Monday 25 March 2019

New calendar captures history of Adamstown NS

Man who built school recalls its construction

Adamstown NS as it looks today
Adamstown NS as it looks today

David Looby

A calendar celebrating the history of Adamstown NS has been compiled by the school.

The calendar includes a short history of how the school was built in late 1948, opening to children in the area in 1949.

Former Adamstown NS principal Nicholas Flynn and the man charged with building the school, James Stenson, both hailed from County Leitrim. The two men met around a decade ago when Mr Stenson was in his late eighties and Mr Flynn was amazed at his remarkable memories from that time.

He told Mr Flynn he would put his memories on paper and the following is his story in his own words.

'On July 21, 1948, we travelled from County Leitrim to build a school in County Wexford on the day of the annual agricultural show. We were surprised to see such a large crowd in the village until we were told that the annual show was a very important day for local people. When I say we, I mean the following: Daniel McLoughlin Snr in whose name the contract was awarded and signed, his three sons who were serving their apprenticeships, Daniel (Jnr), Thomas and Terry and a friend of my own: Pee McLoughlin, who worked alongside me. Daniel Snr and Daniel Jnr secured lodgings at Mrs Bradley's. Tommy and Terry got accommodation across the road. The building was surprised by the OPW in Arklow. The architects were Parnell Martin and Mr Higginbottom and the clerk of works was Sammon. The first materials on the site was a of 15 tonne of lime organised through Carlow Sugar Company.'

Mr Stenson recalled how all building materials came from Wexford Timber Co., while the sand and gravel was all bought and delivered by Phil Wilson from Killurin.

All of the concrete blocks were made on site which took five weeks to complete.

'We found the locals very helpful and friendly, especially Ms Jourdans, who lived across the road in what was the teacher's residence. Their names were Katey and Winney and they had a niece, Louise Hughes, also a teacher. Garda Frank Dowd was a big help to the men. When we had the building of all the school walls completed we started on the roof. The classroom roofs were slated and we were compelled to use quarry slates from Cork. Jim Daly, who was a driver for Phil Wilson, and myself travelled there on November 1, 1948, and brought a full load of slates, about 15 tonnes, but when we came back to the bridge at Youghal there was a council order that no load over five tonnes was to cross the bridge. Daly said: "No way are we going to make three loads out of this, we'll be here until morning". He did not give me time to leave the lorry and walk across so it was the greatest fright of my life to feel the bridge shaking as we crossed with the heavy load.'

Working in short days as there was no electricity in rural Ireland at the time, the men worked in the dark from 4.30 p.m. each day that winter. An English army dynamo was fitted to the concrete mixer and it gave the workers 20-12 volt lights enabling them to work on until 10 p.m.

'The windows were sourced from Moyville, Donegal. When we got the windows fitted and glazed, we did work with the help of our new light to make and fit presses, blackboards and boarded floors, with the result that we got finished and moved on to work on the school in Caroreigh. At the time the workers social life revolved around the GAA. Terry McLoughlin played football with Camross who win a County Championship in 1949. They attended dances in Taghmon, Camross, Old Ross and Clonroche.'

Mr Stenson recalled how wages for construction workers were 1/6 per hour. Sand cost £3 and gravel £2-10 per ton. Cement cost £5 per ton.

The school opened its doors in April 1949. The calendar was produced by the parents association and has been selling fast at the school over the Christmas and New Year period.

New Ross Standard