The Kilcormac secondary school Coláiste Naomh Cormac celebrated fifty years in existence at a strongly attended event in the school on Friday evening.
Unfortunately the heavens opened and it rained torrentially which meant the tree planting had to be canceled. Everyone immediately headed indoors, into the main hall.
The MC Damien White joked that it looked like we were getting the tail-end of the Florida hurricane. He pointed to the seanfhocal above him on the wall, Mol an óige agus tiocfaidh sí, (Praise the young and they will flourish), and said it’s a very apt seanfhocal for CNC.
This evening, he said, the school was celebrating caoga bliain ag fás, and le cúnamh Dé will enjoy another fifty years.
He welcomed Frs Michael Walsh (former PP of Kilcormac / Killoughey) and Michael Meade (present PP of the parish) and thanked them for a lovely mass earlier in the evening in the local church, the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
He joked that “people my age remember fondly Live Aid. With Live Aid each act had 15 minutes. The speakers this evening are given five!”
Linda Tynan, Director of Schools, LOETB, said it already seems a lifetime since the Covid restrictions came to an end “and we weren’t able to enjoy wonderful events like this celebration. It is great to be here. I was in school earlier on today and I walked through the rooms with their excellent exhibitions showing pictures and happenings in the school from the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s. I thought that some things have obviously changed in the school since the ’70s but some things have remained the same. The most important things have remained the same, such as care, respect and dictation to community, a strong sense of community. For a very long time CNC has been living out those core values.” She thanked all who make it such a great community, the pupils, teachers, parents, SNAs, secretaries, cleaners.
“Parents are looking for an environment in which their children will be challenged to do the best they can, an environment in which they will be cared for and in which they will be happy. They find those things here.
“Coláiste Naomh Cormac is similar to the town of Kilcormac in that in both places there’s a very strong sense of community. There’s a strong connection between the two. It’s quite exceptional the way the town supports the school.
“It’s a school which is growing. There are more developments. There are more teachers. There has been investment recently, including investment in the car park. More investment will be coming in 2023.”
Addressing the students she said, “We know how difficult the pandemic has been for many of you.”
Addressing retiring secretary Noleen Kelly she said her retirement is “the end of an era.” Noleen was a secretary in the school for 43 years.
The MC pointed out that the school has put a strong emphasis on sport over the years, especially hurling and football.
Chairman of the school’s Board of Management, Cllr Neil Feighery, told the gathering that he’s a past pupil of CNC. “This is a great school,” he said, “which has made a big contribution to education in Offaly. I want to thank the Board members, the teachers, the parents for their positive impact over the last 50 years.
“The pupils of CNC have followed a huge variety of career paths after leaving the school. The school started as a Vocational School in September 1971, run by the Sisters of Mercy and Offaly VEC. It consisted of eight prefabricated classrooms back then. The nuns were very positive influences in our lives, people such as Sister Virgilius, who was a mentor to many of us. Another mentor to many of us was the legendary John Keane, the first principal of the school who was principal for many years.” At this point there was a round of applause. “John was a massive influence for the good who did his best to make the school as holistic as possible, incorporating the academic, the cultural, the spiritual and sport.” John retired in 2003. The school changed its name from Kilcormac Vocational School to Coláiste Naomh Cormac in 2007.
Cllr Feighery praised other members of the teaching staff, including Vicky Guinan “who I am delighted to see continues to fly the flag here.
“I have no doubt that the school will continue to be a massively positive place, under the guidance of the current principal Kenneth Crann.”
He wished all the former pupils “a very enjoyable evening catching up with all your old friends.”
Kenneth Crann, principal, said the huge turnout for the evening spoke volumes about how much the school meant to many former pupils, parents and teachers.
“The community and sense of support here is very strong and very important,” he commented. “I felt its benefit after my own recent loss. This togetherness and support epitomises what CNC is all about.
“We would not be here this evening if it wasn’t for the Sisters of Mercy whose devotion to education was immense. I want to also acknowledge the fantastic work of John Keane over many years. This evening is not just about the past but about the future as well. We want to keep growing, keep improving, while maintaining our core values all the time.
“One of the most important things when you are a pupil in a school is your sense of happiness. Yes, exams and points are important but it’s crucially important that pupils are treated in such a way that they feel a sense of happiness every morning they walk into school. I myself am very happy working here. This is partly due to the fact that I am surrounded by a great team of teachers.”
He mentioned what a lovely mass it was earlier, and he praised the excellent music making overseen by Ms Browne, Ms Hennessy and Ms Luttrell.
John Keane said he had loved the evening’s mass. “It was wonderful,” he remarked. “The preparation and effort was fabulous. I thought the choir was stunning. These things don’t happen by accident. They happen because people get on their feet and get to work.
“I was thinking this evening about the musician from Ballyboy John Brady. The people of the Ballyboy area were always very musical and they said to me many years ago when I was principal that the school should hold music lessons in the evening. They introduced me to John Brady and for a long time John held music lessons in the school. He was a great teacher. When I went into his classes there might be pupils of only five or six years of age there, and John would say, ‘Play what you have learned for Mr Keane’. And they would play. And I would praise them, and they would be proud as punch.
“We should all be proud of Ballyboy Comhaltas. It has a fantastic reputation nationwide.
“I am delighted to see the school doing so well. It is obviously thriving, which makes me very happy. It has come a very long way from the early days of the prefabricated classrooms. It’s a beautiful building now.
“Hopefully,” he joked, “we will all be here in another 50 years to celebrate its 100th!”
He pointed out that the pupils are the most important facet of the school.
Former pupil and talented GAA player Pat Coyne also said a few words. Pat said he entered the school in 1972. “The school had a big, positive impact on me,” he commented, “and set me on a path that I don’t regret. Sport has been a massive part of my life and it all started here in CNC.” Pat recollected with great clarity a number of big sporting matches he took part in during his schooldays.
A former pupil Sarah Meacle, who sat her Leaving Cert last June, recalled with fondness some memories of her six years in the school. She said Covid was hard but they got through. She said her classmates have now spread out all over Ireland, and abroad, pursuing the next stage of their lives. “But no matter what direction we take we will always belong to this school community.”
Chairman of the Parents Association Thomas Moylan made a presentation to Noleen Kelly.
The MC said another former principal of the school was present, Brian Kehoe, who is now principal in Edenderry. A presentation was made from the Parents Association to Mr Kehoe. Brian Kehoe recalled “Jack Spain and Jack McCann and Bridie Kinsella, who fought a very serious battle to get the school here. These were people who you didn’t say no to.” He remembered Paul Curry and Pat Fox, “great teachers who, sadly, are no longer with us.”
Presentations were then made to the graduation classes of 2020 and 2021.
Vicky Guinan, Vice Principal cut the celebratory cake assisted by pupil Aaron Dooley.