02 – Scoil Bhailenora, the school

Next door to the church is the school, built and opened in 1962. It is presently being extended to cope with the increasing numbers – over 300 pupils and 16 teachers. It is a state of the art building, with all the modern conveniences. The current principal’s name is MICHEAL O DRAIGHNEAIN, a man with team spirit and huge commitment along with his staff, to educate and develop the skills of all the pupils under their care.

But the school prior to that was built beside it in 1848, famine times to put it mildly. The facilities were primitive, even when I attended between 1951 and 1958, but with the arrival of the 1960s and more government expenditure conditions improved dramatically. We played hurling out on the road, that had no tarmacadam. Imagine the stones and dust rising, because the hurleys we had were weapons of mass destruction compared to the refined camans of today. It was a two story building and you were upstairs until you got your first Holy Communion, then you went down stairs with the big boys and girls until you got your Confirmation and did the primary school Certificate. There was a big open fire downstairs, often used to dry the coats in winter time. That was our central heating system. Big long desks about two feet apart filled the floors upstairs and downstairs. Each desk had inkwells, and we had pens with nibs at the top to dip into the inkwell, so that we could learn to write, and it worked. Donal O Scannail who was principal during my time, gave us a love of hurling and a love for our native language IRISH. He was President of the most famous organisation in the parish, Ballinora GAA, from 1950 until he died in August 1987. The school is the cradle for our National Games, and has been since away back in 1848. The very anthem of Ballinora GAA – “The Boys of Ballinora” – was composed by a previous principal, Jimmy Long, another principal that I knew was Vincent Cronin, who was equally steeped in Gaelic games, and he had played in Croke Park as a minor, no need to say anymore. Vincent was present for the celebrations associated with the new school coming of age in May 1984.

On a final comment, the old school which had been opened in 1848 had a robbery in 1849. Patrick Cushion and Michael Doody stole seventy books out of Ballinora National School. They were sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment and hard labour. The heading in the Cork Examiner on 26 September 1849 relating to the incident appeared as “SACRILEDGE “. Interviews for vacancies the school were held at the Mechanics Library, Cook Street, Cork back then, and on 2 December 1874 the Very Rev. Cannon Maguire returns his very sincere thanks in the local press to John Dunlea esq. of Carrigrohane Mills for his Annual generous present of 5 tons of Coal for the Ballincollig and Ballinora National Schools.