by ehistoryadmin on February 28, 2014

Jigs, reels and cinema round off school year for Newbridge pupils

By Liam Kenny

Schools and education are a major feature of coverage in local newspapers. Parents, and school staff, are naturally concerned that pupils will have access to the best possible school facilities. And while recognising that there is far more to education than bricks-and-mortar buildings, it is nonetheless the case that school buildings are seen to be at the heart of communities. Much endeavour goes into fund-raising and lobbying to ensure that new schools, extensions and refurbishments, are put in place to cope with current and future student needs.

Going back a century this month there were similar sentiments at play in the Newbridge area where the school community embarked on enterprising ways of raising money for the parish schools.

A report in the Kildare Observer of July 1913 tells of  “a grand concert and dramatic entertainment” which took place in Sheridan’s Hall, Newbridge.

As an aside the report indicates that people were wilting in the heat as the summer of one hundred years ago proved something of a scorcher: “Despite the abnormal heat conditions at present prevailing, the spacious hall was filled to overflowing long before the curtain rung up.”

Lots of long-standing Newbridge names will be recognised in the reporting of the entertainment on that warm July night in 1913 and many of those mentioned are no doubt great-grandparents of some of our readers today.

The large and fashionable audience who attended to support the fund-raising for a more spacious National School was treated to a highly enjoyable entertainment which reflected much credit on the Good Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, on Mr Cummins, principal teacher, and on his assistants, for the perfect training of the little ones under their charge, who gave a highly finished display all round.

The first part of the evening’s entertainment opened with “several tiny little girls” who performed recitations with much precision and effect. Two sisters, the Misses Hyland, joined in a piano duet which was played with much excellence of touch.

Miss May Rowan of Kildare described as being “another tiny artiste” next delighted the audience with an Irish jig which was followed by fifty boys of the senior school who sang the romantic “The Last Rose of Summer” – an appropriate choice given that the roses in Newbridge gardens were clearly wilting in the high summer heat.

The Gilbert & Sullivan musical repertoire was represented by a performance from “The Pirates of Penzance” by Miss Gorey and Miss Maher followed by a four-hand reel by “four tiny tots”. The little dancers the Misses Walsh and Grace and Masters  Sloan and Colohan came in for unstinted applause. Young master Colohan was a son of bricklayer Hugh Colohan of Old Connell who was to represent Kildare in the Oireachtas under the Labour party banner post 1922.

The first part of the evening’s programme was rounded off by a piano trio by three pupils of the Convent school, the Misses McGuire, McGarry and Mirrelson. The latter name has a hint of the exotic and indeed Miss Mirrelson was the daughter of a Jewish family of Russian extraction who lived at Edward Street. 

After the interval there was a short play and amusing sketch in which the dramatis personae were represented by the Misses McKevitt, Grady, Treacy, McKenna, Nash and Cummins. The acting on the part of the little ones was up to a high standard and “provoked much amusement at the many different laughable situations.”

The month of July 1913 was to prove a rewarding one for the little pupils of the Newbridge schools as some weeks after their bravura performance in Sheridan’s Hall they were back at the same venue but this time as the recipients rather than the providers of the amusement.

The Kildare Observer reported that: “A grand picture entertainment was given at Sheridan’s Hall, Newbridge, through the courtesy of Mr A.V. McCracken, manager of the H & M Cinema Co., to the children of the Newbridge Convent and NationalSchools. By 2 o’clock, the time fixed, quite six hundred little school enthusiasts, under the charge of the Sisters and Mr W. Cummins, thronged the spacious hall, all eager to enjoy the rare treat provided by the Cinema Company for the little ones”.

It was noted that the school-holidays had started that day. Given that this was the third week in July it suggests that the school year was longer than is the case in modern times.

The Parish Priest of Newbridge, Monsignor Tynan, and the curate, Fr M. Cullen, were early arrivals and with the good Sisters “seemed to thoroughly enjoy the varied programme.”

Over in the county town, school matters were also on the agenda but in a more prosaic way.  The Observer reported in late July 1913 that a well-attended public meeting was held in the town to consider improvements to the Naas Christian Brothers’ Schools (today’s Moat Club Theatre).

The Superior, Brother Kelleher, had suggested that an extension costing £150 be put in place but a local committee recommended a more ambitious plan estimated at double that sum. It was agreed that the Town Surveyor, Mr R. H. Hall be commissioned to prepare plans for the scheme.

Wisely, it was also agreed to defer consideration of how to raise the funds needed until a future meeting. A sentiment which will be appreciated by parents in the modern era who have participated in the seemingly endless round of school fund-raising projects.

Leinster Leader 8 July 2013. Lookin Back, Series no: 339.

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