally, Paul Whirisky, Eddie Fox, Niall Cannon (Captain), Tomas Mannion, John McGlynn, Martin Fitzpatrick, Mark Monaghan and Joe Maloney. Back, l-r: Gerry Cloonan, Richard Burke, Pat Burke, John Hardiman, Paul Morrissey, Paul Earls, Sr. Anne Marie Codd, Michael O’Brien, Gerry Keane, Paul Cooney, Pat Fahy, Tom Lane and Frank Burke.
Good and Humorous Memories of PCA 1980-1985
We were all on a high. It was the second week of September 1980. I (along with 100+ others) was starting my first day in secondary school. Much more important to us than school and also the increased levels of excitement, was what had occurred in Croke Park the previous Sunday. They say that “good things come to those who wait” and Galway had been 57 years waiting. However, as the old adage goes “a winner never quits and a quitter never wins”. The wait was now over and the men in maroon had defeated Limerick in a nail-biting All Ireland hurling final to bring the Liam McCarthy Cup across the Shannon for the first time since 1923.
Making it even better and more significant for Presentation College, Athenry, was the fact that member of this historic team had not only gone to school here but was now a member of the teaching staff. Those of us in Form 2 were going to have that man, right- half forward Frank Burke (left), teaching Maths. To twelve and thirteen year old hurling fanatics, this was the equivalent to present day thirty and forty plus year old ladies having George Clooney helping them do their housework.
Despite the school been run by the Presentation Sisters, our class in first year had all lay teachers, with one exception. It was some exception, however. In keeping with sporting greatness, her brother Bosco McDermott remains a Galway legend as a member of the famous three in a row football team of 1964-1966. No less a legend in her own right was Sr. Mary (McDermott). She was to be our English teacher. Well, whatever about improving our English we definitely built up our knowledge of religion and, if memory serves me right, there was a fair amount of Gaeilge spoken throughout each class.
Sr. Bríd Brennan was principal and, even though she was not teaching me, I still had quite a few “chats” with her in her office before she moved to Headford in 1984. Not always very cordial chats, I must add and this was not Sr. Bríd’s fault. A few of the other memories of my first year that stand out include the aforementioned Frank Burke, at half time (and we having conceded 7 goals to our “friends”in the Vocational School) telling our goalie that his hurley was only suitable for stirring flour.
On another occasion early in the year, I feared the worst. The gentle giant, Mick Shaughs, looked down and saw a half eaten currant bread sandwich sitting on the top of my school bag as he walked around the classroom during a history exam. Leaning down, it came as a great relief when I heard him say “I see ye must have had the Stations yesterday”. Times were hard in the ‘80s and it would have been plain brown bread on other days.
“Jesus, Mary and Holy St. Joseph”, we had Mary Keary for commerce. On more than a few occasions she used the above “prayer” to tell us that her 4 year old nephew at home would be able to do what we were failing at. Seeing as he is now an accountant, she was probably correct.
Our day out that year was to the Connacht v All Blacks Rugby match in Glenina , Renmore. The journey to the match was my one semi-hero half hour as my uncle Mick Casserly was the Connacht captain. However, the final score-line ensured that I tried to steer all conversations away from Rugby on the journey home to Athenry.
Looking back it feels that my second and third years morphed into each other before the Inter Cert results proved that Vice-Principal Gerry Cloonan was probably spot on when he said to a few of us in Form 6 in second year that in his opinion “there was very little difference in ability between those in Form 5 and Form 6 but that they (Form 5) were interested in school”. Enough said.
Intentions were better than actions in 4th year. The £2 per term for the locker was money well spent for those of us who figured that if our school bags could be left in the lockers every evening, home work was not an issue. It was a testimony to the ability of the teachers that we actually got through the various exams and stayed going. One of these teachers was our French teacher Sr. Perpetua. In fact, she was only my second Presentation Sister teacher over 5 years and her line of “either you go or I go and I am definitely not going anywhere” became a mission-like statement for our class. On one occasion, when as result of no one willing to explain why one of the class was locked in the press, we all (28 of us) ended up in Sr. Ann Marie’s (principal) office. It was like we were taking a leaf out the Willie McBrides Lions’ call of ‘99 when it was a case of one in, all in. This ensured no one would be sent off or in our case suspended or worse.
While in 4th year a group of us went to London on the school tour. Our two “minders” were Sr. Colette and Gerry Doherty. On the first night, having accompanied a few English friends back to the tube, some of us decided to head to a disco (The Park) as opposed to returning to our hotel. The fun really started later on when we realised that we had been like sheep during the day and followed our minders to and from the hotel without ever acknowledging the name or address of the hotel. Now, well past our “lights-out” time, we were stranded, trying to explain the hotel, street and anything else we could think of to try and help the taxi driver to be divinely inspired. Whether it was the luck of the Irish or not, somehow he delivered us safely back to the hotel- Snows Hotel on Cromwell St.- I have never forgotten the name or address since. On entering the reception area we were met by Sr. Colette and Doc. Let’s say it wasn’t a very welcoming reception. Credit where it’s due, however, the air was cleared; they made themselves understood; we moved on and had a great tour.
Later on that year, during a free class upstairs in the art room, three of us, Anthony Gilligan, Seán Hallinan and I, in our wisdom, decided that it would be interesting to see which one of us could jump the furthest out into the grass from the window. Of course, we didn’t stop to think that there was a class and a teacher looking out the window of the room downstairs and it wasn’t long before Sr. Ann Marie was standing at the corner ordering us into her office .Ach bhí cara sa chúirt againn and, no doubt, but for the intervention of Gerry Cloonan we would definitely have got an unwelcome holiday. That was the ninth of our nine lives used up.
