IT may not have been the biggest Gathering of 2013 but, in people terms, the Clounleharde school reunion was a resounding success.
Of the 235 past pupils of Clounleharde national school, who are still alive, close on 200 took part at the get-together organised for Knockdown.
“It was completely beyond our expectations,” committee chairman Michael Dillane told the Limerick Leader. “For a small rural place to be able to sit down 172 of our ex-pupils was magnificent.”
And that number increased later in the evening when more ex-pupils joined in the fun, the singing and the remembering which followed the Mass and buffet supper.
“They came from all over,” Mr Dillane continued. While the majority came from all parts of Ireland, one past pupil came from the US, almost 20 from England and one, Madge Sheahan, from Malta.
“I met people I hadn’t seen for 60 years,” Mr Dillane, who started school in Clounleharde in 1934, added.
The oldest past-pupils to attend the reunion were Pakie Geoghegan and Liam Enright, both of whom live locally. Martin and Kathleen Barry who taught for over 40 years in the school until they retired in 1960, were remembered through their children who attended and both Maria Adams and Marie Collins, the last two teachers to work in the school, were also there. “We had a terrific gathering,” Mr Dillane enthused.
Mr Dillane and fellow past pupil, Mary Collins, nee Long had been advocating such a reunion for the past ten years. “We were throwing it out there but nobody stirred until The Gathering and it shot off the ground like a bullet. I am absolutely delighted.”
Peg Prendeville, who was joint secretary of the organising committee was equally happy with the outcome.
“We had a brilliant night,” she said.
The recollections began during the reunion Mass which was said by past pupil, Fr Mikey O’Connor and the gifts brought to the altar were particularly poignant: a sod of turf, a latch key, a slate, a book dated 1889.
And those who were not able to make the journey and all those who had died were remembered in prayer. Past pupils Tom O’Connell and Mike Chawke played throughout the ceremony.
A special booklet, with photographs and recollections was also printed in honour of the occasion and was presented to each of the past-pupils who attended.
The booklet traces the history of education in the area but also gives a flavour of school-days over the decades. It was, Ms Prendeville said, well-received.
Fortunately, she added, there were no hitches throughout the entire evening: the rain stayed away and the midges weren’t too bad.
Cllr John Sheahan, newly elected cathaoirleach of Limerick County Council, also attended.
Clounleharde National School, dates from 1884. Located in a valley between Carrigkerry and Glin, it was a two-room school and had up to 70 pupils at one stage.
It closed in 1967 and the roll-books were transferred to Ballyhahill