Before 1965, the children of Murroe went to school in the old schoolhouse, which stood at the other end of the village, opposite the entrance to the present day Forest Walk. This building was enlarged and modernised by the Barrington family in 1852. It was built with red sandstone, similar to that used in Glenstal and in Abington and Murroe Churches. It was flanked on one side by the former Parish Priest’s house. On the other side stood the Teachers’ Residences, a pair of semidetached houses. The old school was sold to Limerick County Council, which later built four houses on the site.
The school was divided into a girls’ school upstairs and a boys’ school downstairs. There were separate entrances to the schools, with the boys’ entrance at the Glenstal side and the girls’ entrance at the village side.
Young boys starting school started upstairs with the girls. The boys moved downstairs after First Class, by which time they had received their First Holy Communion. Children didn’t generally start school until they had reached the age of 5 or 6, as they had to be old enough to cope with the walk to and from school. This was before the time of public school buses and private cars.
The school was a 4-teacher school until 1959, when an increase in numbers meant that a new teacher could be appointed. Miss Maureen Fitzgerald joined the staff in July 1959. The staff at that time consisted of Mr. Dennis Ryan, principal, and his wife, Bríd, who both taught the boys downstairs, and Miss Mary-Jo Ryan and Miss Pat O’Neill, who worked upstairs, with the girls and the younger boys.
There were two separate entrances to the school, one for the boys and another with a stairs leading to the upstairs for the girls’ section. On the yard, (a sandy area, very mucky in bad weather) there was also segregation of boys and girls, although there was no wall or line to mark the boundary between the areas. It led to some difficulties when footballs were kicked wide and strayed into the wrong area!
In the classrooms, there were sometimes as many as 4 classes together. Seating consisted of tiered galleries against the wall on one side. A class of children might have to sit and wait while another class was brought to the front for a reading lesson. The big treat for the Infants at the time was to have the chance to play with plasticine (marla) or chalk and small blackboards (cláiríní).
The modern comforts that we take for granted were not present in the old school. There was no running water – water had to be fetched from the pump in the main street. There were outside toilets. There was no central heating, so pupils would bring turf or sticks with them to school for the fire. The fire had hobs at each side. Pupils brought glass bottles of milk to drink. The bottles were placed beside the fire to allow the milk to warm up for lunch. However the bottles had to be rotated, or they would burst. It often happened that the lesson just before lunchtime proved too interesting and absorbing with the result that the odd bottle did burst! There were no radiators, or drying facilities, so at home time on rainy days, the children would pull on their still wet coats and face the walk home.
At the end of the school day, the teachers sprinkled tealeaves on the dusty floorboards and swept the floors – there was no cleaner employed to clean the school.
The present school was built in 1964. It opened in February 1965 and the staff and pupils moved into their new premises. There was great delight at the comforts offered in the new school – including a piped water supply, indoor flushing toilets and central heating. Canon Kennedy was the parish priest at the time and was involved in the process of obtaining the new school for the parish.
Boys and girls were still segregated in the new school – to this day, the original plaques remain on the walls outside both front entrances, one saying “Cailíní” and the other “Buachaillí”. The cailíní had the use of three classrooms and the buachaillí had two classrooms. There was a door in the middle of the corridor separating the girls from the boys. In 1970, the classes were amalgamated as part of a general trend nationwide. Now the doorway remains in the corridor, between the fourth and fifth classrooms, but the door has long since been taken down.
The present school, when first built, consisted of 5 classrooms, 2 blocks of indoor toilets, two pupils’ cloakrooms and two teachers’ cloakrooms with toilets. In the 1970’s, the number of pupils enrolled in the school increased with the opening of Ferenka, among other factors. Numbers increased again in the early 1980’s, with the development of both Gilmartin Park and Cois Na Coille in the village. In 1980-81, Miss Fitzgerald and her class moved to a small room in the Muintir na Tíre hall in the village, as there was not enough space in the school. The move was originally supposed to be for a period of 6 months – it lasted for 8 years! In 1985, when Miss O’Connor joined the staff, her classroom was the present staffroom. It was here that Junior Infants were taught until 1988, when pre-fabs were obtained.
The process of applying for an extension had been put in place long before this. It finally came to fruition in 1992, when the extension, consisting of a General Purpose room, and 2 classrooms with entrance hall, was built. The extension was opened in March 1993. Canon O’Meara was the parish priest in the parish at this time and worked with the Board of Management to procure the extension.