It could only get better in our final year, and so it did. Without doubt the highlight of the year for about 20 of us was when Mick Shaughnessy called us together and told us that he wanted to give us the honour of being the first rugby team ever to represent Presentation College, Athenry .We had 4 or 5 training sessions before picking a team in which only 2 of the 15 had ever previously played in a proper game of rugby. To add to our task we were pitted against Portumna in the first round. Portumna would eventually be narrowly defeated in the Connacht final having much more than narrowly defeated us in that historic match, well historic from our point of view. We put our lack of performance down to the absence of a dietician, a specialised backs coach and a sports psychologist!
1985 Connacht Colleges Senior Camogie ‘B’ Champions.
Back, l-r: Anthony Gilligan (Trainer), Carol Keane, Ann Carty, Caroline Freaney, Marie
Higgins, Anne Marie Murphy, Noreen Goonan, Carmel Burns, Sheila Molloy, Aileen Ruane, Ann Walsh and Rachel Murphy.
Front, l-r: Carmel Whiriskey, Bríd Hynes, Paula Conerney, Hilda Flannery, Evelyn Cooley, Anne Ryan (Captain), Julie Larkin, Joan Whiriskey, Carmel Murphy and Teresa Leahy.
Later that year the success of our hurlers winning the All Ireland Colleges Senior ‘B’ Final was only bettered on a personal level when Anthony Gilligan and I trained the PCA Senior Camogie team to win the Connacht ‘B’ championship. Considering that we were the next best team in the province to seven in a row All Ireland winners St. Raphael’s, Loughrea, gave us a real sense of achievement, especially in a school that had such a tradition of camogie successes in the 1970s. During the weeks leading up to the final some of the teachers especially our Irish and French teachers, Gerry Cloonan and Ms Fahy (Dympna—yes, she of Tír na nÓg), both of whom had justified difficulty trying to understand how the team trainers missed a lot more classes than the actual players. It is often said that “success has many fathers while failure can often be a very lonely orphan”.
Leaving Cert and Lough Derg
I accept that I may be twisting it a little bit, but I think that camogie success helped to have some of our faults and shortcomings overlooked while also leading us up to our leaving cert. While not setting any records with my results, they were still good enough to allow me to continue on with my interests. More importantly, I suppose was the broader personal development we enjoyed as a result of a wide range of activities and the great interaction between teachers and students that was always such a feature of Presentation College, Athenry. To have got through the five years and come out smiling at the other end had to be down to either good teachers or my mother spending more than her fair share of time in Lough Derg, or probably a mixture of both. Five great years with only good and humorous memories-thanks to the atmosphere and attitude nurtured and encouraged by the Presentation Sisters. We will be forever in their debt.
An Óige/Hostelling in 1986-Sr. Mary Caulfield
One of my hobbies was cycling. During the late ‘80s I formed a Hostelling Group. In the months of early Autumn and Spring Sr. Anne and I took groups of 10-12 girls and boys on cycle trips to An Oige Hostels in Doolin near Kinvara or across the city to Indreabhán Hostel near An Cnoc, Spidéal – Claire Carr, Valerie Whelan, Fiona Waldron, Declan Duffy, and Mícheál Mannion were some of those in the group. We braved some rainy days but many enjoyable weekends were spent on cycle tours, visiting Allwee Caves and coastline and night sessions of song and story.
A Student’s memories of those trips
A motley crew of about 10 students or so would set off from the grounds of the college in rain or shine in pursuit of the freedom of the road with Sr. Mary at the helm. On our first adventure in second year, we had the fortune of sharing the hostel in Indreabhán with twenty or so young lads from Finglas who delighted in our gullibility by feeding us city stories of crime, drugs and rock ‘n roll.
These kinds of stories were far from our sheltered lives in Athenry, so we lapped up every tale regardless of its plausibility. So keen was our admiration of our new and cool friends that we attempted to continue the chat after dark by hanging out of the windows. Unfortunately for us, the hostelling leaders- ours and theirs, had intercepted the enthusiastic connections and had set up camp right outside our windows and caught the first volunteers sent to gather more tales on behalf of team “country bumpkins”. It took some convincing Sr. Mary that the sole purpose of holding the volunteers by the legs, upside-down, outside the window during our “curfew hours” was principally to garner more city stories to send us into a peaceful sleep. Eventually she forgave us for letting the side down, so to speak.
1986-PCA Supporting Hurling in National Schools Sponsored by Miko Donoghue and Mid-West Farmers Co-Op, Athenry
Killeeneen N.S.-Winners of the PCA 7 a-side Catchment Schools Hurling Competition
Front, l-r: Tony Heaney, Michael Connelly, Liam Donoghue, Gareth Kelly, Mícheál Donoghue and Alan Jordan. Back, l-r: Darragh Coen, Conor Heaney, Jarlath Niland, Paul Kennedy, Michael Spellman, Michael Browne (Teacher) and Eamon Heaney.
