History of our School

History of our school

Watty’s Hedge School

In 1826 403,000 Irish children were taught in hedge schools. Nano Nagle, who was the foundress of the Presentation Order defied the Penal Laws to open schools for children. Athenry had its own hedge school in 1898 called Watty’s hedge school which was situated at Court Lane near Dempsey’s slaughter house. The teacher’s name was Mr. Coen, uncle of the late Thomas Coen. In 1869 Athenry was said to have the best teacher in Ireland based on the 3R’s. He was a Mr. O’ Reilly, father of Essie and Tom O’Reilly, Old Church Street.

School in Abbey row

The old school was built in Abbey Row where the ball alley is today. It was the first primary school under the Department of Education. One section was for the boys and the other for the girls. In 1875 there were 55 boys and 35 girls on roll. Last lay principal was Mrs. Dolan. She and her daughter retired in 1907.

In January 1908, the Archbishop, Most Reverend John Healy asked the Presentation Order in Tuam to set up a convent in Athenry and to teach in the girls school at the urgent request of the Parish Priest, Canon Canton. He vacated his own house and gave it to the nuns which became their new convent. The presentation sisters came to Athenry in 1908. The first two sisters taught in the old boys’ school beside the Dominician priory while awaiting the building of the convent primary school. They were an Enclosed Order. They travelled to and from school by coach, through Court Lane. They taught there until the building, behind the Convent was ready. In 1923 an additional classroom was built to accomodate 50 pupils at a cost of €325. Thecontractor was John Broderick, who had also built the original schoolhouse.

Scoil Chroí Naofa

The convent school bult in 1910 had, by the mid-sixties become overcrowded and, despite various renovations down through the years, was by then inadequate for the growing numbers on roll. By 1976 negotiations for a new building were finalised between the Presentation Sisters and the Commissioners of Public Works, the site being provided by the Presentation Sisters. The calculated cost of the building was £176,000. Of this amount £19,555was to be a local contribution and £156,445 to be paid by the Office of Public Works.In 1977 Sr. Kevin came to Athenry from Tuam as principal. She set up a Finance Committee of parents and school staff who collected the local contributions from people in the school catchment area.

Our present school was officially opened on the 4th of September 1980 with Sr. Kevin as principal. The school, like the Presentation convent is named after the Sacred Heart, hence its name Scoil Chroí Naofa. The school has a special devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The following were the staff in 1980: Sr. Raphael Mc Donagh, Norah Joyce, Sr. Kevin Curran, Mary Brady, Sr. Carmela Fitzpatrick, Sr. Colette Dolan, Sr. Alphonsus Allen , Sr. Vincent and Sr. Celestine Whyte.

In 1993 Mrs. Teresa Neylon succeeded Sr. Eithne Cunniffe as lay principal. At present there are 263 pupils on roll. There are fifteen teachers on the staff. The school shares its site with the Nano Nagle preschool, founded in 1990, and the Presentation Secondary school.


Opening Day September 1st 1980

The school band trained by Sr .Vincent Canney gave the guests a rousing welcome. The school was officially opened by Mr. Mark Killilea T.D. and was blessed by Very Reverend James Cannon Gibbons P.P. Athenry who celebrated the opening Mass. He spoke highly of the work done by all involved in bringing the project to a successful end. The school choir conducted by Sr. Carmel Fitzpatrick sang parts of the Mass, which was attended by a huge crowd. Mass was followed by refreshments served in the classroooms by a committee of parents and staff. Both adults and children enjoyed the afternoon marvelling at the idea of bright airy new classrooms and their many modern facilities.

1982 Painting our First Mural in SCN

As part of a pilot scheme for the promotion of art in the primary schools a lovely mural was painted on the wall of the assembly area by the pupils of Scoil Chroí Naofa under the direction of art teachers Miss Dervil Jordan. and Helen O’Donoghue. This project was founded by the Arts Council of Ireland as part of their “Paint on the wall” scheme. The pupils were taken out of school to local scenes which they selected to paint on the wall. They chose shops, housed, historic ruins, the Clarin river, churches, the cemeteryand came up with a very colourful depiction of the meeting of the Galway Blazers, so much part of the Athenry scene. They showed life in Athenry at that time. The children made drawings of Athenry. The artists then drew the children’s paintings to scale on the walls of the hall. Each class was involved in painting the mural.

