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16 May 2022

Then & Now: It’s back to school with John Kiely for Glengurt history lesson

Then & Now: It’s back to school with John Kiely for Glengurt history lesson

John Kiely with Caroline Meehan with Mikey and Maeve Tierney and Mairead O'Connor at the Glengurt National School Book launch at Tournafulla Community Centre last November Picture: Brendan Gleeson

THE HISTORY of Glengurt National School 1858-2021 in Tournafulla was launched on November 19, 2021, by John Kiely Limerick hurling manager in Halla Tadhg Gaelacht. It is the work of four people Billy Lenihan, Norma Healy, Bernard Dalton, Willie Roche (Br). It is mainly a book of memories by past pupils recalling their school days.


The achievements of sporting heroes Joe Casey, Seamus Horgan, Seán and Michael O'Sullivan, and the school's success in Gaelic games are all chronicled. Included also are a number of lovely tributes to deceased members associated with the school, and a few very long poetry pieces.


The story of Glengurt National School goes back to March 7, 1855 when Edward Curling , agent of the Earl of Desmond based in the castle in Newcastle West made an application to the Commissioners of National Education for aid towards the building of a schoolhouse in the county of Limerick, in the parish of Killeedy, in the Barony of Glenquin, and in the townland of Glengurt to be called Glengurt National School. The application was received on April 3, 1855.


I quote the following from the Introduction page “This book, we hope will go some way towards preserving the customs, practices and going on of olden times. It also gives the present young people and some generations to come, an insight into primary school life from the early 1930's on. Also preserved are the names, their townland and the memories of the various contributors.”


Chairperson of Board of Management Liam Ó Loineacháin writes as follows.
“History begins in our own homes and surrounds. Our townland parish and their environs are really part of what we are. As a group of four people, we felt it was important to let this generation and future generations know the history of our local school, Glengurt National School. The local primary school is an important and integral part of the community.”
A lot of water has gone under Tour bridge and Barber's bridge since Glengurt National School first admitted pupils on March 1, 1858. The school takes its name from the local electoral area.


The present principal Bernard Dalton in his welcome states: “As the only school in the parish for over 160 years, we have had, and will continue to have, a major influence on the parishioners. As time has moved on in Tournafulla, we have now become one of the main meeting points for children, parents and grandparents in the parish. In light of this, it is important we appreciate our dual role. We have a role as an institute for education but now also have the responsibility to instill a strong sense of place and pride in Tournafulla. It is my hope that this book will provide the parish and the school with a document that will help us develop this strong parish pride.”


Glengurt National School mission statement aims to create a safe environment within which the pupils can learn, and where they will develop a Christian outlook, a work ethic, a sense of fair play and responsibility and an awareness of the history and culture of Tournafulla.


In 2018 the school ran a project to develop a crest for the school, with every child and staff involved. They included four pictures to form the basis of the crest. They choose three Gaeilge words that best describe the values they hope to pass on to their students. The three words chosen were: -Oidhreacht, (Heritage) - Dílseacht (Loyalty, Fidelity, Genuineness) agus Dearfacht (Positivity).


In 1855, in the House of Parliament in London, a decision was taken to set the wheels in motion for the building of a school in Tournafulla, Co Limerick. This intention was passed on to the Board of Education and the Earl of Devon was informed. The agent of the Earl, William Courtney then visited the house of the rector of Killeedy to begin the process on the ground. The rector in Killeedy contacted Fr. Reeves, the Catholic priest in Tournafulla at the time and he became the manager of the school.
The school was built and divided into two sections , a boy's and a girls. The boys had the eastern side of the school and the girls the western side.

An invisible line divided the yard and children were not allowed to cross into the other sexes yard.
The site chosen was in the electoral area of Glengurt and thus the school was known as Glengurt National School rather than Tournafulla National School. John Scanlon was the master; his son Richard was the assistant and a young man by the name of Curtin was the monitor. The girl's school was taught by two daughters of the master.


The new school was opened on October 30, 1969, by Bishop of Limerick Henry Murphy. It was on a site acquired from the O'Kelly family and the Hannon's from Listowel were the builders. In the book there is a list of the teachers from 1899 to 1969, the pupils in the boy’s school in 1904 and the 59 family names living in Glengurt in1911. Fr Willie O'Gorman was their much loved pastor for seventeen years until his death in 2014 and he is recalled over 37 verses in a beautiful poem.
William Roche over 10 pages of poetry remembers the 6th class of 1968. It was written in 1968, before the move to the new school. Jimmy Michael 'The Runner' from Tour is paid a tribute by An Scéalái Fánach over 6 pages. Mary Brislane, Mary O'Sullivan and Cathríona Kenneally, have lovely tributes written about them.


The future looks bright for the school on the hill who has 14 staff and 111 students at present. The school also provides a breakfast club, and after school club and an independent Montessori School is based at the school. As they say in a great school only two things really matter, great staff and great students. They are blessed in Glengurt National school to have both in abundance.


The book has 282 pages of text and photographs, and the cover shows an aerial photo of the school, students and staff.
Thanks to Liam Lenihan who gave me a copy for my collection.
Copies may still be available to buy in the village, and all funds raised will go to the school.
It would be nice to see more national schools publish their own social histories.

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