Scoil Chuimsitheach Chiaráin Caoga Bliain ag Fás
Scoil Chuimsitheach Chiaráin was established in 1966 in An Cheathrú Rua, Co. Galway in the heart of Connemara. In the years since, thousands of students have passed through its doors and hundreds of staff members have walked its halls. Friendships were forged, challenges were faced, there was laughter and there were tears - and there were great achievements. This book is a celebration of the schooldays and the school's work for the past fifty years.
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Alt i The Connacht Tribune, Nollaig 2016 www.connachttribune.ie
It was a night of celebration in An Cheathrú Rua last weekend as students and teachers, past and present, of Scoil Chuimsitheach Chiaráin gathered to celebrate the launch of a new book marking the school's fiftieth anniversary. Scoil Chuimsitheach Chiaráin: Caoga Bliain ag Fás tells the story of one of Ireland's first comprehensive colleges through the words and photographs of the students and teachers who have passed through its doors over the last half-century.
Established in 1966 Scoil Chuimsitheach Chiaráin was one of just three comprehensive colleges in the country at the time. The new schools were part of a national effort to attract foreign investment in employment by ensuring that companies would find a highly educated workforce in Ireland. Paddy Hillery, who was the Minister for Education at the time, started the national plan for the comprehensive colleges and their aim was to provide academic and practical education for boys and girls under one roof.
Speaking at the launch former Director of RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta Tomás Mac Con Iomaire said that the education provided by Scoil Chuimsitheach Chiaráin over the past fifty years ensured that the local community could find and create employment in the local area and take leadership in the future of their own communities.
"The fate for most of the young people in the area fifty years ago was to take the boat to England. Today this community can steer its own destiny and you can see the difference fifty years has made in the wide range of posts held by past-pupils both locally, at a national level and around the world." said Mac Con Iomaire, who is also a past-pupil of Scoil Chuimsitheach Chiaráin.
It wasn't always smooth sailing. People were concerned about the new comprehensive colleges when they were being established, however, with the passing years the school proved itself to be a valuable resource for the local community and a place where friendships were forged, challenges were faced and great achievements were made.
An Cheathrú Rua was selected as the location for the new comprehensive college due to the population in the area and in the surrounding parishes within a ten-mile radius of the school. There were 300 students in the school when it first opened its doors, many of whom congregated in the school hall again last Friday for the first time in many years.
The new book is full of photographs taken over the years and gathered together by the historian and author Cormac Ó Comhraí, who has been teaching history in Scoil Chuimsitheach Chiaráin since 2007. "I hope that this book brings the community on a trip down memory lane. There are stories about days gone by, the work that was done by the community, the students and the staff to promote education in the area," says Ó Comhraí.
It wasn't all hard work, however, and the book contains great stories and funny anecdotes which Ó Comhraí gathered from students and teachers past and present. "We see, in the people's own words that while times change, one thing that never changes is human nature. You often hear the schooldays are the best days of your life and I think that when people read this book they'll agree."
Looking forward to the next fifty years, current school principal Seán Mac Donncha said that this book is a fitting commemoration of the happy memories that people have of their time in Scoil Chuimsitheach Chiaráin. "This school has been a place of great opportunity for the local people, myself included, for the past fifty years. May it live to be a hundred."
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Bhí an-oíche ar an gCeathrú Rua ar an Aoine an 2 Nollaig nuair a chruinnigh iarscoláirí agus iarmhúinteoirí i halla Scoil Chuimsitheach Chiaráin áit ar sheol iarcheannaire RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta, Tomás Mac Con Iomaire Scoil Chuimsitheach Chiaráin: Caoga Bliain ag Fás in eagar ag Cormac Ó Comhraí, leabhar nua ag comóradh caoga bliain ó bunaíodh an scoil i 1966. Insítear scéal na scoile sa leabhar nua trí phictiúirí agus trí chuimhní cinn na n-iarscoláirí agus na n-iarmhúinteoirí.
Is sa mbliain 1966 a d’oscail Scoil Chuimsitheach Chiaráin a doirse den chéad uair. Os cionn 300 scoláire a bhí ann ón tús. Chosain an scoil nua £200,000, suim ollmhór ag an am. Bhí an scoil chuimsitheach seo ar cheann de na chéad trí scoil chuimsitheacha sa tír. I mbaile Shionainne i gContae an Chláir agus i Muinchille i gContae an Chabháin a bhí dá cheann eile. Ba í scoil Shionainne ba thúisce a d’oscail na doirse, achar gearr roimh an dá scoil eile.
Ag labhairt dhó ag an seoladh dúirt Tomás Mac Con Iomaire gur chinntigh an t-oideachas a cuireadh ar fáil i Scoil Chuimsitheach Chiaráin le leathchéad bliain anuas go bhfuil pobal áitiúil sa gceantar a bhfuil oideachas den scoth orthu agus daoine ar féidir leo fostaíocht a bhaint amach agus a chruthú ina gceantar féin agus ceannasaíocht a thabhairt ina bpobal féin.
“B’í an chinniúint a bhí i ndán do phobal na háite caoga bliain ó shoin ná an bád bán a thógáil go Sasana. Anois tá smacht ag an bpobal seo ar a gcinniúint féin agus tá sin le n-aithneachtáil san réimse leathan postanna atá ag iarscoláirí na scoile go háitiúil, ar fud na tíre agus ar fud an domhain,” a dúirt Mac Con Iomaire, ar iarscoláire de chuid Scoil Chuimsitheach Chiaráin é freisin.
Roghnaíodh An Cheathrú Rua mar ionad don scoil nua mar gheall ar an daonra ard san áit agus an daonra ard a bhí i bhfoisceacht deich míle den áit. Chaith na mílte scoláirí agus na céadta ball foirne seal ann in imeacht leathchéad bliain ó osclaíodh na doirse den chéad uair.
Tá an leabhar nua lomlán le grianghrafanna a tógadh ag imeachtaí éagsúla ag an scoil i gcaitheamh na mblianta agus grianghrafanna a chuir iarscoláirí agus iarmhúinteoirí ar fáil don eagarthóir Cormac Ó Comhraí atá ina mhúinteoir le stair sa scoil ón mbliain 2007.
Dúirt Ó Comhraí go bhfuil súil aige go dtabharfaidh an leabhar seo muintir an cheantair siar ar bhóithrín na smaointe. “Tá cur síos ann ar laethanta atá imithe, ar an obair a rinne an pobal, na scoláirí agus foireann na scoile ar son an oideachais sa gceantar. Tá cur síos ann freisin ar an spraoi agus an spórt, ar éachtaí agus ar chairdeas. Feiceann muid, i bhfocail na ndaoine féin, go dtagann athrú ar chúrsaí an tsaoil ach nach dtagann ar an nádúr daonna. Is minic ráite gur aoibhinn beatha an scoláire, féadfaidh daoine a dtuairim a thabhairt tar éis an leabhair seo a léamh.”
Ba mhór an tionchar a bhí ag Scoil Chuimsitheach Chiaráin ar an gceantar le caoga bliain a dúirt Príomhoide na scoile, Seán Mac Donncha. “Chuir foilsiú an leabhair seo pobal na scoile agus an cheantair ar fad ag cuimhniú ar scéalta, ar eachtraí agus ar chairdeas agus is comóradh cuí é an leabhar breá seo ar na cuimhní sin. Is iontach na deiseanna a thug an scoil do mhuintir an cheantair, mé féin san áireamh, le leathchéad bliain. Go maire muid an céad.”