Old School Weekend, The Commons

The first Old School Weekend of 30th June and 1st July 2012, was a weekend to remember. No, the sun didn’t shine all the time and yes the rain did fall, but all the events went ahead with great support from the crowds w ho came along. Luckily the 135 year old school yard was exactly the right size to accommodate two fine marquees that along with the school itself ensured all were kept warm and dry.

The first Old School Weekend of 30th June and 1st July 2012, was a weekend to remember. No, the sun didn’t shine all the time and yes the rain did fall, but all the events went ahead with great support from the crowds w ho came along. Luckily the 135 year old school yard was exactly the right size to accommodate two fine marquees that along with the school itself ensured all were kept warm and dry.

Picture shows Sr Patricia and Jimmy McGrath on their way to cut the ribbon at the Old School

The weekend kicked off with the important business of opening the Old School in its new role as The Commons Community Centre. Mick Kavanagh, Chairman of the Old School committee, welcomed the crowd who included many past pupils. Sr. Patricia Wall told of the long process of the last 15 years that brought the school to its condition today. Fr. Derry Quirke gave a comprehensively researched history of the early years of the School. In 1877 the school was the New School that had been built by the Mining Company of Ireland to educate the children of the area.

Past pupils Jimmy McGrath and James Brennan helped Sr. Patricia to officially open the school. A live mike system was provided and the crowd heard about the school when Jimmy McGrath attended it in the 1920’s when it was a two room school. Mary Webster and Eddie Teehan, who travelled from England for the occasion talked about their days in the school.

Many other past pupils included Paddy O’Connell, Mary Slattery, Thomas Maher, Roundy Lawlor, the Brennan family, the Maher family, the Grace family, the Butler family, members of the many Cleere families and Lawlor families who attended the school and many others too numerous to include here. It was heart warming to see past pupils return to the school as families and to celebrate the day as a family get together.

Kitty Norton spoke about being a teacher in the school and moving to the present school next door in 1969. It was great to see the families of Dan and Sheila O’Connor and Katy Martin present at our celebrations. Veronica Maher, nee O’Connor principal and Helen Lanigan assistant teacher of Slieveardagh N.S. today were both on hand to participate in the celebrations.

Entertainment for the afternoon was kicked off by Michael Cooney’s dancers and Billy O’Brien’s guitar class all of whom have been attending classes in the Old School all winter.

Inside the Old School there were lots of photographs of the Commons and the old class photographs down the years. The Mines Museum that comprises of artefacts and photographs kept many people absorbed for the afternoon.

Saturday evening saw a Ceili organised by Joan Pollard Carew and Michael Cooney, The ceili was a huge success with live music by the Neily O’Connor band who travelled from Kerry for the evening. Dancers from The Commons area and far and wide came along, danced, had a high tea and a raffle, and then danced lots more. They really enjoyed the first ceili to be held in the school and have booked themselves in for next years one.

Sunday was Old School and Mining Museum Vintage Show. The whole village became a showground as there were tractors, cars and bikes on display. Planning, publicity and organisation on the day for this event was a mammoth undertaking and Johnny Grace with great help from Paddy O’Connell and Dan Kennedy of the Kilkenny Vintage Club along with Seamus Purcell ensured the day ran smoothly. Thanks also to Ballingarry Civil Defence for kept the village moving. The vehicle run was also a very enjoyable event for all who went on it with a stop at the War House.

There is no good event without stalls and there were burger, candyfloss, and sweet stalls in the lane. Car parking was not a problem as the O’Shea family had provided car parking space across from the school. Even the very young were kept busy and entertained with a fun day including a bouncy castle and face painting in The Commons playschool.

The final event of the weekend was Roundy’s Big Night.

The Commons is very proud of Roundy Lawlor who is not only a first class traditional musician but also a great personality. Musicians travelled from Clonmel, Thurles, Ballycallan, Urlingford, Holycross, Killenaule, Mullinahone, Gortnahoe and Glengoole to help pay tribute to one of the finest musicians of this area. Almost thirty musicians provided the most magical sound heard in The Commons in many years and the people are still talking of how great it was to see Roundy play the bodhran again. It was lovely to see Tim perform his own songs accompanied by his father and the other musicians.

A presentation of a bodhran was made to Roundy by Mick Kavanagh on behalf of the people of The Commons with Dinny Cleary presenting him with a miner’s pick on behalf of the miners.

We would like to thank Roundy’s family, his daughter Patricia, son Tim and their families for allowing us the privilege of honouring their father during our weekend celebrations.

The Old School committee would also like to thank all who made this evening such a special occasion.

Finally we would like to thank all who supported the weekend, sponsors and companies who donated prizes for the Bumper Raffle and all the people of the village and surrounding areas who helped out. Many people volunteered during the weekend, thank you to all, car parks were manned and numerous rounds of sandwiches were made, litter was kept at bay and a great time was had in The Commons at Old School Weekend.

The weekend was organised to celebrate the opening of a long needed community centre, and following it’s success it is hoped that this is just the start of an annual Old School event in The Commons.

DVD’s of the Opening and Roundy’s Night will be available in the school.

If you would like to make contact with the school please email: oldschoolcommons@gmail.com

Old School is open Monday – Friday: 9.30 am to 1pm.