1985 was International Youth Year
Presentation Sisters in Ireland planned for a major event to mark the occasion. Presentation College Athenry and Athenry Town was designated as the focal point of that event. All “stops were pulled” and a Committee got to work. Sr. Anne Marie, full staff and most of the town planned, prepared and hosted a breathtaking youth festival for one week end in July 1985 –
workshops on various topics of interest to young people
music and song
discos and dance, entertainment
Food, accommodation, transport were provided for visiting youth groups.
For me that was the most memorable event of my Athenry years. The Mass on closing day was captured on video.
Connacht Colleges Senior ‘B’ Camogie Champions 1986.
Front, l-r: Martina Hardiman, Hilda Flannery, Joan Whiriskey, Teresa Leahy, Bríd Hynes, Evelyn Cooley, Maura Flannery. Standing, l-r: Anne Ryan, Noreen Goonan, Carmel Burns, Bernadette Clarke, Anne Marie Murphy, Valerie Joyce, Carmel Whiriskey, Ann Carty, Ann Fahy.
First PCA Board of Mangement 1986-Bill Silke’s memories
Many changes were occurring in the Presentation Order at that time, including our own popular Sr. Mary McDonagh being appointed Principal in Galway. But the biggest change occurred shortly afterwards with the establishment of a Board of Management for PCA.
This aroused intense interest in the staff-room. The Board was to consist of a Chairperson to be appointed by the Trustees, with two more Trustee members, two representatives from the parents, and two from the permanent teaching staff.
The question was: who would be the staff representatives? Several of the staff wished to be appointed to the Board, so it was decided to hold an election. I was School Steward so I was given the job of organising it. Five candidates put themselves forward and it was a very fraught affair. It was decided to follow a form of proportional representation and after many recounts Máire O’Connell and I were elected.
Meetings were held monthly under the chairmanship of Sr. Magdalen and they turned out to be long and arduous. They would commence at eight o’clock and go on to near twelve. As staff representatives, Máire and I were expected to give a resume of the meeting to the staff the following day, while taking account of the constraints of confidentiality. Some of those who had been defeated in the election were waiting to pounce if we made what they considered to be a slip-up.
I was appointed to the finance sub-committee of the Board where I worked in conjunction with Sr. Anne-Marie. We spent many long hours trying to balance the books and I came to realise just how difficult school finances were. I also came to appreciate what a hard and dedicated worker Sr. Anne-Marie was.
1987- PCA become Junior B All Ireland Colleges Hurling Champions
Front, l-r: Peter Cloonan, Michael Clarke, Joe Coffey, Dermot Cooney (Captain), Barry McGlynn, Michael Crimmins, Eamon Gilligan, Justin Cheevers and Cathal Madden.
Middle, l-r: Gerry Cloonan (Trainer), Seamus Coleman, Liam Burke, David Crimmins, Patrick Hession, Cormac McCarthy, Martin Clarke, Ronan Kilcommins, Cyril Thornton and Sr. Anne Marie Codd (Principal).
Back,l-r: Jimmy Nolan, Patrick Geoghegan, Tom Burke, Michael Warde, Noel Lally, Richard Caulfield, Francis Flannery, James Kelly and Seamus Burke.
Connacht Tribune 18th December 1987
Soccer, Golf and Tennis 1986/87
PCA Senior Soccer Team
Front, l-r: Niall Clarke, Patrick Hession, Liam Staunton, Brian Feeney, Brian Cooney, John Nolan, Paul McGann. Back, l-r: Mr. McCann, Cormac McCarthy, James Kelly, Gerry Kilkenny, Finbarr Sheridan, Frank Flannery, Joe Rabbitte, Frankie Burke, Michael Lane.
The senior team played Carrick-on-Shannon away from home and, in a keenly contested match, was unfortunate to lose by a last minute goal, 3-2.
Scorers for PCA were: F. Sheridan and J. Noone.
Team: J. Blade, J. Rabbitte, B. Cooney, M. Lane, B. Feeney (Captain), L. Staunton, F. Sheridan, F. Flannery, P. Hession and N. Clarke. Subs: C. McCarthy, P. McGann, F. Burke, G. Kilkenny and J. Grealy.
The under-16 team drew with Ballyhaunis, 1-1, with C. McCarthy on the score sheet for PCA. The replay was a very tense and exciting affair that ended in a 3-2 win for PCA, J. Cheevers scoring both goals.
Team: S. Burke, J. Cheevers, L. Burke, A, Ahern, M. Rooney, C. Madden, K. MacNamara, D. Cooney,
C. McCarthy (Captain) and F. Flannery. Subs: A. Egan, T. Burke and N. Hynes.
PCA entered a team in the Golf Foundation Team championship for the first time in 1987 and finished a very credible fifth. Encouraged by this performance, the college decided to give golf in the school a formal structure and formed a club.
The members were: Captain: Michael Lane, Vice-Captain: Alison Murphy, Hon. Sec.: Kieran Glynn, Hon. Treas.: Alan Farrell.
Committee: Anne McCarthy, Niall Dempsey, Arlene Maher and William Collins.
1986 was a very successful year for tennis in PCA. The under-15 girls won the Connacht Schools Competition, having played five school and not conceding a match. The team that won the final in Castlebar by four out of five matches was: Marian Finn, Nicola Burke, Maria Burke, Valerie Delaney and Emer Cannon.
1987 wasn’t as successful for the girls. However, the boys won the League with the team consisting of: Gary Monaghan, Cormac McCarthy, Paul Fitzgerald, Sean Mulroe and Michael Crimmins.
