A day that will be forever etched in the history of the people of Dualla was the official opening of the newly renovated and extended Dualla National School, a place that for many holds fond memories of their school days.
The school community worked for many months, making sure everything was in order for the ‘Big Day’ on June 15.
Former pupils, teachers, principals, board of management members and many parishioners with strong links to the school gathered to reminisce on the past and to admire the new and modern school.
It was a day of friendship, rejoicing and thanks. It was a landmark day in the history of education in the parish.
Dualla National School welcomed its first pupils in May 1861. The current students moved back into the new school on June 13, 2011 150 years after the first children entered. Fundraising effort secured one quarter of the necessary finance to fund the ambitious project. The board of management applied successfully for a grant under the Devolved Grant Scheme, which guaranteed the remaining three quarters of finance required.
While the new premises was being built, the school relocated to the parish hall across the road. Thanks to the work of the school community, the old building was successfully turned into a school for a year.
On the day of the official opening, the children were allowed to have a lie-in as a reward for their good behaviour with an 11.30a.m. start! Former pupil and Munster and Irish Rugby star Denis Leamy dropped into the school around 11a.m. to wish the children well for their “Big Day” and he presented a signed Munster Jersey to first class pupil Sinead Kennedy. Next the children from both classrooms put items that had special significance for them into a Time Capsule. Included were a confirmation scrapbook, the official opening booklet, sir’s speech cards (far too many!), junior room news stories, a sliotar and other items. Second class pupil Ciara Gahan was given the job of locking the time capsule. The objective would be to open it again in maybe 50 years time or on the next significant milestone day for the school.
The original plan had been to have the blessing outside but the poor weather dictated that it would take place inside. MC Rosie Gahan stamped her authority on proceedings and the children then put the contingency plan into place and formed an orderly guard of honour along the main school corridor. After the prayers of the faithful and readings, the school was blessed by Fr. Joe Egan, P.P. and Fr. Peter Brennan, Proceedings then moved outside where the youngest pupil in the school, Kathlyn Lahart, and one of the oldest past pupils, Michael O’Connor, cut the ribbon to officially open the new school. Then Sr. Margaret Finn, daughter of former principal Andy Finn, and another of the oldest former pupils, Michael Heffernan, unveiled the official plaque.
Fr. Brennan thanked everybody for making such an effort to be there on such a special day.
Engineer and project manager John Brennan of ABN Midlands. He highlighted the “determination and pragmatism” of the board of management as crucial ingredients to the success of this project and he the board for having the “vision and courage to aspire to designing a building that would meet the medium and long term needs of the school.”
School principal John Manley spoke with great pride of how the school community placed such significant emphasis on the virtues of generosity and goodwill. He spoke of his great pleasure at meeting the daughters of former principal Andy Finn; Sr. Margaret and Sr. De Pezzi. He welcomed the family of Michael Sheridan. Michael is a son of former principal James Sheridan. Mr Manley also acknowledged the significant contribution that his predecessor Liam Ó Duibhir had made to school life in Dualla.
Mr. Manley He spoke of the immense gratitude the school felt at being the beneficiaries of parish funds as part of the fundraising process. The official opening committee were to be commended for the large chunks of their spare time that they had devoted to the project. Joan Kennedy was acknowledged for the attention to detail she had exhibited in designing the official opening booklet. Thanks were extended to Ann Hughes and Joan Kennedy for preparing the singing and Irish dancers. Fr. Joe Egan and Fr. Brennan were recognised for the “immense contributions” they had made to the school, as was the positive impact of sacristan Kathleen O’ Donnell and caretaker Tom O’Donnell.
Staff member Mary McElligott and Ann Marie Devane were commended by the principal. Ms. McElligott’s creative talents were espoused and Ann Marie was acknowledged as somebody who “immerses herself in all aspects of community life”. Mr. Manley reserved the greatest praise for the children of the school; “Like their ancestors before them, are people of the very highest calibre”.
Fr. Joe acknowledged the help of all those from the past and present who had contributed to the project in any way. He talked of how the opening of a new school “opens up vistas and journeys for future generations”.
The formal part of the day was brought to a close with to some beautiful singing by the children. Songs such as ‘My God’, ‘Let It Be’ and ‘May the Road Rise to Meet You’ were belted out with great gusto and pride. The student entertainment concluded with a Riverdance – like Irish dancing performance from sisters Jennifer and Hannah Hughes alongside Leah Ryan. They held the captivated audience in the very palm of their hands.
The evening concluded with an informal gathering in the school. This was arguably the best part of what was a momentous day for all associated with the school. It afforded the opportunity to sit back and reflect on what had been an extraordinary day and an exceptional couple of years.
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