2000 Painting a new mural 

The Parents’ Council and Board of Management sponsored an art project in 2000 to celebrate the Millennium. The children of the school showed their artistic talents again in painting this mural with local artist Ruth Pokall. The mural shows Athenry in medieval times and modern Athenry, showing games, pastimes, transport, clothes and work from long ago. The children painted life iin modern day Athenry and we can see the contrast in games, pastimes, transport, clothes and work to the Athenry of long ago.

The 2003 Painting Project

The mural in the shelter in the top yard and other playground art was painted in 2003 by Miss O’ Connell, Mrs. Devally and Middy Flannery, school caretaker at the time. They painted a target game on the wall of the shelter. They also painted hopscotch games on the top and bottom yards, a footprint trail, alphabet caterpillar and numbers on the bottom yard. The art work brightens up the yard for the children at break time and makes it a fun and interesting place to play.

25th anniversary celebrations

In June 2006 we celebrated 25 years of Scoil Chroí Naofa. We held a History Open Day. All pupils and staff were involved in the Open Day. Items from the last 25 years were collected and displayed. Photographs of the school band, sports teams and events in the school were looked at. A lot of parents, grandparents and people from the community came to look at the projects that the classes had done for History Day. Pupils led everyone on a tour of the old school.

Beginning of Secondary Education

The girls continued their education in the old school as Secondary Tops where they spent three more years preparing for the Intermediate Certificate. After this exam, girls had the opportunities to study two further years for the Leaving Certificate and/or to also do a Commercial Course. Leaving Cert classes took place in the Canton Hall and the Convent. Up to 1950 there was no Exam centre in Athenry therefore students had to board in Tuam for two weeks at exam time.The Secondary School was built in 1949.The first girls to sit their Leaving Cert in the new secondary school were Nan Burke, Annie Allen, Minnie Quinn, Bridie Fitzpatrick, Greta Cummins and Gretta Kenny.

Sr. Aphonsus was a pupil and a teacher in the Old School. She was in the second group who did their Leaving Cert in the new Secondary School in 1951 There were six  in her class: Julia Quinn, Mary Joe Cahill, Agnes Finn, Kathleen Conneely and Nuala Courtney. Classes for the Commercial Course took place in the Old Cookery Room, after which the girls returned to the library section of the Secondary Tops classroom to work on their assignments. They studied typing. Pitman’s shorthand, and book keeping. There were two type writers in a tiny room. where the girls could practise their typing. This room was later converted into a toilet. The girls sat exams by the Irish Society of Arts & Commerce in advanced Book Keeping, Advanced Type Writing and shorthand.


—Sr Mary Therese and Miss Glynn taught the seventh class and Juniors 1 & 2.

—Sr Perpetua taught Shorthand, Typing and Book Keeping.

—Ms Newman taught Math, Irish and History in the Convent. She was the first lay teacher in the Secondary School.

—Sr Rosario taught English,

— Sr Vianney taught French.

—Sr Philomena taught Art on Saturday to Junior Certs

—Sr. Celestine taught Art to Leaving Certs.

Mrs. Neylon interviewed past pupils about their memories of school life:

Gretta Kenny’s Memories

  • The Sacred Heart School catered for boys from Junior Infants to 1st class.Girls were taught from infants up to seventh class.The teachers prepared the children for the Primary Cert.

    In the 1930s the following staff were teaching in the Sacred Heart School: Sr. Dominic taught the infants, Sr Baptist taught 1st class, Sr. Ignatius 2nd class, Sr Bernard 3rd& 4th, Sr. Cecilia 5th and Sr. Agnes taught 6th class.

    Sr Baptist was the Principal. She took the children for choir practice on Friday evening after school. They sang at Masses for the dead, “High Mass” and Benediction.

    Penmanship was very important. Each child had a pen, nibs, ink and a sheet of blotting paper (páipéar suite) to prevent blobs. They were seated two to a desk. Each desk had two inkwells.  These were filled every week. On Fridays all the ink wells were washed in the Tap Room. This room was adjacent to the Infant Classroom.

    Parents bought school books in the school. Each pupil was supplied with a booklist and parents sent the required amount of money to the class teacher. The nuns encouraged the children to read. Sr. Baptist was in charge of the Library in the music room of the convent. Children paid 1p each week for a loan of a library book.

    They played the following games : hopscotch, skipping, ball games, Big Ships Sails down the Alley Alley O and My Fair Lady.

    On Fair Days schools were closed.

    On Presentation Day the Girls School had no school. The Boys school had school on that day.