PCA Sports Centre-Clearing the Debt in 1987
In 1987 the clearing of the debt of £100,000 on the Sports Centre engaged all of the Staff and a very dedicated Committee led by Pat Nally (Chairman), Mary McGovern (Secretary) and Gilbert McCarthy (Treasurer). Every month a car was raffled and a draw made for cash prizes of £700 (2nd Prize), £300 (3rd Prize), £200 (4th Prize) and £200 (5th prize). The cars were supplied by the McNamara Garage, Caheroyn, Athenry and William Higgins Garage, Prospect, Athenry.
All Staff, Parents Committee and members of the local communities sold £100 tickets throughout the county and beyond. The first Draw took place on Saturday, 31st January with subsequent Draws on the last Saturday of each month, concluding on Saturday, December 26th, 1987. A dance was held in the hall on the night of the car draw.
Advertisement for the Draw Drawing the Ticket for the Car
Dermot McNamara and Fr. Michael O’Malley (Chaplain)
By the year’s end the massive debt was finally cleared.
1987-Eanna Ryan, Sports Personality of the Month
L-r: Maureen Ryan, Eanna Ryan, Ronnie Delaney (1956 Olympic 1500m Gold medalist) and Enda Ryan.
L-r: Aileen Ruane, Valerie Joyce and Breda Cooley
Connacht Colleges Senior Camogie Champions 1987
Front, l-r: Ann Monahan, Caitríona Lawless, Hilda Flannery, Orla Lawless,
Maura Flannery. Standing, l-r: Marion Finn, Angela Keary, Caoimhe Gleeson, Ann Carty, Deirdre Gleeson, Carmel Whiriskey, Janet Murphy.
Cross Country Winners in the Connacht Regional Finals
L-r: Shane Cannon, Michael Butler, Séan Noone, Gary Flannery, Damien Hardiman, Ronan Mulvey, Michael Eyers, Augustine Haverty.
Front, l-r: Elizabeth Costello, Tom Fitzpatrick, Jacqueline Mulkerrins, Brendan Madden, Caitríona Fallon. Standing, l-r: Mark Dillon, Helen Cloonan, Marion Conroy, Caoimhe Gleeson, Neasa Glynn, Billy Silke, Aoife Gleeson, Teresa Mannion, Michelle Walsh, Ann Marie O’Connor,
School Tour to Europe 1987-Student memories
Teachers and Students in the European Parliament with Mr. Mark Killilea, MEP.
The school tour of 47 students from Leaving Cert and Fourth Year was with following staff members: Sr. Ann Marie, Mick McCann, Luke Glynn, Gerry Doherty, Maura O’Connell and Aideen Geary. We travelled by bus to Dublin and ferry to Holyhead, bus to Dover and ferry again to Calais and bus to Paris. We spend a few nights in Paris and visited the various attractions including a trip to the Eiffel Tower. A few of the “smarter” lads including myself climbed about 800 or so steps to about half way up the tower, and we only realised that there were lifts when we saw one flying by us with the girls and Luke Glynn inside laughing out at us. We visited Montmatre and watched the artists at work in the lively Place du Tertr. We went to Mass in the stately Sacré-Coeur Basiilica. The white-domed Basilica is a fantastic sight by night.
Next day was one of the highlights of the tour, a trip on the Bateaux-mouches along the Seine. Next was a visit to the Cathedral of Notre Dame, which is situated in the oldest part of the city. We enjoyed the visits to the tomb of Napoleon and Le Muséedu Louvre where we saw among countless treasures, the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo. Mr. McCann had his portrait painted outside the Louvre.
Maura O’Connell (French teacher) ensured that we never got lost in translation in restaurants.
We then travelled by bus to Strasbourg and were welcomed and given the tour of the European Parliament by Mark Killilea, Mary Banotti and Niall Andrews.
We travelled on to Luxembourg where we spent a day. Very different to Paris, it is really scenic and peaceful with narrow streets and quaint villages.
Then we moved on to visit Brussels where we stayed in the Hotel du Rhin. We enjoyed a great tour of this fascinating city in the heart of Europe.
We managed to get lost on the way back to Calais on the ferry but Gerry Doherty was on hand for the map reading required to get us back on track.
The numerous bus trips were shortened by the singing of student Marie Brody (excellent on Beatles songs) and teachers Sr. Anne Marie, Maura O’Connell (excellent singers) and Mick McCann (not quite the same standard as his colleagues).
Nobody remembers much of the trip home as most people slept as we were wrecked after a hard but enjoyable week. Unfortunately, some of the lads woke up with made up on their faces (lipstick, eye shadow etc) as their sound sleep was taken advantage of by the ladies. Most of them didn’t obviously realise that their faces were made until they eventually managed to get in front of a mirror.
A Group of Leaving Certs 1987.
Front, l-r: Iggy O’Brien, Seán Duane, Mary Monaghan, Carmel Murphy, Breda Cooley, Joe Warde, Martina Farragher, Geraldine Joyce, Mary Crimmins, Susan Devally, Annette Monaghan, Teresa Caulfield, Helena Hanley. Middle, l-r: Anthony Monaghan, James Leahy, Owen Curran, Colleen Page, Gerard Rooney, Máire Tarpey, Patrick Conroy, Sibéal Ní Chuimín, Cara Gleeson, Michael Lane, Hilda Flannery, Declan Rooney, Carmel Kindregan, Bernadette Clarke, Noreen Healy, Marie Cannon, Majella O’Dea, Deirdre Kelly, Eithne Gilligan, Pauline Forde, Mary Hardiman.
