|Where We Live & Work|
|Tirnea - The Story of Our Community|
Presentation Convent, Tiernea, was founded on 5th August, 1935 in Tuam, Co. Galway. The Founding Sisters were - Sr. Benignus, Sr. Marie Therese, Sr. Mary of the Sacred Heart and Sr. Gerard. Tiernea, is in a Gaeltacht area, on the Island of Gorumna and is surrounded by the sea, plenty of big rocks, big stones, a few small beaches and very friendly people. You leave the mainland at Beal-a-Daingean, cross four bridges over the sea and you arrive in Tiernea.
The reason for its foundation was because the Parish Priest, Fr. McHugh asked the Archbishop for Sisters because the standard of education was rapidly going down in the school due to the fact that young teachers only stayed a few weeks and left as soon as they got a job inland. Tiernea was very poor in those days and it was also very isolated. The Parish Priest felt standard of morality was dropping also, and he hoped the Sisters would help him in this area - as they did.
When the nuns came, the curate left his own house to them for a few months. He went ‘into digs’ himself in the small “Hotel of the Isles”. The old teacher’s residence during these months was put in order for the Sisters and they moved in until a new Convent was built. In 1943 the Sisters moved to the new convent. It contained a kitchen, dining room, chapel, 2 parlours, 8 bedrooms, a community room, toilets and bathroom. It also had a side Chapel where people came into Mass during the weekdays. There was no extension to the Convent, only a shed attached to the Convent was converted into a laundry.
Tiernea, as part of the Gaeltacht, was fully an Irish speaking place, so everything in the school was done through Irish, except English, which was taught as the second language. Siur Benin, Sr. Maire and Sr. Treasa, the founding sisters set to work, grappling with the difficulty of language. Although well versed in 'Book Irish', the spoken language must have been fairly daunting. To the pupils they seemed very unusual— ‘Bhi siad cosuil le dream as Mars', was how a past-pupil, now in his eighties, de¬scribed them. The nuns supplied cocoa and builin agus subh at lunch hour, a big incentive towards school attendance. Not every pupil however came willingly. A mother complained to Sr. Maire -"Bionn si ag ciceail agus ag blastail ar maidin."
The first National School had been opened in 1889. A new school was built and opened in 1949. The new school was a 3-teacher school and had roughly 100 children on Roll. This increased in the 1950s and an extension was begun in 1957 - one classroom and toilets.
Over the years other sisters came and went, working hard to build up the school. Two who became more or less perma¬nent fixtures were Sr. Rois and Sr. Alcantara. Their knowledge of the needs of the people was deep and sympathetic. Long before the concept of "Option for the Poor" became an in-word for religious, they lived it everyday. They visited the homes of the sick, the needy and bereaved de shiuil cos, often bringing food and clothing, under cover of darkness. Ceol and singing were Alcantara's speciality.
In 1946, Scoil Mhuire le Tios was set up to offer vocational education to teenage girls who had no other opportunity for second-level Education. The Nuns and Clergy had to sell the idea to the people who were used to seeing the young people go off in the boat, the ‘Bád Bán Anoir’ to work in the big cities of Eng¬land. The Sisters spent endless time ag stocail from house to house until finally they had sufficient numbers to begin. The usual voca¬tional subjects were taught, with an emphasis on Domestic Economy. At the time of writing (2007) Sr. Rita O'Toole, one of the first teachers, was the only surviving member of the staff of Scoil Mhuire. Fondly remembered and often mentioned by past pupils was Sr. Re¬gis, the Muinteoir Tis who gave them a new insight into cookery and housekeeping methods.
Scoil Mhuire became a centre for Adult Education when night classes were introduced for adults. Here were ceol agus craic as well as Arts and Crafts. Sadly, because of dwindling numbers, Scoil Mhuire closed in 1956, but in 1959 Mean Scoil Nano Nogla was opened in Carraroe by the Presentation Sisters. Thus began a new era in edu¬cation for Muintir na nOilean.
Additions to the Primary School consisted of one large classroom and indoor toilets; this work began in 1957 and was completed in 1958.
Other Ministries consisted of Cookery classes and Craft classes which took place at night time during the Winter months in the old teachers residence which was called “Teach Muire”. Prayer meetings were also held there.
