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School History

Emo National School


The National School in Emo was built in 1889 and the school before that was in the cemetery. It was a two-story building, the boys school was upstairs and the girls in the bottom. The Principal was Patrick Walker and his assistant was a Miss Cullen.

In 1881 a young lady teacher by the name of Brigid Gibney came to Emo from Oldcastle Co. Westmeath, she replaced Miss Cullen. A Kilkenny man by the name of John Kavanagh was Principal in Morette and he married Brigid Gibney and they lived in Emo. They had nine children; two of these became teachers and one a priest, Fr. Michael Kavanagh. He was ordained in 1921 and spent his life on the missions in South Africa. John Kavanagh died in 1916 and his wife died in 1944. All their family are dead now except the youngest Kathleen (Mrs O’Reilly) who lives in Dublin.

Mr. Walker was the first principal of the new school in Emo and since then there has up to the present time been nine principal teachers in Emo. Mr. Cotter, a Cork man succeeded Mr. Walker. A  Mr. Breen from Carlow was next followed by Mr.Kehoe from Wexford. Following Mr. Kehoe was Mr.Molloy from Co. Clare then Monaghan man, Mr. McCluskey took the reins. Mr. O’Callaghan from Co. Clare, who still lives beside the old school, took over from Mr. McCluskey and Mr. Brian Davis, who succeeded Mr. O’ Callaghan was the first Laois- born principal of Emo N.S. He was succeeded by the current principal, also a Laois man, Mr. Cyril Duggan.

Emo National School 1962 – 2001 by June Davis

During this period1962-2001 we are seeking past pupils’ help with filling in any gaps ! For example, we know that Emo NS had camogie  teams,  football teams, quiz teams and scór teams . Please forward any information, memories that would help add to the historical account that follows.

Mr Eamon McCluskey, Principal of Emo National School retired in 1962. This coincided with the closure of Morette School, another primary school in the parish. Joe O’Callaghan was Principal of Morette School at that juncture, and he was appointed as the new principal of Emo N.S.

The assistant teacher who had taught with Mr McCluskey was Margaret McCormack N.T. (Ballycarroll, Ballybrittas). On marrying, she moved to Cloneygowan N.S., Portarlington. Margaret McCormack was replaced in Emo N.S. by Carmel Kearney N.T. (Ballybrittas).

1967: Emo N.S. became a three-teacher school. Mrs Maureen O’Keeffe N.T. (Portlaoise) was appointed as second assistant. As there were just two rooms in the original stone school building, a prefabricated room was constructed in the playground at the rear of the school (the brown prefab). Also, with the arrival of the Emo Rural Water Scheme, a Department of Education grant was allocated for the provision of toilets and hand-basins for boys and girls, which would replace the dry toilet system in use up to that point. These welcome facilities were sited in a new concrete structure attached to the rear of the main building. At the same time, a drinking fountain for thirsty pupils was installed on an external wall.

1968: Carmel Kearney moved with her family to live in Dublin, and was replaced by June Kavanagh N.T. (later Davis) (Lough, Portarlington) who was poached from a convent in Greenville, Mississippi !

1969: Maureen O’Keeffe took up a teaching position in Portlaoise and was replaced by Teresa Doyle N.T. (Borris Road, Portlaoise). Around this time, it was decided by the school manager, Fr P. Maher P.P., in conjunction with the staff, to install oil-fired central heating in the main building. A ‘silver circle’ was organised to raise funds. During the period 1969-71, the principal and a member of staff met with volunteers once a week at the school for the running of the raffle. The new heating system replaced turf-burning stoves, which had existed in the school since the 1940s. They, in turn, had replaced the original two open fireplaces from the time of the school’s construction.

1971: The new child-centred primary school curriculum, Curaclam na Bunscoile, was introduced in this year. This saw the end of the Primary Certificate Examination, and the beginning of a more enlightened attitude towards how children should be taught. Following on from this, and with the founding of Cumann na mBunscol and Scór, Emo N.S. became a lot more involved in extracurricular activities. The school entered juvenile Gaelic football and basketball teams in local and county competitions, and became a platform for the promotion of the various activities of Junior Scór, including drama, singing, dance, recitation and question time. All of this gave the children of the school an opportunity to develop their personalities and talents.

