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Carnamoyle classmates reunite 21.05.10

‘Then’ and ‘Now’ photo launches August reunion plans

by Dónal Campbell, Inishowen Independent

FOUR decades have come and gone since such excited chatter was heard in the vicinity of the old national school at Carnamoyle near Muff. Last Saturday afternoon, a group of women met there for the first time since the school closed its doors for the last time in 1971. Classmates back then, they had much to catch up on as they posed to recreate a class photograph taken around 1970.
The 'then' and 'now' photograph was staged to launch plans for a forthcoming reunion of pupils who attended the three schools in the area – Carnamoyle, Gortin and Scoil Naomh Bríd. In 1971 the old schools amalgamated into the new Scoil Naomh Bríd in Muff village.
Saturday’s get-together was the first time many of the women had seen each other in years. Amidst hugs and laughter and catch-ups, talk revolved around their years spent together in the old schoolhouse . . . the open fires, the smell of turf, who they sat beside, the teachers, the school melodica and the craic.
Geraldine Judge (nee Doherty) traveled from Dublin to be there; Mary McCarron drove from Maghera, Helena Hegarty (nee Gallagher) from over the road in Muff, Maeve Bradley (nee Diver) from Newtown. Indeed most of the girls still live locally around Inishowen and Derry.
Claire McGowan was to be found in the middle row of that old photograph in 1970. These days she’s Claire Hoey and
home is Tyrellspass in Co. Westmeath. “I wouldn’t have missed this for anything,” she smiles, nodding at the group of women deep in conversation in front of the old school, “I would have come from the far side of the world for this today never mind Tyrellspass. It’s great to see the girls again – some of them I wouldn’t have seen since around 1984 when I moved away.”
Claire gets back to the area regularly to visit her mother who is now in her late 80s. Like the other women, she will return for the Reunion Dinner Dance which takes place on August 6 in the Halfway House, Tooban.
Organiser Maeve Bradley confirms that there is phenomenal interest locally in the function: “We have made contact with former pupils of Carnamoyle, Gortin and Scoil Naomh Bríd and expect a huge turnout on August 6th. That’s the same weekend as the annual Blessing of the Graves in Muff and Iskaheen, so quite a few people will be in the area anyway. There has been a great response as is evident by the numbers who have turned up today just for this photo launch.”
A book has also been compiled consisting of old photographs and memoirs. Currently with the printer, it will be available in July.
The women were amazed to discover that there were two grandmothers in the group – Margaret Barron and Martina McCarron. As they retired to the nearby Rock Bar for a further catch-up, there was the promise of further discoveries. Maeve reckons it augurs well for August: “Considering there are three schools and numerous classes, there is a lot of craic and chat to be had when the full reunion takes place.”
Mary Haughey was back too on Saturday. She was a 20 year-old teacher in 1970 and taught in Carnamoyle between 1962–71. In the old photograph she barely looks older than her pupils. “I remember Carnamoyle fondly,” she recalls, “There was some good times here even if it was a different era. I remember when the old national schools closed and we moved to the new school in Muff I came across one wee fella crying. ‘What’s wrong?’ I asked. ‘I just want to go back to Carnamoyle,’ he wept.”
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