The closure of the Convent took place on 31st of September 2006; the last Sister teaching in the school had retired and there was no other Sister to replace her. It was very expensive to maintain the Convent and grounds for just two people and no other Sisters would come to Tiernea as they felt it was too isolated and they wanted to be nearer a town. The Convent was gifted to the Archbishop for the use of the diocese. Priests are making use of it by bringing groups of young people there during the week and at weekends. It is expected that the facility will also be used for Faith Development. It is in the very early stages yet. The priest in charge has said that it would take two years to develop the project.
Other interesting information about the closure of the convent in Tiernea lies in the fact that the people of the area, got a great shock when they heard that the convent was closing and the Sisters leaving, and they, the parishioners gave the Sisters a great send-off - they invited back all the Sisters who ever lived or taught in the school. They had a beautiful Mass arranged at 6.00 p.m. on the 6th July and a lovely mean in the “Gailf Mara” Hotel in Anachmhean.
1898 - Excerpt from report on the Ethnography of Gorumna in Co. Galway by Charles Browne M.D. 30th Nov. 1898: Gorumna Island mostly consists of rock and moor, interspersed with rocky tracts of bare granite. Studded here and there with large boulders of granite. Vegetation scanty and poor. Soil thin and unproductive. Few trees or shrubs. Were it not for the numberless cabins which dot the face of the island, one could hardly believe the place to be inhabited.
The first National School in Tir an Fhia was opened in 1899, although a Hedge School had existed since 1826. An Inspectors' Reports noted the following:
One wonders how improved the situation was 44 years later when in 1935 Fr. McHugh P.P. invited the Presentation Sisters to take over the school in Tir an Fhia. Among the benefits he hoped the sisters would bring was continuity and permanence to the teaching staff. Young teachers sel¬dom stayed long because of the isolation and the lack of suitable ac¬commodation.
I was delighted to be sent to teach for one term in Scoil Thir an Fhia in 1952. My pupils must have been amazed at my Gaeilge, or rather my lack of it and I in turn was fascinated to hear the lovely "liofacht cainnte" of the Baby Infants who knew no word of Eng¬lish. Before long 1 knew the meaning of "Is mor an sport e or " ta se tinn i gconai" or Nil aon fhonn orm! And the classical excuse "Fath ar bith".
1990 found me back again in Tir an Fhia for what turned out to be a pleasant and relaxed seven years, during which time I helped in the school and accompanied Sr. Kathleen in visitation of the sean daoine. One young lad in school to whom the learning of Maths was a nightmare gave me a lesson both in observation and language. He spotted a man taking "the two sides" on the road outside and in¬formed me that ‘Ta se siud caochta’. ‘Caochta?’, I answered, ‘Nil aon speaclai air’. ‘Ah, caochta le fuisci’ he said, wondering at my stupid¬ity [ed. The man was ‘blind drunk’!].
Visitation: At the beginning the Sean Daoine (the elderly) were just names on a list sup¬plied us by the Sagart (Priest) but bit by bit we put faces with names and addresses with faces. Some lived alone often at the end of winding pot-holed little roads in very isolated areas. They welcomed the visitor, a listening ear for their stories of the past when times were hard and scraping a living was a major problem. Many had experi¬enced the Bad Ban Anoir [ed. The emigration boat]. They seemed happy and contented with their lot and their lovely Gaeilge and neat turn of phrase was a joy to listen to. We heard about the advice given by a father to his only son facing off to Huddersfield — "Na dean dearmad riamh ar an Mhaighdean Ghlormhar Beannaithe".
Nan a'tSagart recalled her school days — ‘Fuaireamar neart obair bhaile [ed. We got lots of homework!] — Extension of Predicate and Enlargement of Object! Ailgeabar, Bhi an-ghrain agam ar x+y-6!’ Peige Brid Neill, a bright eyed, clear minded little nonagenarian known as "Mathair an Domhain" because of her many relatives, always had a smiling welcome and heaped blessings on us as we stood up to leave.
Scoil Thir an Fhia sa Milaois: Were the Cigiri Scoile [ed. School inspectors] of 1910, 1911 and 1924 to return to-day their eyes would open in surprise. The maps that mattered so much, and which were the only wall decoration, have long been replaced by the pupils’ own colourful artwork. Brightly coloured class room walls, matching window blinds and modern furniture all help to cre¬ate a happy atmosphere for work. Projectors, videos and computers vie for space in what was once "the seomra folamh". The "Mouse" is no longer the little creature peeping up through the floor boards! Parents are interested in their children’s progress and, realising the importance of education, are eager to help.
A striking proof of the good relationship that exists between the school, the parents and the past pupils was the “Comoradh 1826 - 2000” which was celebrated last August.