This week our youngest attended her last day and last Mass in Scoil na Fuiseoige. It was an end of an illustrious academic career in the scoil, where she made lovely friends, became a beautiful choir singer, excelled in acting and honed her artistic skills from big red round things to nicer big red round things.
Sitting in the Mass on Monday were her parents and her big sister and brother, and a very close friend. But we were all there because this was the end of our Scoil na Fuiseoige era, which began 15 years ago and saw four of my children through wonderful days.
Not that it was always easy. This school, sitting in Twinbrook, built brick by brick by the local Irish language community and named after Bobby Sands’ iconic poetry, has experienced a long journey of discrimination and hardship.
Our own journey though took us from the tiny naíscoil into mobile huts which were less than beautiful to the eye, or the nose, and yes let the rain in from the roof, the sides and the floor. But those prefabricated walls witnessed the most cherished of days of Dráma na Nollaig, services of light, proud parents teacher meetings, hurling and football achievements. Some parents were worried about taking a chance and sending their children to such dilapidated physical infrastructure. I will be honest and say overall we didn’t notice as our children all received love, care, nurture and the best primary education in the country. Hearing them use their native tongue with ease and confidence in all matters made me jealous of them. There is no big politics in that. It is connection and growth and our children flourished.
This week was the end of an era for Scoil na Fuiseoige too. Eilís Uí Néill, the school’s principle for its entire journey, retired on the same day our daughter left. As tempting as it might be to think she couldn’t face another day without our clann in the school, the unlikely truth is she has reached retirement age.
Eilís has seen the growth of the school from a classroom over the Naíscoil 20 years ago to the new building replete with purpose built kitchens, fully functioning toilets and a hall for the joy, music, and celebrating that will see the next 20 years of Scoil na Fuiseoige’s journey. Eilís’ legacy means while she will be missed her foundations are strong enough for everyone to have confidence in the school’s future. I am so jealous of the new parents who will be a part of that.
Also at the Mass was Athair Darach Mac Giolla Catháin. Father Darach has been significant in our family’s journey too. A fierce defender of the young people, their families and the school, in the days when a new build was not certain and the viability of the aging mobile homes was zero he, with the parents, led from the front to secure the dignity and future of Scoil na Fuiseoige.
He told the leaving children to always bear in mind in their future careers the following: their friends, their family, their culture and their language. All will stand to them. I emotionally wish Scoil na Fuiseoige my heartfelt thanks, these were indeed some of the best days of my clann’s lives.