    The Feast of The Sacred Heart was a special day of celebration. Usually the weather was very fine and the children were brought into the convent garden for Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament and a party, which consisted of tea and currant buns followed by “The Sports”.

    On Rogation Days i.e. three days prior to Ascension Thursday, the staff and pupils would process around the building and assemble in the yard for prayers, to pray for fine weather and a good harvest.

    Some children who made their First Holy Communion were selected for the Corpus Christi Procession. They had silver baskets. They strewed rose petals facing the Blessed Sacrament as they processed around the town

Veronica Ruane/Gaughran’s Memories

  • She remembers the following teachers who taught her; Mary Brady, Sr. Raphael, Sr. Vincent,Band equipment was stored in a little room of the new cookery room. Sr. Lucy taught in the cookery room. This room was different from all the others rooms in that it had a tiled floor.There was also a prefab in the yard. There was only one toilet in the school. The rest of the toilets were in the top yard.Heating system consisted of oil heatersThere children had no uniforms.Veronica remembers when the new school was been built. She and her peers used to sit in the top yard which was then a field watching the building of the school. They sat in old desks. There were 2 inkwells in each desk. Each child had a fountain pen for writing. She recalls many prefabs around the secondary school.She remembers washing her hands in the sinks situated outside one of the cloakrooms.She was a member of the school band. She was a flag bearer, a band leader and drummer. She took part in the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Galway, the National Children’s Day parade in Dublin and also Lady’s Day in Athenry. She was very proud of the band uniform which consisted of a red skirt, black waist coat, dickybow, white shirt, black shoes and red hat. The Tully sisters made the uniforms.She moved to Scoil Chroí Naofa when she was completing the 5th class programme in June 1979.

    The opening school Mass took place the following year in June 1980. She wasn’t there when the mural was painted.

    She remembered the shared area which was used as a PE room, and it was also used for choir practice. Sr. Carmella prepared them for the choir and they sang at the 10 o clock Mass on Sundays.

    Games played in the yard were played with skipping ropes & elastic bands.

    She really enjoyed her tours especially the tour to Bunratty and the Dublin Zoo.

    On the Feast day of the Sacred Heart the nuns gave all the children chocolate buns made in Lydon House Bakery.

    Veronica has been an active member of the Parents Council since 2001. She has been chairperson for the last two years. She has been great support to the principal and the school over these years


Melinda Melia/Treacy’s School Memories

  • Melinda has very little memories of the Sacred Heart School. She remembers Sr. Celestine who was the Infant Teacher at the time.However she very much remembers being in the band. She was a majorette and she was a flossy. She played tin whistle and melodica. She very much liked the band. She took part in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and the Corpus Christi Procession.When she came into Scoil Chroí Naofa she felt that the school was huge and the classrooms were very big.

    She used to go home for her lunch.

    The shared room was used as a PE room.

    She liked Maths and Irish.

    She has very pleasant memories of Scoil Chroí Naofa

    She has made life long friends.

    Melinda has been an active member of the Parents Council for the last 2 years.

Elaine Kavanagh/Leahy’s Memories

  • She remembers her first teacher Sr. Laura who taught her in Junior Infants. She remembers in particular the furniture; they had lovely round low desks.Mary Brady taught her in Senior Infants. Sr. Lucy taught her in 1st & 2nd class in the cookery room. In 3rd and 4th class she had Sr. Vincent. Sr. Carmella taught her in 5th and Sr. Kevin in 6th class.She remembers the prefab beside the Sacred Heart School

    She moved to Scoil Chroí Naofa move in 1979 when she was in 4th class. She remembers it being built.

    When she moved to the new school she remarked on the following, the toilets being in the classrooms, all the furniture was new and there were carpets in all the classrooms. It seemed so new in comparison to the old school.

    Elaine was very excited about the painting of the mural. She remembers that they had to draw their pictures into a graph with grids. She drew and painted the small man made tower by the river.

    She remembers the school concerts. There was a stage set up in the hall. She remembers clearly singing with two other girls the song “You are My Sunshine”

    Sr. Carmella taught the choir in the shared area. She prepared the girls to sing in the choir at the 10 o clock Mass on Sundays.

    The shared area was also used for PE classes and for band practice.

    She was a flossy and a majorette in the band. She also played the melodica. She played the side drum for one band event. She remembers the following events; St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Galway, playing in Croke Park when the Secondary Schools were in the All Ireland , the Corpus Christi Procession and the Feile na nGael competition.