1973: With increasing numbers, a position arose in Emo N.S. for an extra teacher (third assistant). Marian Whyte N.T. (Straboe) was the new appointee. A second prefab was erected at this juncture.

1975: Teresa Doyle emigrated to Australia and Judy Hyland N.T. (Ballydavis) was appointed to replace her. Also in this year, boards of management were introduced in Ireland to take over the running of primary schools, a duty which up until that time had been carried out by parish priests. More money was allocated by the Department of Education for the upkeep of schools. As a result of this as well as Emo N.S. Board of Management fundraising, improvements were made to the school. Previously, tasks such as cleaning toilets and hand-basins were performed by teachers, and sweeping and dusting of classrooms by both teachers and pupils. Now for the first time, a cleaner was employed to undertake these tasks. In addition to this, bare classroom floors were given lino coverings for the first time, marking the end of clouds of dust. Notably also, the rough gravel school yard was surfaced with tarmacadam.

1976: As numbers again rose in Emo N.S., the staff was increased to five with the appointment of a fourth assistant teacher, Colette Dunne N.T. (later McCormack) (Mountmellick). The Department of Education granted a third prefab. That same year, a Department inspector proposed that a new school be built to accommodate growing numbers.

1978: Marian Whyte left Emo N.S. to take up a position in St Francis School, Portlaoise. She was replaced by Anne Mulhall N.T. (native of Dublin, with connections to Killenard and the Heath and now deceased R.I.P).

1981: On the departure of Judy Hyland for Arklow N.S., Antoinette O’Keeffe N.T. (later Prendergast) (Portlaoise) began teaching in the school. Antoinette was the daughter of Maureen O’Keeffe, who had taught in Emo N.S. from 1967-69.

On the death of Fr Maher in 1981, Fr Jack Walsh became the new Parish Priest and Manager of Emo N.S.

1988: Antoinette Prendergast left to teach in Knockmay, Portlaoise. As numbers had dropped below the quota, the school was not allowed to replace her and so the staff was reduced to four.

1989: The Centenary of Emo National School was celebrated. Children were involved in various activities to mark the occasion. The Board of Management and other volunteers came together to produce a booklet honouring the milestone. It contains old photographs, roll call data, and interesting snippets of information about the school and locality.

1993: Mary Connell N.T. (Coolroe) became part-time remedial teacher for Emo N.S. along with Rath N.S. and Rathineska N.S., her base school being the Heath N.S. She worked from the brown prefab which had been vacant since the 1988 reduction of staff numbers.

1997: This year saw the retirement of Emo N.S. Principal Joe O’Callaghan, who had been in the role for 35 years. Brian Davis N.T. (Emo Park), a former pupil of the school, was appointed as the new principal.

1999: The new Primary School Curriculum was introduced in this year to replace Curaclam na Bunscoile, which had been in effect since 1971. Around this period, Portarlington Primary CBS teacher Paul Mitchell N.T. began working part-time with the Traveller children enrolled in Emo N.S.

Also in 1999, Emo N.S. was contacted by the local primary school of Emo, Ontario (Canada), a town which was at that time celebrating the Centenary of its founding. Alexander Luttrell, who was born and reared at New Inn Cross, Emo (now the residence of Ger and Mary Delaney), is credited as the man who founded the town and gave it its name. This communication was a pleasant surprise for the school and community, as it was the first time anyone in the locality had been made aware of the existence of another town called Emo. The pupils of each school exchanged gifts, souvenirs and letters (being that this was before the internet became available in the school), and learned about the history of each other’s locality. It was an enlightening experience for everyone involved.

2000: In this year, Anne Mulhall and Colette McCormack took career breaks and temporary teachers were appointed to replace them. In late 2000, Michael Moloney (Cappakeel) became the first lay Manager of Emo N.S. Principal Brian Davis left the school in January 2001 and took up a position in Maryborough Primary School, Portlaoise. June Davis was appointed as Acting Principal of the school until the end of the school year in June 2001.

In summer 2001 the current principal, Mr. Cyril Duggan was appointed as Principal teacher and took up his position in September 2001.