Back, l-r: Michael Flannery, Tony O’Shaughnessy, Kevin Kelly, Tommy Tully, Stephen Caulfield, Valerie Joyce, Tom Prendergast, Ann Melley, Michael Hennelly, Margaret Fitzgerald, Mary O’Connell, Breege Conroy, Tommy Baker.
School Staff 1987/1988
Front, l-r: Ms. M. O’Connell, Ms. N. Creedon, Mr. G. McCarthy, Mrs. M. Kiggins, Mrs. P. McCarthy, Mr. G. Cloonan, Miss. D. Boyle, Ms. M. Byrne-McKeon and Mrs. D. Fahy.
Middle, l-r: Mr. M. McCann, Miss A. Geary, Sr. Mary, Miss E. Morris, Mrs. M. Killilea, Mrs. B. Shaughnessy, Ms. M. Keary, Miss F. Bane and Sr. Ann.
Back, l-r: Mr. G. Doherty, Mr. L. Glynn, Ms. M. Gardner, Mrs. N. Cunney, Miss. P. Gleeson, Mr. B. Galvin, Mrs. M. Jennings, Mr. B. Silke, Mr. M. Shaughnessy and Fr. M. O’Malley, School Chaplain.
Not in Photo: Mr. S. Gohery, Sr. Kevin, Mr. D. Coll, Mrs. M. Cresham and Sr. Anne Marie, Principal.
Secretarial Graduation 1987.
Front: Carmel Whiriskey. Middle: Suzanne Grealish, Mary Garrett, Margaret Kennedy, Helen Furey. Back: Lucy O’Shea, Cepta Cahill, Marie Higgins, Carol Keane, Margaret Waldron, Julie Furey.
Secretarial Graduation 1988.
Front: Maura O’Brien, Anne Lynskey, Ann Marie Loughnane, Rose Mary Mulkerrins Back: Annette Monaghan, Valerie Joyce, Nora Larkin, Kay Geoghegan, Suzanne Flynn, Deirdre Rabbitte, Mary Ruane, Ashling O’Boyle.
Aspects of School life 1987/88
L-r: Mairéad Heaney, Marion Conroy, Ethna Haverty
1987 PCA Concern Collectors
L-r: Caoimhe Gleeson, Marion Conroy, Gillian Lawless
Front, l-r: Yvonne McMahon, Christina Flannery, Celine Moran, Ciara Ward, Sonya Torpey, Edel Hession, Imelda Cahill, Fionnuala Glynn, Neasa Madden, Fiona Hession, Middle, l-r: Noelle Caulfield, Helena McGann, Dympna Hardiman, Michelle Mitchell, Cristina O’Brien, Nodlaig Kelly, Mary Clare Hynes, Tina Bolan, Back, l-r: Johnny Ward, Michael Mongan, Adrian Martyn, Brian Ward, Sean Noone, Martin Conroy, Declan Finn, Enda Morrissey, Peter Keary, Fergus Hanley.
1987/88 First Years Form 2
1987/88 First Years Form 3
1987/88 First Years form 5
1987/88 First Years Form 6
1987/88 Second Years Form 7
1987/88 Second Years Form 8
1987/88 Inter Certs
Front, l-r: Yvonne Mulvey, Patricia Harte, Amy O’Connor, Lesley O’Sullivan, Mairéad Seery, Ashla Ward. Middle, l-r: Aoife Cannon, Rosaleen Clarke, Grace O’Brien, Caroline Mitchell, Caroline Rooney, Louise Mitchell, Nollaig Cahill. Chanel McKenna. Back, l-r: Tom Burke, Vincent Burke, Paul Mitchell, Declan Conroy, Barry McGann, Peter Cloonan, Niall Dempsey, Liam Burke.
1987/88 Inter Certs
1987/88 Inter Certs
1987/88 Inter Certs
1987/88 Fourth Years
1987/88 Fourth Years
Ann Murray, Colette Ryan, Carmel Cooley, Sinead Burns, Orla Doherty, Helen Gilligan, Alison Murphy,
Front, l-r: Dympna Kelly, Cepta cahill, Catriona Duffy, Annette Curan, Anne Fitzpatrick, Maureen Ruane, Michelle Broderick,
Louise Caulfield, Stephanie Duane, Samantha Gullane.
1987/88 Fourth Years
1987/88 Leaving Certs
Sheridan, Joe Rabbitte, Jason Blade, Aidan Kelly, Tony Cummins, David Cahill
1987/88 Leaving Certs
PCA’s First Musical-March 1988
A ground-breaking and wonderful success!
Front: Brenda McGovern, Neasa Greaney, Declan Duffy, Leonora McGlynn,
Julie Murphy. Middle: Michael Rooney, Cormac McCarthy, Caoimhe Gleeson, Neville Hynes, Vanessa Condon, Garry Monaghan. Back: Mícheál Mannion, Martin Collins, Kieran Glynn, Alan Farrell, Richard Caulfield, Alan Egan.
Bill Silke’s memories of the Show
From the very beginning this turned out to be a great success. Both staff and students embraced the idea with gusto. A committee was formed with Marie Gardner acting as co-ordinator and it was decided that the first show should be “Oklahoma”. It was also decided that it should be largely a fourth year project with second year students acting as choral support.
