There was a buzz of excitement in Stoneyford recently as alumni from the “Old School” arrived from near and far.
Past students were welcomed by Donal Sheridan, owner of the old school; and as friends met and talked, some for the first time in years, the students were called to order by MC Charles Molyneaux ringing the bell.
Donal gave a brief history of the school. The village of Stoneyford was built by William Perry, and the Old National School was built as a result of the building of the Merino Mill by Messrs Nowlan and Shaw in Ennisnag on the bank of the Kings River. The mill was one of the finest mills in Ireland. It cost £40,000, which in today’s money would be approximately €30 million. It employed 400 workers.
The school opened in 1840 – a two-storey building with two large classrooms, one upstairs and one on the ground floor.
In 1841 a school inspection recorded a student attendance of 115 boys and 60 girls. The school master was Mitchell Hanrahan and the school mistress was Catherine Butler.
Donal also told everyone how delighted he was with the large attendance and especially those who had travelled some distance.
Charles then took to the floor and called upon the students to recall some of their stories.
This drew a great response and as the stories flowed one could feel themselves going back in time. A song composed by the late Tom McGrath, Norelands was recited by his daughter Patricia Neville. Known as the Stoneyford Serenade, it makes mention of the local business people in the 1960s. Donal Butler then recited a poem composed by the late Paddy O’Connell of Norelands, known as Going Back.
As refreshments were served, the noise of chat grew to a level that would not have been tolerated on school days! As the evening came to a close, many were slow to leave friends and memories of their school as the event was such a success.
Donal thanked Maura O’Shea and Oliver Ryan for their help in tracing past pupils; Patricia Neville and Joan Holland for their help in hosting the event; Bernie Kirwan for taking photographs; and Charles Molyneaux for serving as MC.