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St. Moninna's Primary School and Nursery Unit, Cloughoge, Newry

School History


The Ordinance Survey Memoirs of Ireland, (1832- 37) referred to “a school (close to the Roman Catholic Chapel in the townland of Ellisholding) ...... established under the National Board of Education ..... about the year 1831 ..... at which there are present (1837) 218 scholars ..... 150 males and 68 females”.  Thirty years later the roll books referred to “Cloughoge Boys’ and Girls’ Schools”, the remains of which can still be seen on the bend before Seavers Road as one heads towards Newry.  On this site stood Saint Patrick’s Church, which was replaced in 1916 by the Church of the Sacred Heart or “Cloughoge Chapel” as it is now affectionately known.


The enrolment of the boys’ school from 1865 until 1935 varied between 60 and 114, whilst that of the girls’ school was more stable averaging around 60 pupils.  Victorian and Edwardian education was firmly rooted in the “3Rs”. From the information contained in the records of Inspectors’ visits it is apparent that these were thoroughly monitored.  Visits appear to have been on a half yearly basis.


These records give a fair indication of school life during this period.  The rural nature of the area was highlighted by Inspector Currie who in October 1920 noted that attendance was low as children were “engaged at farm work”.  Classroom conditions must have been grim at times.  A report for February 1901 stated “There is a large hole in the roof.  It has been there for about 2 months and the floor is saturated with rain”.


Overcrowding at times, was another problem.  Inspector James Hogan reported in August 1909 that whilst officially there was accommodation for 98 pupils, the rolls indicated that there were in fact 114 pupils attending the school.  It is worth noting that in March 1912 the parish priest requested “Grant in aid to build new schools”.


In fact it was a quarter of a century before this request was granted.  On 7 January 1937, the new Cloughoge Primary school, situated on the Forkhill Road, and overlooking “Cloughoge Chapel” officially opened.  The new building consisted of 3 classrooms each measuring 20' x 20' x 12'.  The enrolment on opening was 51 boys and 57 girls.  The official school register number was 1130 the same number as the present school.


The advent of World War II saw a small number of evacuees attending the school, whose enrolment had increased slightly since 1937.  The post war era saw numbers being maintained.  However, during the mid 1950s one can detect a decrease particularly in the number of girls.  This is explained by the fact that even at this time Cloughoge School contained many post primary children who completed their education at the school.  One teacher who attended the school during this period, recalls that around this time several pupils opted to pursue their post primary education in the town of Newry.


The fall in numbers was temporary.  Housing developments such as Newtowncloughoge and Carrivemaclone boosted the school’s numbers which by 1963 had risen to 127.  By 1966 the number stood at 152.  They continued to rise.  By 1975 Cloughoge Primary School had 208 pupils on its roll.


Physically the school had to adapt to meet the needs of the children. During this period new classes, a kitchen, dining area and a nursery unit were added to the original building.  Indeed such was the extent of these alterations that some classes were temporarily transferred to the old boys’ and girls’ schools.


Throughout the 1970s and 1980s this upward trend continued.  There were several factors affecting this.  The population in Upper Killeavey particularly below the Dublin - Belfast railway bridge was dramatically increasing.  Cloughoge Primary School offered several options which schools in Newry could not.  Parents could avail of nursery education, in addition to sending all their family to the one school.  All Catholic schools in the town of Newry were then single sex.  In addition to this few schools could match the picturesque setting of the school.


By the end of 1980s it was becoming apparent that the extended school site was no longer adequate for the changing educational needs of the children, especially in the light of the new “National Curriculum”.  Plans were accordingly presented to DENI by the school authorities for a completely new school on a new site.


However events took an unexpected turn when in July 1992, the parish awoke to find the school and the entire area around it sealed off by the security forces.  Without any prior consultation with residents or indeed the school authorities, the Ministry of Defence had decided to extend massively the security base which sat at the rear of the school.  Many parents, furious at the risk to the safety of the children threatened to withdraw them from the school.  Cloughoge Primary School now became an international news item.  Protracted negotiations continued over the summer months between the school authorities and the Northern Ireland Office to reach a settlement.


A compromise was reached.  The entire school population, staff and resources were relocated in the disused Victorian building which had formerly housed Our Lady’s Grammar School in Canal Street, Newry.  The stark nature of the building was in direct contrast to the homely atmosphere of the old school.  But from the outset staff, parents, pupils and the school authorities consciously set out to ensure that the high standards and the inherently friendly atmosphere of the school continued despite the enormous upheavals experienced.  Morale remained high.


Life in Cloughoge “Relocated” went on in as normal a manner as possible.  The vast majority of the children were conveyed by bus each morning.  They were escorted on and off the buses in all weathers by the staff, who at times had practically to assume the role of traffic wardens to prevent traffic chaos in the narrow 18th century street.  But the activities associated with Cloughoge School continued such as Irish Dancing classes, the annual Lions’ Swim and entry in the drama section of Warrenpoint Feis.  The nursery found itself located in two mobiles adjacent to the main school building.  Visitors such as Jack Boothman, president of the GAA, and children’s author Tom McCaughran were warmly welcomed.


Above all else during this period teachers and pupils became masters in adapting to the new situation.  Morale remained consistently high.  Indeed if anything resolve stiffened, and a very strong sense of camaraderie developed.  Drab crumbling plaster was covered with children’s art and writing, and innovative works of art  decorated the corridors.  The commitment, the dedication and the high morale of the teaching staff was recognised by the visiting Inspector in the report of a focused inspection in January 1997.


In 1995 it was announced that a decision had been reached to build a new school and after a visit to the Newry site the then Minister of Education, Mr Michael Ancram, declared it was to be given top priority.  Construction began on the Chancellors Road in 1996, with the completion date set for August 1997.  In June of that year teachers began the laborious process of packing classroom equipment for transfer to the new site.  Several who had areas of curricular/managerial responsibility spent several weeks of their summer holidays ensuring that the equipment for general use throughout the school was packed in addition to their own classroom resources.  It also came as quite a shock when they were bluntly informed that for the second time in 5 years they would have to vacate the relocated premises almost immediately as the DHSS needed the premises to replace the offices in Bridge Street, burnt, following disturbances in Newry.


Finally on 28 August 1997 the process began of unpacking equipment new and old and equipping the classes for opening of term on 3 September 1997.  Again the staff worked around the clock so that when the children entered the new premises teachers were ready for them.  For several weeks afterwards lights burned late in the school and at weekends as new equipment was distributed and new technology resources such as computers set up.


The school is now fully functional.  It is a rich stimulating learning environment which is no more than our children deserve.  The buildings may have changed over the last 160 years or so, but the commitment and dedication which has been the hallmark of the school since those early days in the mid 19th century lives on in the pupils, teachers, parents and all associated with the school.

Mr Kevin Campbell was Principal in 1981 and retired in 1999.  He was succeeded by Mr Robert Keogh who ushered the school community into the 21st century.  Mr Robert Keogh held this position until his early retirement in February 2007.

Mrs K O’Hanlon succeeded Mr Keogh and took up the position of Principal in June 2007. Upon Mrs  O’ Hanlon’s retirement, Mrs Temple  was appointed Principal. Mrs Temple took began her tenure in September 2016 and remains the  current Principal of the school.