A professional producer was employed for the first production, but staff members, beginning with Gerry Doherty, took over that role in later years. My own role was very minor, for the first couple of years being in charge of finances and publicity. There was also a hunt for sponsors and when word came that a drapery firm in Athenry was willing to help I went down there and was offered three dress suits on loan. Thus began the tradition of the male “front of house” staff wearing dress suits.
The impact of the show on the school cannot be exaggerated. It raised the morale of both staff and students, all were very proud of the high quality of the productions, and it raised the profile of the school in the local community. Last, but not least, falling school numbers ceased to be a worry.
Aunt Eller-Caoimhe Gleeson Curley-Declan Duffy
Laurey-Leonore McGlynn Ike Skidmore-Gary Monaghan
Slim-Martin Collins Will Paker-Neville Hynes
Jud Fry-Richard Caulfield Ado Annie Carnes-Neasa Greanry
Ali Hakim-Kieran Glynn Gertie Cummings-Vanessa Condon
Andrew Carnes-Alan Farrell Cord Elam-Michael Mannion
Laurey (in the bailer)-Sonya Torpey
Anna Burke, Brighid Cannon, Paula Cannon, Lousie Caulfield, Siobhan Farrell, Helen Gilligan, Michelle Hallinan, Aisling Keane, Shirley Keane, Brenda McGovern, Anne Marie O’Connor, Deirdre O’Dea, Alison Murphy, Sonya Torpey, Vanessa Condon, Neasa Greaney, Michael Rooney, Alan Farrell, Neville Hynes. Gary Monaghan and Declan Duffy.
Peter Coyne-Bass guitar. Aiden Archer-Drummer. Sinead Burns-Keyboards.
Patricia Gleeson-Piano. Emmamuel O’Dea and Ruth Garret-Banjos (on stage).
Mark Dillon, John Feeney, Tom Fitzpatrick, Shane Hanley, Gavin Huban, Noel Mooney, Emmanual O’Dea, Leonard O’Neill, Cormac McCarthy, Michael Rooney, Alan Egan, Thomas Walsh, Michael Crimmins and Brendan Madden.
Carmel Allen, Catherine Cahill, Imelda Cahill, Maeve Seery, Neolle Caulfield, Paula Cannon, Tina Dolan, Ciara Ward, Helen Duane, Sharon Duffy, Fiona Farrell, Anna Gallagher, Neasa Fallon, Clare Flannery, Fionnuala Glynn, Mairead Heaney, Marisa Grandi, Ruth Garrett, Mary Clare Hynes, Marion Conroy, Edel Hession, Amanda Hoynes, Niamh Harty, Collette Goonan, Elaine Kiggins, Joan Kilcommins, Georgina Mongey, Cepta Cahill, Louise McNamara, Celine Moran, Neasa Madden, Patricia McNamara, Mary Morton, Yvonne McMahon, Helena McGann, Denise O’Dea, Tanya McKenna, Christine O’Brien, Aileen Rabbitte, Mary Sice, Marese Lane, Julie Murphy, Samantha Gullane, Paula Corbett, Michelle Burns, Margaret Burke, Vivienne Dempsey, Aine Foran, Neasa Glynn, Aoife Gleeson, Edel Hynes, Jackie Kennedy, Camilla Grandi and Fiona Cualfield.
Producer-Pat Heaney Assistant Producer-Gerry Doherty
Lighting-D. McLoughlin Lighting- D. Murphy
Sound-Jerry Dwyer Assistant-Paul McGann
Set Design-Paul Fahy Stage Management-Fr. O’Malley and Frank Burke
Choreography-Aedin Geary Music/Pianist-Patricia Glynn
Mary Bane and Mary Jennings
Publicity-Bill Silke and Gilbert McCarthy
Secretary-Maura Kiggins Programme Cover-Marese Lane
Artistic Consultant-Eileen Morris Co-ordinator-Marie Gardner
February 1988-PCA students made 500 St. Brigid’s Crosses to aid AFRI
PCA Board of Management 1988
Parents’ Council 1987/88
The Parents’ Council had forty members and represented over 320 families who lived in the parishes of: Abbeyknockmoy/Monivea, Athenry, Craughwell, Kiltullagh/Killimordaly, Kilconieron, Lackagh/Turloughmore and Carnmore/Claregalway.
Chairperson: Mr. Gerry Ahern Vice-Chairperson: Mrs. Irene Conroy
Secretary: Mrs. Mary Keane Vice-Secretary: Mrs. Mary Burke
Treasurer: Mrs. Carmel Farragher Vice-Treasurer: Mrs. Rita Fallon
Reps. to C.S.P.A.: Mrs M. Wade, Mrs. M. McGovern, Mr. T. Haverty, Mrs. T. Burns
Co-opted: Sr. Anne Marie, Mrs. N. Creedon-Gilboy and Mr. M. McCann
On the B.O. M.: Mr. Dermot McNamara and Mrs. T. Burns
Mrs. Kathleen Cooley, Mrs. Irene Conroy and Mrs Mary Costello.
Mrs. Mary Keane, Mrs. Rosaleen Madden, Mrs. Catherine Walsh, Mrs. Michael Cannon, Mrs. Mary Clarke, Mr. Jim Reidy, Mrs. Mary McGovern, Mrs. Teresa Burns, Mr. Gerry Ahern, Mrs. Marie Glynn, Mrs. Carmel Farragher, Mrs. Elizabeth Farrell, Mrs. Maureen Lally, Mrs. Nellie McNamara and Mrs Mary Ward.
