A Master's Memories
We are blessed to have a super book published in 1995 on the history of our school. With permission, we have taken sections from this walk down memory lane and reproduced it here for you starting with the history of Shraigh school, written by our past principal, Nell McDonnell, followed by a school tour in 1987 described by a past pupil. We also have reproduced the articles on the recollections of past teachers. Máire Ní Ghachain tells her own story, while Mary Gaughan writes her recollections of Michael and Margaret McLoughlin, Stephen Glenn presents "A Master's Memories" and finally P. J. Walshe who taught in Shraigh N.S. in the 1940's presents "The Forties"
A Master's Memories
By Stephen Glenn
Uncrowded, unlittered and unpolluted could easily describe the miles of beaches fringing Shraigh
and its area. Looking out towards Claggan on a pleasant day in Summer from the crest of the hill near Hugh Carolan's house is a scene of beauty and tranquillity. The isthmus joining Claggen to the mainland divides the water of the bay into two — the Tooglass side always calm whilst the less sheltered side presents a more turbulent and lively expanse of water stretching across to Blacksod and to the more distant Achill.
But, on a day in February, 1950, the scene for me was somewhat different as I wended my way or,
more correctly, struggled with my rickety bicycle up against the hills from Glencastle in the teeth of
hailstones and a strong prevailing wind. I had cause to remember Miss Queally's description of that road on a Winter's morning. "The only shelter for your ears from the hailstones are the telegraph poles!" For the benefit of the younger reader, Miss Queally taught in Shraigh School for many years. However, having braved the hills and the elements and turned down into Bóthar Buí I always thought that a certain gentleness and kindness tempered the wind. That kindness and gentleness appeared indicative of the type of people that lived there whose warmth and charm I experienced. I was privileged in not only spending so
many years as principal of the school I also lived in Shraigh so that I had a very close relationship with parents and others. When I say I was privileged, I am serious because I found the children to be so pleasant, agreeable, intelligent and possessing a great sense of humour and fun. But the children, I discovered, were reflecting the good homes they came from inheriting these excellent qualities from their parents.
From a teacher's work point of view I had splendid advantages in the quality and dedication of my colleagues in the school. The excellence of their teaching in religious and secular subjects reached such a high standard that it won the greatest of praise from all types of school inspectors. My task in teaching the older pupils, as a result, was so much easier. I remember a comment from a woman who is now in her eighties — "We always had good teachers in Shraigh School". Pondering her comment I often thought
that the good qualities of children and parents were incentives to the teachers to give of their best.
The school itself had its beginnings in Muingmore when it was Doolough School, which operated from the 1850s to 1888. A Mr. Carrick, a native of Limerick, taught there as the school's first teacher. He was replaced by a Ballina man, Patrick Dunphy, who was the first principal of the new school in Shraigh on June 4th, 1888. He was later assisted by a Miss O'Flynn. In turn they were replaced by Mr. and Mrs. McLoughlin, who taught there until the 1930s. In the late 1920s when Ale school became a three-teacher one, the single large room was divided into two rooms by a folding partition and an extra classroom was added.
Having paid well deserved compliments to parents, pupils and teachers I must comment on school management. The late Archdeacon Feeney and Fr. Mulhern were managers of the school during almost all my time there. Strict, but with an old-world courtesy, kindness and generosity is how I would describe the Archdeacon. I always felt that he had a high regard for Shraigh people and their school. In spite of the close
friendship of teachers with Fr. Mulhern, the school operated on the same old firm basis or, in other words, friendship did not indicate any disregard for the Department of Education's Rules and Regulations. Ar dheis Dé go raibh anamacha uasal na beirte.
Briefly, I had dealings with the new management boards, I consider that the parents' input made for a better co-operation between parents and school. Certainly, the new boards caused no problems.
Some of my past pupils have responded to the final bell. I remember them so clearly, all of them such lovable children in their different ways. Surely, they have graduated with highest honours to their rightful place in that heavenly class we all hope to reach.