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Scoil Naomh Fionán Rennies, Belgooly, Co. Cork
Scoil Naomh Fionán Rennies, Belgooly, Co. Cork

History of Scoil Naomh Fionán


Scoil Naomh Fionán National School is situated between Nohoval Village to the west and Rocky Bay to the east, overlooking the sea on the south coast. Our school is co-educational and caters for 138 children from Junior Infants to 6th Class. The school has a long history in the area and is well embedded in the fabric of the locality.

The single-roomed Rennies Old National School was built during 1846 and 1847 in the townland of Ballinalougha. The school opened its doors in September 1847. From then until its closure in December 1963 many pupils and teachers passed through its doors. There was no electricity supply and there was a well for drinking water by the roadside.

A new school was built in the townland of Ballindeasig on land donated by Mr. George Jagoe and his wife Rebecca, both now deceased. The foundation stone was laid in 1962 and it was named Scoil Naomh Fionán na Reanna in memory of Saint Finian. In the 7th/8th century, according to legend and to reliable recorded witnesses, the monastic settlement at Nohoval founded by St. Finian of Co. Kerry had in its vicinity a round tower of at least one hundred feet in height, of which the stump was still in evidence in the 12th century. According to a booklet called “Around the White Tract Vale” published in 1910 by Fr. Patrick O’Neill P.P. of Tracton, “in the hamlet of Nohoval not long ago there stood the remains of what must have been a magnificent round tower which together with the little Catholic Church was dedicated to St. Finian”. The 13th December was the Patron’s feast day.

The Foundation Stone of Scoil Naomh Fionán was laid in 1962 and the school was opened in January 1964. The move to the new school was overseen by the two now retired teachers, Mrs. Nancy Murphy and Mrs. May Lyons. On the morning of the opening, as recalled by Mrs. May Lyons, there was huge excitement and the teachers were unable to open the window blinds. It was Liam Nunan’s first day at school and his father, the late Mr. Michael Nunan, kindly went home and brought back a ladder to reach the blinds and open them.

The new school was vastly different from the old one. It had two rooms and was modern and comfortable and furnished with new tables and chairs. The indoor toilets were a huge luxury and the playground was much bigger and had a shelter. The only trouble was with the fire which was difficult to get going!

Around 1967/68 Ballinaclashet National School closed and it’s pupils travelled by bus to Scoil Naomh Fionán. In 1971 a more child-friendly Primary School Curriculum was introduced. Art and Crafts became a popular subject and pupils enjoyed working on projects. Around this time too teachers were given the option of teaching through Irish or English. As the school population increased and chairs became scarce, some past pupils have fond memories of sitting on biscuit tins with a cushion on top in Junior Infants!!

A pre-fabricated classroom was erected to cope with rising numbers and a third teacher was appointed. In 1994 Scoil Naomh Fionán again became a two-teacher school. School numbers dwindled for a number of years. We were very fortunate to have a determined local community and a couple of forward -thinking Principals who, with staff support, became involved in developing the school. From 2000 when only 35 students were enrolled with two teachers employed, Scoil Naomh Fionán has seen steadily increasing enrolments.

In 2011/2012, we were very fortunate to secure a number of substantial grants to add two new classrooms to our school and to refurbish the old school. Our school is bright and open with modern classrooms and facilities enjoyed by students and staff alike. In 2015 we were sanctioned to set up a Special Class to cater for pupils with autistic spectrum disorder which opened on 1st September 2016.

Thanks to a number of grants, our school yard has been re-surfaced and a new soft play area is available to the younger children. Our basketball court was fully upgraded with a new surface, new hoops and new fencing all round. The children make use of the yard, soft play area and court every lunchbreak when weather permits.

In 2016 our Butterfly Class opened. This class caters for Autistic children. Also, this year another extension was granted. This was to replace a prefab and create a permanent classroom for our Butterfly Class. The following year our Cheetah Class (Senior support class for Autistic pupils) opened.

In August 2020, after a long project, our new extension opened. Now, for the first time, all classes were under the one roof. This was a very special achievement and it has meant a lot to have all the classrooms – Ladybird Class, Koala Class, Panda Class, Tiger Class and Lion Class all in the same building. In 2020 an astro-turf pitch was developed to the North of the school and a second soft play area was built outside Butterfly and Cheetah Classes.

In 2021 our numbers grew and we opened a sixth mainstream class. This class is called Zebra Class. Plans are currently underway to build a new classroom for this class.

Our school has a welcoming and friendly atmosphere. We encourage all our pupils to make the most of their talents and to enjoy school life. While our school has a Catholic ethos, we welcome different cultures, faiths and beliefs to our community. Our school is fortunate to have a hard-working Board of Management who continue the development of the facilities. Rennies Parent Association supports the school with enthusiasm and great goodwill is generated at many events, including the annual end of year barbecue.

On a daily basis, we strive to promote our pupils’ education experience by highlighting each child’s individual talents while continuing to build strong educational foundations. We encourage all our students to develop self-esteem and independence in a calm, ordered environment. We nurture and cherish all the pupils equally and promote personal responsibility and confidence.

Our pupils take part in many events and competitions each year including Sciath na Scol, the Credit Union Quiz, Discovery Primary Science, the Primary Science Fair in the RDS, Feis Maitiú, Cork Primary School Sports, Junior Entrepreneur Programme and many others. We have achieved four Green Flags and will soon embark upon the journey towards a fifth flag. We have also achieved an Amber flag which highlights how we are working on promoting mental wellbeing and ensuring our school is a healthy inclusive environment.

We are very proud of our long history in the area and extremely proud of our past pupils. While some have gone on to achieve accolades in various areas and levels, many have also remained working and living locally. Many current pupils have had parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents attend our school. Families newer to the area have helped our school in so many ways bringing fresh ideas and enthusiasm to many projects.