Mr. Eamon Gilligan, Mrs. Rita Fallon, Mrs. Maureen O’Sullivan, Mr. Tommy Haverty, Mrs. Jill O’Connor, Mrs. Julie Barrett and Mrs. Evelyn Morris.
Mr. Con Mulvey, Mrs Kathleen Cannon, Mrs. Noreen Martyn, Mr. Billy Fahy and
Mrs. Mary Burke.
Mrs. Kathleen Galvin, Mrs. Maureen Larkin, Mrs. Lenore McGlynn and Mrs. Kathleen Cahill.
Mrs. Mary Hession, Mrs. Teresa O’Brien, Mrs. Mary Fallon, Mr. Christy Keady and Mrs. Mary Costello.
Mrs. Angela Conroy, Mrs. Mary Hanley and Mr. Paul Browne.
Topics dealt with: The Proposed Educational Cuts, Transition Year, Canteen Services, School Transport, Music in the School, Free Classes, Open day, Graduation Evening, Promoting the School, Hosting the Regional Meeting of C.S.P.A. and Mock interviews.
VPTP in Presentation College, Athenry
Environmental and Peace group
In fourth year during1988, Sr. Mary helped a few of us set up an environmental and peace group. The depletion of the ozone layer was a big issue at the time so we painted a huge banner of the globe which was draped across one wall in the main assembly area with a huge banner: “Time is running out- Save our Ozone Layer!”. One half of the globe was a clock pointing to midnight and the other half depicted the earth under attack from the pollution caused by CFCs (Chloro Fluoro Carbons) emitting from aerosol cans.
Coastal Awareness-Cop On and Chill Out
In 1988 we entered into a coastal awareness competition for schools, which was organised by NUI Galway and GMIT (UCG and RTC Galway at the time). Our project focused on the Clarin River and its estuary. We compiled a large reference book with images, photos, drawings and discussion on marine life and the surrounding ecosystems of the Clarin River and spent many weekends perfecting our final submission. Often Sr. Anne Marie Codd entrusted us with keys of the school to enable us complete our painstaking work. One weekend tensions were getting high as the deadline was approaching and the project wasn’t anywhere near completion.
In the midst of a near collapse of the project and friendships, one of the team disappeared from the proceedings. Some minutes later we heard the school intercom being switched on and the imitative voice of one of our “teachers” telling us to cop on and chill out. With our comedian now in situ and on live broadcast, we concentrated our efforts and went on to be one of five schools in Galway selected to attend a marine and environmental weekend excursion with a number of other schools from around the country. Maud Hand, a teacher and keen environmental activist at Scoil Chroí Naofa, was instrumental in supporting our efforts throughout this time. Maud now works with BBC Radio.
March 1988-PCA Business Students and Teachers visited The Irish Management Institute, The Irish Stock Exchange and met Mrs. Mary O’Rourke, Minister of Ed.
Leaving Cert Graduation April 1988
May 1988-“College Clarion”printed in Connacht Tribune Printing Works.
PCA-All Ireland Pioneer Quiz Champions 1988
L-r: Sr. Anne Marie Codd, Principal, Peter Cloonan, Cathal Rabbitte, Claire Loughnane, Niall Dempsey, Mr. Gerry Doherty (Coach), Kieran McNamara and Mr. Gerry Cloonan (Vice-Principal
Connacht Colleges Juvenile Hurling “B” Champions 1988
Front, l-r: Seamus Burke, Clement Haverty, Kevin Gilligan, Damien O’Brien, Cathal Madden, Michael Warde, Michael Crimmins, Ronan Kilcommons and Vincent Burke.
Back, l-r: Liam Connell, Gerry Cloonan (Trainer), Eamon Gilligan, Damien Hardiman, Brian Hanley, Justin Cheevers, Paul Gilligan, Seamus Larkin, Cathal Rabbitte, Barry McGlynn, Noel Lally and Peter Cloonan.
School Staff of 1988
Front, l-r: Marie Killilea, Gerry Doherty, Luke Glynn, Marie Gardner, Seán Gohery, Gerry Cloonan, Pauline McCarthy. Middle, l-r: Deirdre Boyle, Noreen Cunny, Mary Creshem, Maureen Byrne McKeown, Beatrice Shaughnessy, Ann Fahy, Sr.Kathleen Collison, Della Jennings, Maura Kiggins, Sr. Mary Caulfield, Dympna Fahy. Back, l-r: Frank Burke, Billy Silke, Michael Shaughnessy, Brendan Galvin, Gilbert McCarthy, (Principal), Máire O’Connell, Eileen Morris, Nuala Creedon, Michael McCann.
Fr. Michéal Mannion and Declan Duffy reflect on their time in PCA-1984-1989
There is no doubt but these were wonderful times. It is only now, on reflection, that I can appreciate the tremendous influence which P.C.A had on my early formative years. Recently, I attended the T.Y. Musical ‘Back to the Eighties’ performed by the students of Rice College & The Sacred Heart here in Westport. Their lively cast did a wonderful job and it brought me back to those years when we were in school back in the 1980’s.
Moladh go Deo le Dia.
