St. Cronan's Boys' National School, Bray, Co. Wicklow, Ireland

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Jan 2011

Archives > A Word From The Principal - Archive > 2010-2011

Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh, 5ú Uachtarán na hÉireann
(5th President of Ireland)

The anniversary of the birth of our most illustrious past pupil takes place on February 11th this year. On that date 100 hundred years ago Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh was born. He was enrolled in our school in 1915 and in later life he distinguished himself as barrister, Chief Justice of Ireland (1961) and in 1974 he became the 5th President of Ireland.

One can only surmise what school in Ireland was like in 1915. Our school records show that the subjects were quite similar to what we have today with lessons in English (reading, spelling, writing composition and grammar), Geography, History and Singing. The curriculum differentiated between Arithmetic and Mathematics, Science was known as 'object lessons and elementary science' and Art was called 'manual instruction and drawing'. Irish was not on the curriculum as Ireland had not gained national independence yet.

The occupation of a number of new pupils' fathers at this time was simply 'soldier', reflecting the impact of the First World War on Bray families. It was also the time of the 'Great Flu' which had a severe impact on daily life and resulted in many deaths. This impacted on local schools and our school was closed on the advice of the Medical Officer from 11th October to the 23rd November 1918.

Cearbhall had a great love of the Irish language throughout his life and he attributed this to the influence of his teachers in our school, in particular Mr McDonnell, Mr Honan and Mr Daly. He also developed a great interest in China and its people, travelling to Beijing on a number of occasions. When he retired to Sneem in County Kerry he used to refer to his home as the unofficial Chinese Embassy long before official diplomatic ties between our two countries were established in 1979.

How appropriate that we have now established a close link with Guangming Primary school in Beijing.

As our school community focuses on helping our pupils to realise their talents we can always benefit from looking back at our long history to find role models. The life story of Cearbhall must surely be a real inspiration for all our present pupils.

Vaughan Dodd

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