Berrings National School

In the year 1826 the English government published its Commission on Education Report showing the state of primary education. On this report the government decided to set up national schools in Ireland as a pilot scheme. They would replace the hedge schools that had served the people for over 100 years.

In 1826 there were 5 hedge schools in the vicinity of Berrings, the furthest having been in Parkgarriffe roughly a mile from Berrings Cross, where the replacement national school was built in 1846/47.
The landlord of most of Berrings at the time was John Cramer Roberts and the site of the school was taken out of a 102 acre farm tenanted by a Michael Cunningham. Its extent was 32 perches and the building was completed in 1847 when it was officially opened and blessed by the Parish Priest of Inniscarra, Rev John Cahill. The curate of Berrings at the time was Rev William McCarthy.

Apart from the documentary evidence, which gives the date of opening, the builders inscribed the date on a square block of timber built into the upper reaches of the wall adjoining the roof. This was discovered by the contractor, Michael O’Mahony, a past pupil of the school, during the recent conversion of the building into a supermarket. Also inscribed on the block was “May God have mercy on the donor”.

The workmanship of the old school was a tribute to the skills of the craftsmen of the famine period. The flooring boards were laid on foot high stone-built cross supports thus ensuring excellent ventilation. The stone walls are still commendably dry after 133 years of wind and weather and not a single nail was used on the timber-work of the pine roof. The excellent state of preservation of the building was uncovered when the contractor stripped down the walls for plastering and other renovations.

Perhaps a belated word of credit is due to the Commission of Education which specified a high standard of construction for the national schools of Ireland. Admittedly labour was plentiful, wages low and hours of employment were twelve each day. However the standard of workmanship seen here almost 150 years later is viewed as a product of dedicated skills and pride in workmanship.
-As reported by Tim Sheehan in the Corkman in 1980.

Con O’Herlihy was born in Slieveragh, Ballyvourney, in 1844. In 1863, at the age of nineteen, he was appointed assistant teacher in Carriganima NS. He taught there until 1866 when his salary was withdrawn, because numbers attending the school did not satisfy the board and he left on the 4th of December, 1866. Later he became principal of Berrings NS, which at that time was divided into a boys’ and a girls’ school. His wife, Hannah (nee Murphy), became principal of the girls’ school and he was principal of the boys’ school. He died in 1894, at the early age of fifty leaving a large family which included Joseph O’Herlihy, father of Fr Con, Michael, Tim, Fr Pat and Angela O’Herlihy, of Berrings.

THE OLD SCHOOL 1904 – 1971

In 1904 there were 2 rooms and schools in the old school in Berrings. In one room there was the Boys’ School and in the other the Girls’ School. Each school had a principal and an assistant teacher. The principal of the Boys’ School at the time was Mr Daniel Daly and his assistant was Mr John J Horgan. Both began teaching at the Boys’ School in Berrings in July 1904.

In 1908, Miss Margaret O’Sullivan was principal of the Girls’ School in Berrings.

On the 9th of May 1910, John J Horgan left the school and Mr Daniel O’Driscoll was appointed the new assistant teacher in July of that year.

In 1911, Margaret O’Sullivan left and Miss Mary Downing became principal of the Girls’ School. She, Mary Downing, later married Dan O’Driscoll. The assistant teacher in the Girls’ School was a Mrs O’Herlihy.

On the 1st of February 1914 Daniel Daly left Berrings Boys’ School and Daniel O’Driscoll was appointed principal and Mr John P O’Mahony was appointed assistant teacher in his place. Mrs O’Herlihy left and Miss Mary C Byrne was appointed assistant teacher in the Girls’ School in her place.

On the 13th of December 1915, John P O’Mahony left the Boys’ School. There is no record of a replacement being appointed until Miss Margaret Dineen, who later became Mrs Margaret Collins, was appointed to the post in October 1916. Due to increasing roll numbers an extra teacher, Miss Elizabeth Ryan, Dripsey, was appointed in the Boys’ School. This brought the total in the Boys’ School to three teachers.

Both principals, Daniel O’Driscoll and Mary Downing, married each other in 1917. By the time their son, Noel, started school in 1928 both schools had amalgamated. Even though Dan O’Driscoll taught mixed senior classes, his room was still referred to as the Boys’ School for some time. Note that Margaret Dineen taught mixed infant classes in the same room as Dan O’Driscoll. The other room was still referred to as the Girls’ School and was shared by Mrs O’Driscoll, who taught mixed third and fourth classes and Miss Ryan who taught a mixed second class.

On 1st October 1938, Miss Ryan left the school due to falling enrolment. She was transferred to Tullig NS in the parish of Aghabullogue where she taught mixed infants, first and second classes until she retired. This left Berrings with three teachers, namely, Daniel O’Driscoll, principal and his wife, Mrs O’Driscoll and Mrs Collins (nee Dineen) as his assistants.

On 1st November, 1941, Margaret Collins was transferred to Matehy NS as numbers further decreased in Berrings. Berrings was now a two teacher school once more.

