“Our "Garden of Life" has become exactly that, a space for living, a space to meet and talk, a space to run up and down banks, a space to sit down and be quiet, a space to grow plants and flowers and to see them grow and bloom, a space that is colourful and joyful”. Principal of Callystown NS Ambrose McGnnity.
It’s not often that a school can claim to have a garden designed by a four time Bloom gold medal winner, but they can in Callystown National School.
The Clogherhead school held the official opening of their Garden of Life on Wednesday June 22nd, which was designed by locally born landscaper Andrew Christopher Dunne, and built with funds largely raised by the local community.
On hand to launch the garden was newly elected Mayor of Drogheda Michelle Hall, who is also a teacher in a national school.
“Callystown National School, Clogherhead opened their magnificent and unique Garden of Life with a talented line up of song, music, poems and plenty of gifts for the retirement of their Secretary Mary King and SNA Kathleen King,” said Mayor Hall. “With rolling hills, orchards, veg garden, seating areas and a rainbow tunnel, no doubt this garden designed by Bloom Gold medal winner Andrew Dunne, will win numerous awards and be the blueprint for other schools.”
Mary and Kathleen will be sorely missed by the pupils and staff, and the children put on some performances, read poems and made a number of presentations were made to mark their wonderful contributions to the school over the past two decades.
Rightly proud of the day’s events was principal Ambrose McGinnity, who has been looking forward to this day since the first seeds of the idea were planted last summer.
"The vision of the garden is realised and its impact has been wonderful on the wellbeing of so many of our pupils,” says Mr McGinnity, “Our quieter pupils have found sanctuary among its benches and for those who want some excitement the hills have become alive.
“The rainbow tunnel with its brilliantly coloured arches is filled with shouts and screams as children run through. Classes have planted vegetables in the large wooden beds and there are teams of pupils who weed the flower beds each week. "It's our garden and we'll look after it" said one 3rd class pupil and they love the responsibility”.
The launch was also filled with poignant moments to make it more memorable.
"We also have a little boy called Stefan who has come from Ukraine, and he told his story about a cat he had to leave behind, but it came back to Ireland. and it was heart breaking stuff,” adds the principal. “The local priest Fr Martin McVeigh also blessed the garden, and even though the designer Andrew Dunne couldn’t make it on the day, he was here a few weeks ago, and he sent his best.”
The garden received €5,000 from the Amazon ChangeX community fund, but most of the cost was covered by community donations and local business sponsorship.
"We have to say a huge thank you to everyone who contributed, and to the Connect Credit Union, the Dreadnots, Tullyallen Mens Shed and the Clogherhead Fishermen’s Co-op, as well as the staff and all the volunteers who helped paint and plant,” he says. “The real impact of the "Garden of Life" will be seen in the months and years to come. It will be a special place at the heart of our school”.