One of my first memories is being brought to the assembly hall on our first day. The hall seemed such a huge place. I cannot remember all that Sr. Anne-Marie Codd, our school principal, and Mary Cresham our year head said to us. The welcome speech dealt with conduct and behaviour. Somewhere along the way I heard about ‘Ethos’ but it is only since leaving the college that I realize that the charism of Presentation ethos was ‘caught’ as opposed to being ‘taught’. They put us at ease and assured us that if ever we had a problem we could come to them or any of our teachers. On that day I noticed the ‘big yellow banner’ that was up on the assembly hall in front of us. It was the school crest with the window of the Dominician Abbey and the words ‘Moladh go Deo le Dia’ were written underneath. It was explained to us but we did not fully appreciate it then. I do now though and look back to pay tribute to all the Presentation Sisters and teachers who taught me about God and how we praise him by the care, example, interest and help we give to others.
Some of my teachers who inspired/influenced me, I cannot but speak highly of all the teachers in the school who were there in my time. I would like to single out the Sisters and some other of the teachers who taught me over the 5 years. Sr. Kevin was the first English teacher I had in Form one. She was really gentle and kind to us all. The Class respected and loved her because of her wisdom and because she was a good teacher. She had a great love of poetry and tried to get us to be creative in our writing and accurate in our spelling and syntax. Sadly we had her for just the one year. It was great to have such a person who showed us and taught us a lot more than just English. We saw a Presentation Sister who like so many dedicated their lives to helping so many people and giving them an example to base their lives on. Here she was coming back out of retirement to help us. I had Nuala Creedan for Religion in form one and for a lot of the other years too. She was always very strict but fair. I was not the best writer and I can remember how one day Miss Creedon commented on it. ‘Micheal’, she said, ‘do you know what your problem is? Your brain thinks so quickly that your left hand cannot keep up with it. You need to get it to slow down’. We had Sean Gohery for English and History. I found him to be a very humble and nice person too who took a great interest in his students .He noticed how my writing was difficult to read and he took the time and interest to get me to improve it. Thank God in all the exams I did after that people were able to read my scripts and that is due to the teachers who took a active interest in seeing me improve in that regard. Sr.Anne Pender taught me Irish. She was very practical in her teaching and always encouraged us to speak the language and to go to the Gaeltacht. She always put the emphasis on the cruinneas or being accurate in the language. I remember one of the lovely Irish prayers she taught us. It was a prayer you could say when going on a journey. It went like this: In Aimn an Athar le Bua, Agus a Mhac a D’fulaing an Pháis, Iosa agus Muire, Bi linn ar ár dtriail. Sr.Kathleen Collison taught us English for our Leaving Cert Year as Sean Gohery had died suddenly in our 5th year. I can remember straight away how she told us how much work we had to do and that we needed to keep our heads to the books .She brought great life to teaching and was encouraging of every student. She saw the potential in all of us.
I was involved in some acting and entertainment on two occasions in P.C.A. The first was in my 2nd Year when Eugene Kelly, our mechanical Drawing teacher, directed and produced a Christmas Variety Show – ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’. Caoimhe Gleeson played Snow White, while Declan Duffy, Alan Farrell, Martin Collins, Peter Coyne, William Collins, Neville Hynes were also involved. It gave us great confidence and we had great fun performing to the entire school in the Assembly Hall. The other great musical event was the musical ‘Oklahoma’, co-ordinated by Marie Gardner. As 5th years in 1988, we started a tradition that has got stronger and stronger every year since. Again there are lots of memories: Gerry Doherty putting us through the lines and different scenes, Patricia Gleeson, our musical director, getting us to sing the high notes in Halla Gregory. We made many friends and got to know the teachers in a totally different light. I think of the wonderful voices of Declan Duffy, Lenore McGlynn, Caoimhe Gleeson, Alan Farrell and Richard Caulfield. Those were the days we will always remember and cherish.
I think too of the weekend, as Second Years, in Doores Hostel in Kinvara. We left the school on Friday and stayed till the Sunday. Sr. Mary Caulfield organised it and it took much effort on her behalf. We cycled all the way there and came back again on Sunday. I can really remember how much we enjoyed it and I have a picture of us fixing one of the bikes that got punctured.
Another memorable event was Sports Day which took place towards the end of the school year. I remember the excitement when a busload of students from Presentation College Headford arrived in P.C.A to compete against us in a variety of events which included soccer, basketball, hurling, volleyball and tennis in Raheen courts.
Happy days and friendships
Each time I walk in the doors of P.C.A., only happy and good memories come to my mind. I recall the many days spent with classmates and teachers in Seomraí Feora, Éanna, Éanach Cuain, Mac Dara, MacDua and Halla Gregory to name but a few. I remember the banter and fun as we sat together in the Assembly Hall during the short 15 minute 11 o’clock breaks. Those were care free days when all that bothered us was the discovery of another ‘free class’. Of course, exam results became a priority when we became more senior! However, we’ll always be grateful to the Sisters and teachers who
made our time very special in PCA.
Just as in the musicals, time moves on as do all of the students and with it comes life’s ups and downs. All of us have a lot to be thankful for our teachers who taught us, the wisdom and skills that has helped us this far; the friends and the friendships we have made, the many achievements, memories and contributions we have given to P.C.A. during our time there.
Sr. Anne Marie’s Farewell Function in 1989
Mr. Gilbert McCarthy, Principal, presents Sr. Anne Marie with a Gift on behalf of the School Staff
Thanks to the following for their contribution to this part of the story:
Joe Healy, Robert McNamara, Caoimhe Gleeson, Fr. Michéal Mannion, Bill Silke, Brian Feeney, Mairéad Seery, Sr. Mary Caulfield, Gerry Cloonan.