On the 21st of March, 1953, Dan O’Driscoll retired as principal and was replaced by his wife Mary and Margaret Collins was re-appointed assistant teacher on the 1st of April, 1953.

Mrs Mary O’Driscoll retired as principal on the 31st of July, 1954 and Dan Lynch, Carhue, Berrings, was appointed as her successor. Dan Lynch left the school and was replaced by Mr Sean Cotter as principal on 1st of April, 1957. Sean Cotter subsequently left and was replaced by Mr Con O’Leary, Macroom, as principal on 2nd of June 1958.

In 1959, Miss Margaret Lucey, who later married Timmy O’Herlihy, Carhue, replaced Mrs Margaret Collins. This was Miss Lucey’s first teaching post.

In January, 1960, Pat Carroll of Magoola, Dripsey, was appointed principal, replacing Con O’Leary who transferred to Ballyclough NS. Pat transferred to Berrings from Rathcoola NS in Donoughmore with Margaret Lucey remaining on as his assistant.

Once again in 1965 a third teacher was appointed due to expanding numbers. The new teacher was Miss Kathleen Lynch, Ballyvourney, who, like Pat, also taught at Rathcoola.

It was at this time that Fr Dan Hallissey, curate in Berrings at the time, asked the teaching staff if they would like a new school. Of course they jumped to the idea and said yes and within an hour Fr Hallissey arrived back having been offered a site by a local farmer, Jack O’Reilly. This is the site of the present school. Fr Hallissey, who was transferred to Mallow, was replaced by Fr Michael Twohig.

In 1967, Tullig School, which was within three miles of Berrings, closed down and the principal, Seamus Twomey, was transferred to Berrings, as an assistant teacher. Many of the children transferred to Berrings also to complete their primary education. Berrings was once again a four teacher school. A pre-fab was erected on the site acquired by Fr Hallissey to accommodate the extra children.

In 1968, Seamus Twomey was appointed principal of Stuake NS, Donoughmore, where he remained until his retirement. Seamus was replaced in Berrings by Mr Frank Power who left in 1971 to be replaced by Miss Kathleen McKenna who later became Mrs Long.

In 1969, Fr Michael Twohig was replaced by Fr Maurice Brew.

In June 1967, Tullig NS was a two teacher school, the teachers being Mr Seamus Twomey and Ms Eva Murphy. Tullig NS is built on the outskirts of Aghabullogue parish and accommodated children from neighbouring Donoughmore and Inniscarra parishes as well as from Aghabullogue parish. Rumour had it that Tullig was to close that summer, but by 1st of July there was no official confirmation of this closure from the Department of Education. Ms Eva Murphy was transferred to Coachford however on the 1st of July and a temporary teacher took her place until 14th of July. In the meantime the parents called for a strike when the official news of the closure of Tullig NS broke during the summer holidays. Parents of the children attending Tullig School were instructed to send them to Firmount or Coachford. Seamus Twomey was transferred to Firmount. The parents, however, refused to send their children to either of the schools suggested by the Department and wanted to send them to Berrings instead. Most of the parents did send their children to Berrings and Seamus Twomey was immediately sent to Berrings NS in September of that year. Seamus taught 4th class in a shared room with Pat Carroll who had 5th and 6th classes at the time.

THE NEW SCHOOL 1971 - 2014
Work began on building the new school which was officially opened by Aodan O’Donnchadha, inspector of the Department of Education, in December 1971. Before the opening, early that morning, the late Canon Warren arrived to bless the school only to find the doors of the school locked and nobody in sight. The teachers had earlier been invited for tea to the house of the local curate, Fr Maurice Brew. When the Canon eventually met up with Fr Brew and the teachers, Mass was celebrated in the new school. Tea was then served and made available for all present and a special commemorative cake was presented by the then board of management, namely: Mrs Mary O’Driscoll, Pat Healy, Fr Brew, Mrs Mary Joe Cronin and Pat Carroll.

The teachers relished their new accommodation and its great sense of space. The school was built by J J O’Leary & Sons from Fermoy. One of the workers on the building, Bob O’Donovan, Firmount, remarked that the teachers would find mice in the school. His words rang true when Mrs O’Herlihy discovered a mouse in her pocket as she was about to lock up after her first day’s teaching in the new school.

In 1988, Fr Maurice Brew was transferred to Mallow after serving for 19 years in Berrings, and was replaced by Fr Mortimer Downing.

Due to falling numbers Berrings School lost its rights to continue as a four teacher school in 1991. Therefore, Mrs Kay Long had to leave the school and took up a teaching post in Macroom Boys’ NS. Berrings NS was now a three teacher school once more. Later that year Pat Carroll retired and Mr. Paul Olden, who was teaching in nearby Cloghroe, was appointed principal.

In 1995, Fr Mort Downing was transferred and replaced by Fr Richard Browne as curate. In September of that year the Department of Education sanctioned a fourth teaching post in the school once more due to increased numbers of pupils on the roll and Mr Frank Tobin, who was teaching at Scoil Cholumbain, Bishopstown was appointed to fill the vacancy.

