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Back down The Lane

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THE years melted away for the 160th Anniversary of Rathcoole National School last Sunday. Indeed, it proved that all associated with the Dromtariffe heartland base hold the highest of regard for St Brendan's NS.

From far and wide, children, once put on their way to education, returned as adults to the place of learning, preparing them for further education and, ultimately, their careers in locations throughout the world.

Education in Rathcoole can be traced to hedge schools of Bolomore and Curraraigue before the first official national school in Rathcoole opened in 1853 from land leased from the Landlord Baronet Colthurst

Transferred to the Diocese of Kerry in 1933, a newly built school was opened in September 1943 before a new extension doubled the size of the school in the 1980s. This was superceded in 2007, when the school was again doubled in size.

"When Colturst School opened in 1853, Ireland was a different place. The country had barely recovered from the famine; hunger, disease and poverty was rampant, emigration had decimated the population. Yet, against that backdrop, the people of Rathcoole recognised the vital importance of education, courageously establishing their new school," Principal Susan O'Connor told the gathering on Sunday .

"It's a huge achievement for this small, rural area to have provided continuous education on this site for 160 years.

A diverse programme opened with a special Mass before organising chairman Dan Joe O'Keeffe led a trip back in time.

Former associates trawled through their reminisces of life at the school.

"In our time, the school was known as The Lane. Before the central heating came in, our biggest job was to go over to Bourke's field and gather up firing and return with barks and branches. That was the time of the ration book in tough times", Mick Byrnes recalled.

Mick hailed all those who supported financing the completion of a new extension back in the 1930s.

"" We travelled around, selling tickets in a time prior to grants becoming available. That confirms the community spirit in the area," he said.

He recalled, too, teacher Mrs O'Driscoll from Millstreet coming to school in a pony and trap. "The pony was always popular for a ride without a saddle. There was no health and safety in that time but everybody enjoyed it", said Mick.

He added gaelic football was strong in the area with established families, green and gold, the colour of the school jerseys.

Music and songs on the day confirmed the strong cultural roots within the school, with poetry, too.

Launched on Sunday also, 'Rathcoole National School, A Celebration of 160 years', edited by Maureen O'Brien, was diligently researched and traces the school back to its founding, and offers reminiscences, artlcles and photographs aplenty.

Outdoors in the sunshine, Cullen piper Donncha Cronin led pupils and patrons to the school gate for the planting of a tree by the Hanover family. A stone commemorating the site of Colthurst NS was unveiled by Donal McCarthy, chairman of the board of management and Susan O'Connor, principal.

Three generations of the Byrnes family raised the Dromtariffe, Rathcoole and national flags. With any anniversary, a cake had to be cut, the pleasant task undertaken by pupils from the 1930's namely Mary Horgan, Kate Cooney and Ted Collins.

With the formalities complete, it was time to relax over teas and sandwiches. Photographs, artefects, slideshows added to the occasion and from the school registrar - nobody could hide their age, with the official documents dating back to 1865.