After educating the children of the area for over 60 years, the bell will ring out for the last time in St. Ibar's National School, Clohamon tomorrow, Wednesday, June 24.
It will be a sadly ironic sound indeed as the school, in Clohamon village off the Enniscorthy-Bunclody road, has netted no fewer than three national titles for their project work in the last two years.
Hit by falling enrolments and consequent loss of teachers in recent years, St. Ibar's is believed to be the first Catholic primary school in County Wexford to close since the 1960s.
One of three Catholic primary schools in the Parish of Kilrush, its closure comes at a time when small schools generally are concerned about raised pupil thresholds for the retention of teachers, although the government eased these somewhat recently.
Many past pupils were among the large community gathering at the school to celebrate its life and history last Thursday, June 18. The highlight was a special Mass to mark the end of the school year and to give thanks for St. Ibar's and its great service to generations of pupils since it opened in the early 1940s.
The celebrant, Very Rev. Joseph Power, Parish Priest of Kilrush, referring to the First Reading of the parable of the sower and the seed, urged the pupils to go out and sow the seeds for a better society, saying that the school had touched the lives of so many people in the parish and beyond.
A light lunch was served in a marquee and many also dined outside at tables in the glorious sunshine. A mixture of pride and sadness prevailed among parishioners as they talked about the closure of the school, but also its outstanding achievements. Many past pupils present shared happy memories of their years at the village school, which is tucked in on the eastern bank of the Slaney with the towering Mount Leinster making it an idyllic setting. The large attendance included councillors Barbara Anne Murphy and Kathleen Codd Nolan and the retired principal of St. Ibar's, Maureen Murphy.
Pupils and staff at the school leave with many happy memories also, not least that they have just retained their All-Ireland title in the Super Junior category in the ECO-UNESCO Young Environmentalist Awards programme. The competition recognises and rewards young people who raise environmental awareness and improve the environment be it in their school, community or even further afield.
This was their third year running to reach the final. Last year also, they collected another national title in the Eircom Irish internet primary schools project and early this year won an award and much praise at the primary schools science fair in the RDS, Dublin. Earlier this month, some of the pupils were on the parish team that won the Rackard League, defeating Ramsgrange in the final.
'The pupils will remember the successes and triumphs we had. They will have memories of fun and learning and achievement. You remember the big moments. They will be some of my most treasured memories of the school,' said St. Ibar's principal, Aisling Cooney Whitty. She and the other teacher at the school, Catherine Kearns O'Brien, will be taking up new appointments in September in Ballindaggin and Courtnacuddy, respectively.
Completing the current staff are Mary Tompkins, school secretary; Nuala Ryan, special needs assistant, John Grennan, caretaker and Sarah Kavanagh.
All the pupils were involved in their latest big project successes. They were: James, Patrick and Ellie Mahon, Jack Ring, Adam Hewson, Tara Clarke, Emma Murphy, Liam Murphy, Hermione Murphy, Matilda Murphy, Patrick Murphy, John Joe Murphy, Thomas Mahon, Isabel and David Whitty, Christian and Jason Hosey-Doyle.