    Sr. Kevin was the Principal and she thought she was a lovely person.

    She remembers Nora Joyce.

    Elaine cycled to school every day and she parked her bicycle in the shelter in the bottom yard. She went home for lunch every day. However on some occasions she had to stay in school for lunch. This was considered a treat.

    When her daughter enrolled in September 200, Elaine couldn’t get over how the school was exactly the same as it was when she left school.

Ned Waldron’s Schooldays

  • In 1943 Ned started school. He was 4 years of age.He spent 3 years in the Sacred Heart School i.e. Junior Infants, Senior Infants and 1st class.He then went to the Boys School which was situated where Somers Filling station is today.

    His 3 teachers were Sr. Baptist, Sr.Dominic and Sr. Colmbanus. He remembers Sr. Baptist was a lovely lady. He also remembers with fondness Sr. Dominic.

    Ned’s aunt Mrs Flannery, taught in the Sacred Heart School

    He remembers that the Presentation Order was an enclosed order.

    Ned recalls some of his colleagues who passed away: Frank Rabbitte, John Bane, Michael Killeen and Joe Ryan. May they Rest in Peace Amen.

    He remembers the open fire, there were no radiators

    He remembers when he made his First Communion. They gathered in the convent garden and they were given medals and sweets and treats.

    He remembers some of his school mates, Teresa Finnerty, Bridie Cassidy R.I.P, Kevin Whelan R.I.P. and Emily Madden.

    There was an even number of boys and girls in his class.

    One of the greatest lessons the Presentation Sisters taught the children was manners and respect. Discipline was very strict. The Nuns were a credit.

    He remembers a visit from the dentist, the priests, the inspector and the nuns. If the children behaved themselves for important visitors they got lollipops.

    Pupils either walked or cycled to school. There were some buses.

    Mick Mannion was the caretaker in the farmyard, and the farmyard was situated where the new school, the car park and the Vocational School is today. He looked after cows and chickens.

    The girls got a complete education from the Presentation Sisters. After primary school, they continued with their Secondary Education which took place in the Sacred HeartSchool, the Canton Hall and the Convent.

    The Secondary School was built by the Stewarts of Galway in 1949.

    The Presentation Sisters taught boys from infants up to 1st or 2nd class after which they then progressed to the new boy’s school. If the boys wished to continue secondary school and if their parents could afford the expense, they had a number of choices: De La Salle Brothers in Loughrea, Jarlaths in Tuam or St. Mary’s and the Bish in Galway.

Greg Rabbitte’s Memories

  • The Presentation Sisters were an enclosed order.He went to school in 1931 when he was 3½ years of age. He felt he was too young. Greg was a fine tall child at the time and Sr. Dominic who was Principal at the time, felt he was ready to start school so she contacted Greg’s mother.He spent 4 years in the Sacred HeartSchool i.e. Junior Infants, Senior Infants, 1st class and 2nd class.

    The following were his teachers: Miss Glynn from Ballygurrane, Miss Waldron (mother of Fr. John Flannery), Miss Finn and  Sr. Ignatius.

    Sr. Magdalene was the Principal at the time. Sr. Peter became the Principal at a later stage.

    Sister Magdalene was also the Reverend Mother.

    There was a Commercial Class for the senior girls at that time.

    In 1935 he went to the BoysSchool which was situated in Abbey Row.

    In 1943 the New Boys School was built where Somers Filling Station is today.

    He remembered the open fireplaces. He remembers paying 2 shilling a week.

    Handwriting was very important. Each child had pens, nibs, ink in their ink wells and blotting paper.

    He remembers being taught Arithmetic and the Bible (the Book was called the Life of our Lord.)

    There was a great emphasis on Irish. He didn’t find it hard because his mother and father were fluent in Irish.

    Sr. Dominic taught him singing and he remembers her using the tuning fork.

    One of the boy’s punishments at that time was knitting.

    He remembers having to pump the bellows at Easter time and Christmas time for Church ceremonies. Sr. Columbanus played the organ.

    Greg’s wife Ann, was also a pupil of the Sacred Heart School

    For Sport he remembers playing football in the fields.

    He remembers especially, the party on the Feast of the Sacred Heart. The Nuns gave them Tea and Buns from John Joe White’s Bakery.

    He remembers the visit of the doctor.

    The nuns had cows and chickens, Mick Mannion was the farmer who looked after them. The boys would love to watch Mick milking the cows

    Because the Nuns were an enclosed order they had to get a taxi to go on holiday or to visit the doctor or the dentist.

