Saturday 26th September marked a red letter day for education in South East Galway as celebrated its 50th Anniversary. The local community, past and present pupils, teacher’s, principles and representatives of the Sisters of Mercy all came together to celebrate the event. Bishop of Galway, Rev John Kirby, officiated at the Mass which was con -celebrated by local priests from a number of the outlying parishes.
Such is the importance of this Secondary School to education in this region, that community representatives from as far afield as Whitegate, Scarriff and Mountshannon in North Clare were present as well as those from Derryroober, Abbey, Duniry, Portumna, Loughrea, Kilnadeema Leitrim Peterswell and Derrybrien as well as the local parish’s of Woodford, Ballinakill and Looscan. Indeed past pupils of the last 5 decades travelled from as far afield as America, Australia, Europe, England and through out Ireland to help participate in the days events.
Recognition of the work of the Mercy Order to the provision of education in this isolated area of South East Galway was outlined in Bishop Kirby’s homily. The Sisters of Mercy arrival in Woodford in 1900 has been followed by over a century’s dedication to the progression of both education and health care within this region. The importance of this educational backbone to the local community was reinforced by the guest speakers, local historian Martin Fahy, and Ms Ann Kelleher CEO of CEIST. CEIST is the new trust body for Mercy Woodford.
Ms Loreto Quinn-Canning, current Principal of Mercy College, spoke of the inclusive nature of the education streams undertaken in the College at present which though under pressure due to current funding constrains, are integral to the ethos of the school. In association with the Department of Education, Woodford Mercy College’s, piloting of educational innovations, for the last 30 yrs, has been a major element of the school’s pioneering attitude which harks back to an era in the 1920’s when the Sisters of Mercy were the leaders in this areas local primary education.
In recent years the College has developed a deserved reputation in the provision of excellent special needs education, along side maintaining extremely high standards in academic, artistic and sporting endeavours. It requires little investigation to understand how central this College has become to the maintenance of a vibrant and viable community within this beautiful yet isolated part of Galway.
Once the formal activities were completed, the celebrations continued at the Mercy College, where St Loreto McLaughlin, unveil a plaque in commemoration of the 50th Anniversary. Student Choir and local musicians provided entertainment, while the dedicated members of the Parents Association, allied by generous donations from local business, provided refreshments for all present. The endearing images of the event will be the friends and acquaintances gathered in groups, big and small, around faded photos, remembering past events, victories and departed friends. With sweethearts remembered, arguments forgotten and dreams rekindled. One wonders what changes the next 50 yrs bring to this beautiful part of Galway?
In an era of sound bites such as ‘Smart economy’ ‘Knowledge economy’ ‘Sustainable development’ there is no doubt that educational facilities and community resources like Mercy College Woodford, are tangible evidence of the ability of small communities to influence the wider world. In order to continue to achieve these aims they have to be encouraged and sustained to allow them to continue to play a major part in this region, and indeed this nation’s, resurgence on the world stage