1962 - Founding stone laid
1964 - Rennies N.S. moves to new site as Scoil Naomh Fionán
1967/8 Ballinaclashet N.S. closes – pupils join Scoil Naomh Fionán
1980 - Courtyard built
1981 - School Band at Cór Fhéile na Scol
1980s - School uniform introduced
First Parents Association formed
1990 - Sam Maguire visit
1998 - May: School Open day first held (Mr. P. O’Brien)
1998 - Sciath na Scol – won hurling final
1998 - Christmas Pageant introduced by Mr. P. O’Brien
2000 - Shelter decorated for Millenium
2000 - ‘New’ prefab to cater for rising number of pupils
2007 - First Green Flag awarded
2008 - Heineken Cup visit
2009 - Second Green Flag awarded
2010 - Demolition of old prefab and shelter
2010/11- New extension and refurbishment
2011 - Official Opening
2016 – Butterfly Class opened and Fifth mainstream Classroom
2017 – Cheetah Class opened
2020 – New extension opened, Astro- turf pitch developed
2021 – Sixth Mainstream Classroom


1962 - 36 Pupils, 1 Teacher
1972 - 52 Pupils, 3 Teachers
1982 - 86 Pupils, 3 Teachers
1992 - 64 Pupils, 3 Teachers, 1 Part-time Learning Support/Resource
2002 - 58 Pupils, 3 Teachers, 1 Part-time Learning Support/Resource,
1 Secretary
2012 - 105 Pupils, 4 Classroom Teachers, 1 Resource Teacher,1 Part-time Learning Support Teacher,2 Special Needs Assistants, 1 Secretary, 1 Caretaker
2016 - 121 Pupils, 4 Classroom Teachers, 1 Resource Teacher, 1 Part-time
Learning Support Teacher, 2 Special Needs Assistants, 1
Secretary 1 Caretaker

2018 - 136 Pupils, 5 Mainstream Classroom Teachers, 2 Special Class teachers, 3 Special Education Teachers (SET), 7.5 Special Needs
Assistants 1 Secretary, 1 Caretaker, 1 Administrative Principal
2022- 148 pupils, 6 Classroom Teachers, 6 Mainstream Classroom Teachers, 2 Special Class teachers, 3 Special Education Teachers (SET), 7.5 Special Needs Assistants 1 Secretary, 1 Caretaker, 1 Administrative Principal

One interesting article we found was in relation to placenames. In 1938-39 the children of Rennies contributed to the Folk Lore Collection listing names of fields and lands around the pupils’ homes. We decided to check if these placenames had lasted to the present day so we asked our parents and grandparents. It was very interesting to see some of the placenames had indeed  survived. These names include: Scioból Cross, Rampear, Gleann Doimhin, The Barrack Cross, Bothar Glas, Jagoe’s Cross, The Barrack, The Lough, The Bound Ditch, The Lawn, The Big Hill, Clóisín, Droichead na nGabhar, The Top Field, The Seven Acre Field, The Bán Mór, Church Cross, The Ship field, Buaillín, The Mash, Clais Rua, The Laca, Pairc, A’ Cuísín, Bothar na Muca. In 1938 the children mentioned The White Gate. During our project, we discovered that the Cummins house is built in the field known as An Geata Bán!

In part of our project we looked at the Old Schoolhouse which was located near Nohoval village. We learned that it was opened in 1846 and that school life was very different to school life today. The furniture was very different and the school was heated by an open fire. Two boys had the job of gathering wood for the fire every day! 

During our research we got a great surprise when we heard that a past principal , Mr Summers had been shot in Nohoval. We tried to research this but we could not find any information about it. Then Mrs May Lyons told us that his name was actually Mr Michael Blanchfield. We found a listing for Mr Blanchfield in the Postal Directory of County Cork, Guys Cork Almanac 1907. 

In the early 1960’s the school moved to the present site in Rennies. The old School House became derelict until it was bought by Declan Collins in 2000.  Declan restored the building and converted it to a comfortable home. Declan was very kind to let pupils of Scoil Naomh Fionán use the house to film scenes for the short film "Janey Mary" for the FÍS project in 2006. It was lovely that the old schoolhouse still featured in school life in Scoil Naomh Fionán!

We also looked at local legends which were told to the children of the 1930’s. One such legend tells the story of a man called Daniel Dempsey who lived in Ballindeasig.  Each time he saw a mermaid they talked together. They got married and had one child. For two years they were married but one day she left with the child to live in the ocean. He never saw her again. This story was told by Kitty Kiely who heard the story from Tim Lyons.  Another story we read about a cow that came in from the sea to a poor woman who lived in Cusheen. A healthy calf was born to the cow every year and the woman had lots of milk. After twenty three years a visitor came to the house and tried to take the house. The cow went down to the sea and starting lowing until all twenty three calves were with the cow. They all went out to sea and were never seen again.   This story was told to Kathleen Kiely. Willie Lynch told Kathleen’s father the story. The above stories appeared in the Tracton Newsheet, June 1998.

Another part of our project was to interview past pupils and staff. Most of the people interviewed remember happy times spent in Rennies.  The classrooms were very different with chalkboards, benches and desks with inkwells. Some people even sat on crates when there weren’t enough chairs in the classroom!! The school uniform was introduced in the 1980’s and the crest on the jumper didn’t appear until 2001.  We learned people used to play hopscotch, rounders, soccer, basketball, hurling and football.  Games such as ‘What time is it Mr Wolf?’, ‘Tip the Can’, ‘Red Rover’ and ‘Breakthrough’ were played at break times.  One dad even said “Those were the days…”