    The nuns wore very big habits and were very much covered. He recalls the ball going into the nun’s garden.

Sr. Alphonsus Remembers

  • She was a pupil and a teacher in the Sacred Heart School.She was in the second group who did their Leaving Cert in the new Secondary School in 1951. There were six in her class, Julia Quinn, Mary Jo Cahill, Agnes Quinn, Kathleen Conneely and Nuala Courtney.Sr. Alphonsus was appointed to the Sacred Heart School in 1977. Prior to that she taught senior classes in Tír an Fhia where she was school principal. There, she developed her love for and knowledge of the Gaeilge, which she speaks fluently.

    In 1973 she was transferred to Headford where she taught the middle grades and was again school principal.

    Sr. Alphonsus taught in Athenry for 21 years. In Scoil Chroí Naofa she taught 1st and 2nd and 3rd and 4th classes in Room 5. She brought the children on many tours, the Burren, Lahinch etc. She loved to watch the Hunt and always brought the children out to see it.

    She became the Remedial teacher shared with the Boys School from 1995 to 1998.

    On retirement Sr. Alphonsus took up landscape painting as a hobby. She is at present involved in parish work visiting the sick and housebound, and brings Holy Communion to patients in the two local nursing homes.

Opening of a new extension on Monday November 22nd 2010

The official opening of our new school extension took place on Monday, 22nd November. The extension consists of a classroom with a corridor, two offices , a stairs, four toilets, and a linking corridor between the school and the new classroom. The staffroom had very small. With the building of a principal’s office, a wall was knocked between the staffroom and the old office to create a more spacious staffroom.

The Board of Management, Parents Council and guests were invited along to enjoy the celebrations.  Mass was celebrated by Fr Charlie and both he and Fr Tony blessed the new building. Sr. Mary Kenny, Presentation Trustee officially opened our new extension.

Sixth class girls re-enacted the story of Nano Nagle, foundress of the Presentation Order.  Tours of the school were then given to all.  The children had treats and our fun filled day was rounded off with a disco in the hall for everyone and that included some of the staff!

Official opening (42)
L to R: Teresa Neylon, Principal, Fr. Charlie McDonnell, Peter Feeney, Sr. Mary Kenny, Tom Lane, Sr. Leo Hackett, Declan Farrell, Ronnie Greene and Gerry Farrell, Chairperson, Board of Management with some of Scoil Chroí Naofa’s pupils.

A Reflection by Mrs Norah Joyce Deputy Principal

The official opening of the new extension to Scoil Chroí Naofa, which took place on Monday the 22 of November 2010, marked the culmination of five years hard work and perseverance by our Principal Teresa Neylon and the Board of Management of our school. At last the school community could celebrate the end result after such a long time planning, organising, consulting, collaborating, explaining agreeing and disagreeing! – at every stage along the way.

Everyone was excited; staff and children alike. Gerry Ahern was our official recorder for the day and he began by interviewing Mrs.Neylon and other members of the staff while the finishing, festive touches were  being put to the building. All was hustle and bustle until was finally settled in the hall to hear Mass, a Mass which resonated back through the years for some as its liturgy copied that which was chosen for the first Mass in the brand new Scoil Chroí Naofa over 30 years ago.

Mrs Neylon addressed the children, staff and guests, reminding us of the long journey undertaken by the school community which led to today. Then Father Charlie our school chaplain blessed the extension using the same words as those used in 1980. It was an especially poignant moment for those of us who had been present at the opening of the original ‘new’ school.

The Mass followed. The school choir sang; everyone had a part to play, and towards the end of the Liturgy the girls from Sixth Class enacted the story of Nano Nagle including dance and song, to the immense enjoyment of all.

Then it was time to show the guests what exactly had been done to the school over the past year. The girls in Sixth Class were once again pressed into service – this time as guides – and they showed the visitors around the school explaining the work that had been done in each area both inside and outside the school building.

Refreshments were served to the guests in the enlarged staffroom while the pupils had treats in their individual classrooms. Then it was time for a disco in the hall which had been cleared quickly to make room for all the senior children to enjoy themselves when the Infants had gone home, and enjoy themselves they did with Mrs Lane as a very competent DJ.

The staff then had refreshments in the staffroom while popping out now and then to see how the disco was progressing; some even joining in the dancing to the great delight of the children.

All in all it was a very appropriate, fun and light hearted ending to a memorable day.


Translate »