School modelled on Pearse’s St Enda’s closes 100 years on

Former owner stipulated Ardscoil Éanna in Crumlin should close when she died

Etáin O’Moore, principal of Ardscoil Éanna which was founded by James  O’Byrne. One of its most famous past pupils is actor Gabriel Byrne. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Etáin O’Moore, principal of Ardscoil Éanna which was founded by James O’Byrne. One of its most famous past pupils is actor Gabriel Byrne. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

 

A secondary school founded on the principles of Patrick Pearse’s St Enda’s School is to close after 77 years.

Ardscoil Éanna in Crumlin was set up by a former Irish Volunteer James O’Byrne in 1939, four years after the closure of St Enda’s due to financial difficulties.

One of its first teachers was Pearse’s sister Margaret, who taught at Ardscoil Éanna for many years.

Mr O’Byrne believed that every child should have access to a secondary school education, irrespective of means. It was known as the “shilling-a-week” school because of the relatively low fees charged for secondary education, which was not free at the time.

The school was rare in being a Catholic one run by lay people and in private ownership. It has remained in the O’Byrne family to the present day.

It was founded to provide an education for children in Crumlin, which was then a new suburb of Dublin.

It is closing following the death of its former manager, Eibhlín Ní Bhroin, in 2013. She was the daughter of the founder. He went on to become a Dublin Corporation councillor.

Ms Ní Bhroin stipulated in her will that the school should close after her death. Though the salaries were paid by the State, the family funded all other activities. She felt that a small school such as Ardscoil Éanna could not survive without substantial private funding.

Before she died, she wrote: “The school has served its pupils well. Daddy had a great vision and Réiltín [her sister and former principal] achieved it. I am immensely proud of both of them. I do not regret my decision to close the school. Ardscoil Éanna has fulfilled its purpose.”

Etáin O’Moore, who is Ms Ní Bhroin’s niece and has been the school’s principal for 20 years, said she was heartbroken at its closure. At its peak, between primary and secondary school pupils, it had 500 pupils. Now there are just 50 left, a third year and Leaving Certificate classes. Its most famous past pupil is the actor Gabriel Byrne.

“It’s been my life’s work. I went to school here. I have been a teacher here, I’m a member of the family and the principal. It’s very sad for me that it is closing,” Ms O’Moore said.

When given the option of closing within three years or five years, she opted not to drag out the closure and chose three years.

“I wasn’t thinking that the school would close in 2016. It was after the fact that I realised the significance of the date. Patrick Pearse’s old school desk is in my office. Maybe it was the right year to be closing. It adds a poignancy to it.”

The school will have a farewell mass today which will be attended by past pupils.

The 11 teachers and the existing pupils who are going on to the Leaving Certificate cycle will be accommodated elsewhere.