Limericks Ahane NS – pictured above are staff and pupils who attended the celebrations
Limericks Ahane NS commemorated its 200th anniversary with a bicentennial week of celebrations
One of Ireland’s oldest schools, Ahane National School, Scoil Atháin in Co Limerick is commemorating its 200th anniversary with a bicentennial week of celebrations beginning Monday, October 23rd, 2023.
Mayor of Limerick, Cllr Gerald Mitchell officially launched the week-long event at the school in Laught, Lisnagry, by planting an oak tree and time capsule in the grounds. The time capsule contains photographs, school news, a list of 2023 average prices and letters from the children about their lives and hobbies.
This will be followed by a series of events in the school all week including a visit from His Excellency, Gary Gray, the Ambassador of Australia to Ireland. The Ambassador will visit Ahane NS to see an exhibition celebrating the life and legacy in Ireland and Australia of Richard Bourke, founder of the original Ahane School, former Governor of Australia and founder of the city of Melbourne. A community celebration evening will take place in the School Halla on the evening of Thursday, 26th October at 7pm when memories of Ahane National School throughout the years will be shared along with story-telling and curated historical images.
Sir Richard Bourke, born in 1778, was the philanthropist who paid for and built the original Ahane School before the famine occurred and prior to the repeal of the penal laws in Ireland and the introduction of the national school system in Ireland in 1831. Prior to the 1820s, the children of Ahane were taught by a hedge school master named Patty Collins who taught the children each evening after work. As a result of Sir Bourke’s generosity, a stone building was erected by him on his estate, Thornfields, Ahane in 1823. This school commenced with 79 pupils, 47 boys and 32 girls, and was in situ until 1933 when the present school was built down the road at the cross of Laught. Sir Richard Bourke, who subsequently became governor in New South Wales, was guided by his experience gleaned in Ahane, when he set up and developed the educational system in that part of Australia (1831 – 1835).
“Education has a proud history in Ahane from the beginning of the nineteenth century before the national school system in Ireland was introduced to the present day,” explained Ahane National School principal, Siobhán Kennedy. “While our current building was opened in 1933, we’re delighted to commemorate the bicentenary of the first Ahane National School on the Thornfield estate just across from St Patrick’s Church in Ahane. The children will learn about early school life in Ahane 200 years ago and it’s also an opportunity for them to get involved in the commemorations through the local history aspect of the school curriculum and the ‘Decades Day’ dress up celebrations on Thursday. They have been busy preparing items for the Time Capsule to be opened in the future and we’re also looking forward to having a new wooden sculpture in our school grounds created by Limerick craftsman Will Fogarty over the coming months. I’m very thankful to the Bourke exhibition curator Seamus Flynn, the Historic Houses of Ireland and Limerick Civic Trust for loaning us the Richard Bourke exhibition for our bicentennial event, to Earle Landscaping and Troy Chauffeurs for sponsoring our beautiful oak tree and to our other sponsors and parents for their support in organising and celebrating the weeks’ events.”
Today Limericks Ahane NS is a thriving school located at Laught, Lisnagry, approximately five miles from Limerick city and two miles from the main Dublin road. It has an active and successful Parents Association who provide support with a wide range of activities including sporting events and fundraising.
Each century has brought huge improvements and developments to Ahane National School. Tracing the school’s progression, in 1823 there were 79 pupils enrolled in Ahane school, there were 88 in 1933. At the beginning of the 21st century the enrolment was 81 when the school was extended and renovated. Today there are over 130 pupils and the school curriculum has evolved and developed in line with Department of Education and Skills guidance. The current Principal, Siobhán Kennedy was appointed in 2017 and is working with staff, Board of Management and school community to continue the tradition of education in Ahane.
“We’re looking forward with confidence to the future of education in Ahane, and in so doing will use this week’s bicentennial commemorations to remember the efforts and achievements of those who have gone before us,” principal Siobhán Kennedy concluded.
Ahane NS is also grateful to Dr Max Waugh of Monash University Melbourne and Sir Richard’s descendant Ace Bourke who have both written extensively on Richard Bourke and are donating books about him to the school library.