Saturday, February 06, 2016

Generosity of nuns recalled at Scoil Bhride opening

The 'exceptional and far-sighted generosity' of the Cross & Passion sisters in donating some of their lands for Scoil Bhride was acknowledged last night at the official opening of the new school buildings, writes Brian Byrne.

Principal Ann Flanagan said that the amount of land donated for the original building in 1980 ensured that there was not just space for today's massive extension, but there was still a lovely green field for sports and other activities.

"We are in fact envied by many other schools, for the space and also for the many facilities on our doorstep," she said. "Although they no longer live in the community, the legacy of the Cross & Passion sisters will forever be remembered and treasured."

The official opening was a very well-attended event, held in the fine new Assembly Hall which can be used for many purposes, and divided into two spaces where necessary.

Proceedings were put in train by Siobhan Tutty Bardon, Chair of the Board of Management, who looked back over the history of education in Kilcullen. She said that in her research for this, she used the 'Thirty Years of The Bridge' book, in which the original Principal of the school, Brian Keyes had written many articles on the subject.

"He is here with us tonight, and he did all the ground work for me," she said. In relation to the arrival of the first schools, Kilcullen had been 'a slow starter', she noted, but once the process had begun, it wasn't long before there were a recorded ten schools in the area.

"Today, it was also a slow process to put together the proposal, the design and planning, for the new buildings and the refurbishment of the original Scoil Bhride. But just look at what a fine school we have now, as a result of all that hard work."

Expressing the truism that 'it takes more than buildings to make a school', Siobhan went on to detail the calibre of the staff, the chaplains, the parents, and the 'great bunch of pupils' with which Scoil Bhride has been 'blessed' down through the years.

The unveiling of a plaque and the blessing of the new building was carried out by Bishop Eamonn Walsh, who spoke of schools as being places not just to teach, but to find out pupils' individual skills and nurture them.

"Life is often like a treasure hunt in schools, where we are asked to find out the 'giftedness' in each pupil, and never lose sight of the fact that one is no better than another," he said. "All of us have been dealt different hands in life, some of them good hands, others not so good. A school is a home away from home, and it is where we must try to make all those hands good."

Noting that a school must always be encouraging, he said it was wonderful to see that the new buildings included a 'special outreach' to pupils with special needs. "When I was at school, classes were just too big, and there was no question of managing special needs, and you were just left further and further behind."

Music was provided and prayers were offered by members of the school staff and parents of pupils throughout the event.

In her address, Ann Flanagan paid tribute to her predecessors for their dedicated service to Scoil Bhride, and to the more recent work of all those involved with the development of the new facilities. She expressed special thanks to the representatives of the builders, Tracey Brothers Construction, and to the people in Kildare County Council and the Department of Education for their cooperation and support throughout the process.

"And to Howard Berney, Siobhan Tutty Bardon, Ger Breen, Tanya Flanagan, Brenda Domican, Siobhan Murphy, Fr Martin Harte and Martin Murphy, thank you all for sharing your talents and expertise," she said. "Thank you for all the collaboration, support and advice, and for steering the whole process from beginning to end so competently."

She concluded by thanking her own staff, the 641 pupils, and the general community of Kilcullen, for 'wonderful support'.

Representing the Parents Association, Sinéad Forde said she was proud to be there not just on behalf of the current group, but all previous Parents Associations at Scoil Bhride, whose work and contributions should not go without mention on this night. She outlined the work of the PAs in helping with school policy, and curriculum development, and with fundraising to help enhance the facilities at the school.

"On that point, I would like to express our thanks to the parents and the community of Kilcullen for their ongoing support for all our fundraising events," she said. "And, of course, to the businesses of the town for their sponsorship, especially the Christmas Fair. Without all this support, we would not be in a position to raise these funds, which are used by the school for the benefit of our children."

On behalf of the Parents Association, she presented Ann Flanagan with a cheque for the school in the amount of €12,000, the proceeds of all the fundraising since September.

In her concluding remarks, Siobhan Tutty Bardon expressed the school's appreciation of the work of Ann Flanagan herself. "We owe a huge debt of gratitude to her. She has been the driving force, the power house, the linchpin and much more besides. All this was on top of her normal working day, tough enough with almost 700 pupils. The project is itself a testament to her negotiating skills as much as anything else."

Presentations were made to Bishop Eamonn, Ann Flanagan, and Siobhan Murphy. A reception continued with light refreshments provided by the Ivy Catering School from Rathangan.

NOTE: All the pictures from the evening are here. An audio recording of the proceedings can be downloaded here (because of its size, it needs to be downloaded to play).