herald

Wednesday 13 December 2017

President steps back in time to celebrate school's 150th birthday

President, Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina speak to 5th class students from St Brigids National School in Castleknock as they recreate a classroom from 1865 on the occasion of their 150th anniversary celebrations. Picture credit; Damien Eagers 10/2/2015
President, Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina speak to 5th class students from St Brigids National School in Castleknock as they recreate a classroom from 1865 on the occasion of their 150th anniversary celebrations. Picture credit; Damien Eagers 10/2/2015
5th class students from St Brigids National School in Castleknock recreate a classroom from 1865 on the occasion of the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins visiting the school on their 150th anniversary celebrations. Picture credit; Damien Eagers 10/2/2015

Schoolchildren reciting poetry, stories and songs won the heart of President Michael D Higgins at a Dublin school celebrating 150 years in existence.

"This is one of the most wonderful visits I've made since becoming President," he said as he attended the 150th anniversary celebrations of Saint Brigid's National School in Castleknock.

"This is just a great school," he said as he praised teachers for "releasing the creativity" of the pupils.

The President was greeted with verses of WB Yeats, who was born in the same year that the school opened in 1865.

DELIGHTED

Principal Denis Courtney was delighted at the astonishment of the President when he inspected a montage of drawings by pupils of their dreams.

The drawings were exhibited on a cloth tapestry headlined 'Tread softly because you tread on my dreams' from Yeats's poem He Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven. Mr Higgins also admired poems written by the children.

Fourth class children, dressed in 1860s-style clothing, gave the President and his wife Sabina a tour of a replica 1865 classroom.

The pupils confidently spoke about school life in that distant era of turf fires, inked nibs and chalk boards when children had to contend with corporal punishment and the occasional scavenging rat.

Among the past pupils to greet the President were local woman Kitty Smith (94) and her life-long neighbour Peter Reynolds (91).

Ex-pupil Noel Spain (81) loved doing maths in the 1930s and he still does the book-keeping for his own heating and plumbing business.

Framed photographs of former pupils included actor Colin Farrell.

Former principal David Nolan (73) expressed his delight at the enduringly strong school spirit.

A pupil addressing the large gathering in the assembly hall declared that Principal Courtney "is awesome because he is kind".

President Higgins set aside his scripted speech to remark on how the pupils were happy and secure.

"Children will remember forever a teacher who takes an interest in them," he said.

The school's Feis Ceoil-winning choir sang a song of farewell.

aokeeffe@herald.ie

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