SCHOOLS:

WATCH: Big day for Portarlington as boys arrive by parade to new school

Lynda Kiernan

Reporter:

Lynda Kiernan


Watch our 5 minute video of the exciting parade and arrival of a Laois Offaly primary school to their new building.

Portarlington people lined the streets and cheered on the boys of St Patrick's BNS on Tuesday May 7, as they marched to their new school.

Their parade was led by Gardaí and the school's accordion band, who began by playing A Parting Glass, as they said goodbye to their school on Patrick Street. It was also led by boys wearing the Laois and Offaly county jerseys and local club jerseys.

The 440 boys and their teachers marched 2.5km through the town, first over the Barrow Bridge which brought them from Offaly to Laois. Then through the main street, down Station Road and finally up Canal Road to their new home beside Portarlington GAA Centre.

Among the crowds waiting outside the new school were a group of grandparents, including Michael and Sheila Luttrell, whose grandsons Michael Luttrell and Alex and Luke Dunne are pupils.

"It is a great occasion, my son Michael went to this school too 40 years ago and back then they were talking about a new school. It was a long wait. Well deserved today," said Mr Luttrell. 

Among a big group of mothers was Joanne Nicholls, whose son Daragh is in 6th class.

"He will only get a few weeks out of it unfortunately. But there was great excitement this morning," she said. 

Also waiting was band teacher Gerry Conway, who teaches 2nd to 6th class on accordion and percussion.

"They learned special songs for today. It's great, a powerful day," he said.

The boys marched through the new schoolgates and lined up outside their bright new three storey building.

Ahead of the religious blessing by Parish Priest Fr Tom Dooley, Principal Pat Galvin opened the front door to pop inside, setting off a wave of cheers from the excited boys.

There were threats of maths and Irish but the boys were believing none of it, cheering as they prepared for their first day in their new school.

Mr Galvin is delighted for his school.

"It's an emotional day for everyone. It's very positive but it is sad leaving, I've been there for 30 years personally. The people of Offaly and Patrick Street are losing something, we're gaining something, though they are gaining their parking spaces. It's not a Laois and Offaly thing, we have pupils from all over. My aim is that we keep the same ethos and atmosphere," he said.

He thanked the Portarlington public.

"I thank the people of the town, they are a massive support, the LipSync was huge, and they came out today to wish us well on our way. There's so many people behind this, the parents council, boards of management that worked for this and achieved this. I just happen to be here at this particular time. A lot of work has gone on over the last 20 years," he said.

The big new building has 24 mainstream classes and two ASD units. 

"We put in a running track, we have a juvenile pitch, we will have our astroturf. It's a state of the art school and a campus second to none in the country. Everything is so positive," the Principal said.

Among the guests was Don Hickey, 77, who was in the first class at the previous building, back in 1953.

"I have lovely memories. All the Brothers are dead now, but i am sure they are listening to the band wherever they are today.  It's a very sentimental emotional day. This new school is smashing," he said.

Bean ní Butléir who taught in the old boys school for many years also attended the first day, as well as former deputy principal Tom Dempsey. 

Assistant Principal Mary Davis brought three special photos with her on the walk to the new building. They were of two boys who died while they were pupils in the school; Stephen Ryan and Barry Maher, and the previous principal Rita Quinn who passed away not long after she retired nine years ago.

The public will be welcomed for an open day to the school on May 18, while the official opening is expected to take place next September.