-Extracts from the Berrings N. S. Silver Jubilee Journal, 1996.

1996 – Present:
The Board of Management and the Parents Association proposed a new size for the school hall which would provide the school with a large, modern, multi purpose hall with permission for this extension finally granted by the Dept of Education in 1999. The extension work was completed in 2001 and was officially opened by Minister Mícheal Martin in 2002.

In 2003 the school’s Parents Association was Ireland’s nominee for the European Alcuin Award for the project “Information: Empowering Parents”, which set the foundation for even closer links between the school and the home. The school sets great value on its partnership with the parents, the community and the parish. Rang Bláthmhar class was added in 2005. It is dedicated to providing education tailored to the individual abilities and gifts of children with Autism. The North Lee Services, Cope Foundation, provides the professional support, eg Psychologist, Speech and Language Therapy and Occupational Therapy. The Naíonra, a pre - school ASD class for 3 to 5 year old children, was opened in September 2009 with a staff of 1 Teacher and 2 Special Needs Assistants.

A new school addition, consisting of 3 Classrooms, 1 Learning Support Room, Staff Toilet and Pupil Toilets was added in June 2009. The Infant Classroom was extended and refurbished in the summer of 2009 and a new entrance with modern safety features was completed in December 2009. The school is now a very modern, spacious, bright and well maintained building suited to the diverse needs of the children and appropriate to meet with confidence the challenges of the new decade ahead.

In 2003, Fr Browne was replaced by Fr Peadar Murphy who in turn was replaced by Fr Gerry Coleman in 2009.

Paul Olden retired as principal in 2003 and was replaced by Mr Liam Walsh. Paul reverted to an assistant teaching post and retired in 2009.
Having spent her entire working life of 45 years teaching in the same school serving four principals, Margaret O’Herlihy finally hung up her chalk and duster in 2004. On her retirement, Ms O’Herlihy presented the O’Herlihy Cup to the school which will be presented annually to the Berrings School’s pupil of the year in her honour.
After 41 years of dedicated service, Kathleen Lynch retired in 2006.
The school, led by Mr Walsh continues to have an extremely talented and dedicated staff of 14 Teachers, 12 Special Needs Assistants, a Secretary and a Cleaner with approximately 170 pupils on the roll.

For a school of its size, Berrings National School has won a disproportionately large number of awards in the arenas of sport, art and music which is a testament to the nurturing each and every child receives at the school. The school can boast many activities such as Sciath na Scol hurling, camogie, football, athletics, swimming, dance, music, art, crafts, quizzes, film making and nature trips among others, all of which contribute to enrich and enhance the revised curriculum now being taught. It would be a very worthwhile exercise to record all these achievements for posterity.
Over the years many dedicated teachers imparted a wealth of knowledge and strove beyond the curriculum to give their pupils the greatest possible preparation for life. Up until the middle 1900’s the majority of pupils did not attend second or third level schools but received further education in the national school up to seventh and eighth class. Also note that in the early years Roman Numerals were used for designating the classes. Nowadays, many students avail of second and third level education and today’s pupils are being educated for a far more varied, challenging, and rapidly changing society. Berrings National School has produced some very fine young men and women over the years, farmers, operatives, housewives, priests, brothers, nuns and graduates in most academic fields all of whom have served their chosen profession with distinction. They have been and are a credit to their parents and teachers. It would be a very useful exercise to tabulate all such achievements down through the years. This needs a leader to co-ordinate and I am very sure there are many very suitable candidates for this job. Transition year students, who are past pupils, could be recruited to carry out this work as a very worthwhile project. Such records would facilitate class re-unions, etc in years to come.

The school continues to prosper. The school community in Berrings is a very close-knit and mutually supportive group. New staff, old staff and retired teachers continue to work together to make the school a happy and safe place for the children. The partnership between the home, the school and the wider community is a very close and successful one which has evolved to its present form since the school’s foundation in 1847.
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Front Row:
Margaret Healy, John Casey, Siobhan Callaghan, Brendan Healy, Davy Buckley, Kevin Murphy, Noel Murphy, Oweny O’Brien, Kathleen Casey, Cathereen Reen, Beth Lane, Margaret Lane, Bernie O’Sullivan, Oliver Morrissey, Tony Healy, Mrs Reen and Patsy

Middle Row:
John Lane, Benedict Callaghan, Jim Holland, Pat Healy, Eugie Long, Rita Murphy, Owen Lane, Tom Murray, Kitty O’Brien, Mary O’Brien, Nora Healy, Mary O’Brien, Nora Morrissey, Martin Morrissey

Back Row:
Michael O’Mahony, Donal Casey, Francis O’Mahoney, John O’Brien, Paul Daly, Seamus Buckley, Bridie O’Sullivan, Breda Murray, Isa Desmond, Josie Long, Kathleen O’Brien, Mary Murphy
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