WITH dusty old photographs, painted murals and warm memories of school days, a Newcastle West national school is preparing to mark 125 years of education.
Scoil Iósaf was founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1887 on the grounds of their convent at Knockane, and since then the girls school has been an incubator of learning for generations of locals.
This Thursday, the school will mark its landmark anniversary with a Mass at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Newcastle West, which will be celebrated by Fr Tony Mullins, Limerick Diocesan administrator.
Nora Ryan, principal of Scoil Iósaf, said that the school owes its longevity to the founding spirit of the Sisters of Mercy, and its enduring links with Newcastle West.
“I think the school’s lasted this long is because is rooted in the community. It’s down to the co-operation of management, parents, staff and the wider community. The school has always served the needs of the community it’s in, and hopefully it always will”.
The Sisters of Mercy’s footprint in local education dates back to 1850, when they opened their first convent school. As attendance grew in subsequent years, they decided to open a purpose-built primary school, which opened its doors in 1887. The school was expanded in 1966 and again in 1979.
For over 100 years, the sisters played an active part in day-to-day life at the school, however in 1991 Scoil Iosaf appointed its first ever lay principal, Joan Callaghan. The sisters themselves ceased to be directly involved with the school in 1999.
To mark 125 years, the school commissioned local artist Keith O’Rahilly to paint a mural on one of the school’s walls depicting its 125 year history. The mural has been paid for out of funds raised by the school’s parents council.
This Thursday’s Mass begins at 7.30pm, and past pupils, parents, teachers, staff and members of the community have all been invited to attend. During the ceremony symbols representing the school’s legacy will be presented, including the original school register from 1887 and pictures of Sr Emilian, the last Sister of Mercy to serve as school principal.
After the Mass a reception will take place back at the school, where a display of photographs from Scoil Iósaf’s history will be shown.
Ms Ryan said that she and all her colleagues are proud to be involved with the school as it reaches this important milestone.
“We’re all part of a team. This is a great landmark for the school, and that’s what makes me happiest. The school started back in 1887, and it’s been going from strength to strength since.”