End of an era at St. Brigid’s

By Dermot Carmody

NewsFour attended the closing ceremony for Saint Brigid’s Primary School and launch of a commemorative book, Memories of Saint Brigid’s Primary School Haddington Road 1902-2019, which took place in St Mary’s Church in Haddington Road on Wednesday June 26th.

A large number of pupils and staff, past and present, and their families had come to celebrate over a hundred years of St Brigid’s and look forward to the future when the school merges with St. Mary’s BNS in September in the newly-built St Christopher’s Primary School.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin presided along with Fr Fachtna McCarthy and Fr Patrick Claffey from St Mary’s Parish. St Brigid’s Principal, Annemarie Hogan, who has also been appointed principal of the new St Christopher’s, welcomed all those attending, and in particular former teachers. Pupils from the current fifth and sixth class choir sang beautifully throughout.

The school was celebrated by a procession of symbols borne by current pupils. Among these were the school crest, representing the school’s connection to its founders the Holy Faith Sisters, a school register representing pupils throughout the school’s history and a collection of books representing teaching and learning at the school throughout its 117 years of existence. A globe was chosen to represent the modern diversity of the school community.

There was a sense of history throughout the evening, as when Archbishop Martin alluded in his address to a number of significant historical facts related to the year of the school’s foundation, and to the very different Dublin of the time.

The Archbishop went on to say that the future is secured in the fertile ground of our efforts in the present, as with the creation by the Holy Faith Sisters of an educational opportunity for girls in the community that had not previously existed at the beginning of the last century. Remarking on the very different cultural and social context of present day Dublin, he stressed the importance of permanent positive values as embodied by St Brigid’s.

Gerardene Harty, who is retiring after thirty eight years teaching at St Brigid’s, also spoke. She was instrumental in instigating the project to publish the book being launched at the event, Memories of Saint Brigid’s Primary School.

She described the long process of bringing the book into being from an idea over a cup of coffee some years ago to publication. She thanked the many past pupils and staff who made contributions to the book and the many more whose contributions couldn’t be included.

A trip down memory lane for former pupils and teachers alike

The book itself is very attractively laid out with numerous photographs of the school and its pupils from throughout its history, as well as artwork from current pupils. There are fascinating articles on the history of the school and its connection with significant events such as the 1916 Rising and the Influenza pandemic of 1918, the effects of which can be seen in the number of children withdrawn from the school register through illness around the time.

It is the memories of former pupils that take pride of place in the book, providing a window through which bygone eras are viewed. Anna Hulgraine, who was a pupil in the 1940s, remembers the pleasure of trekking to Ringsend Technical College with ingredients for cookery class wrapped in a white cloth and of bringing the resulting dishes home to an appreciative family.

She also recalls with less happiness the use of cane and strap which could be terrifying to the children at times. Maureen Stafford remembers further back to the 1930s, recalling how the nuns would walk to school from Clyde Road every morning (or take a taxi if the weather was bad) before they moved to the convent on St Mary’s Road.

Patricia Duirnin, who was a pupil from 1945-1954 remembers the weekly drill exercises, with activities including “figure marching, skipping, swinging clubs and using coloured scarves to make designs.” Parents would attend a drill display at the end of the year. 

Elsewhere, there are articles about the vital role of fund raising sales of work in the 80s and 90s. Esther Butler, whose children attended the school, recounts how a delegation was formed and met with Garret Fitzgerald to plead the case for extra staff at St Brigid’s in the face of severe cutbacks in education at the time. Ashling Lanigann, a pupil in the 90s, recalls the excitement of being among those from the school chosen to sing with Michael Jackson in his concert at Lansdowne Road.

The book concludes with a snapshot of life in present-day St Brigid’s and looks forward finally to the beginning of a new chapter in September with the move to St Christopher’s Primary School.

Overall, Memories of Saint Brigid’s Primary School is a treasure trove of memories for those connected with the school and a fascinating insight into a unique institution for any reader.

St Brigid’s informed NewsFour that a number of copies of the book were still available to purchase.  Anyone wishing to do so should contact the school directly at stbrigidsprimary@gmail.com