Our Lady’s Secondary School is a Voluntary Catholic Secondary School operating according to the traditions of the Sisters of Mercy. As such we are a holistic centre of development and learning where each person is special and treated as such.
We, the staff and students, enjoy working together to realize our full potential in a healthy, safe , stimulating and friendly environment where the atmosphere is one of mutual respect, cooperation and challenge. Christian community is our heritage and goal, the Good News of the Gospel is our story.
Our Lady’s Secondary School, Castleblayney, Co. Monaghan
Our Lady’s Secondary School which sits on a hilltop overlooking the town of Castleblayney has a long and proud tradition of excellence in the field of holistic education which started with the Mercy Sisters and continues to this day through the efforts of a committed and dedicated lay staff. It is a school embedded in Mercy tradition which lives out the CEIST Charter Values on a daily basis.
As a CEIST school Our Lady’s Secondary School is Catholic in character, inclusive in its intake and comprehensive in its curriculum. Our Lady’s reflects the legacy of Catherine Mc Auley, founder of the Mercy Order and the values of the Gospel. Our Lady’s is especially mindful of the disadvantaged and those with special educational needs and indeed the three Special Needs Classes form an integral and much valued part of our school community. In line with our Mission Statement ‘Our Lady’s Secondary School is a Voluntary Catholic Secondary School operating under the trusteeship of CEIST according to the traditions of the Sisters of Mercy. We, the staff and students, enjoy working together to realise our full potential in a healthy, safe, stimulating and friendly environment where the atmosphere is one of mutual respect, cooperation and challenge. We take a holistic approach focusing on the wellbeing and development of each individual socially, culturally and academically. Within our school community, each student is treated equally. All are considered uniquely talented, with effort valued as much as excellence. On a day-to-day basis, the Christian message inspires everyone in the school to be charitable, inclusive and understanding’
In 1905 three Mercy sisters arrived in Castleblayney by train with the intention of setting up a school in the town. They had come in response to a request from the people of Castleblayney, who had no educational opportunities for girls at that time. The Sisters began a Primary School in 1912 and in 1918 Scoil Mhuire Secondary School was opened in the current Art Room building. In 1962 the original two storey building was opened and the school began to offer facilities for girls who wished to board. The upstairs of the main building housed the dormitories. The school continued to offer boarding facilities up until 1974. In 1971 Our Lady’s Secondary School came into being through the amalgamation of Scoil Mhuire and the Boys Secondary School, St Mary’s. The President of St Mary’s, Fr Frank McKenna, and staff John Gallen, Frank McQuaid and Sean Glynn all transferred to Our Lady’s and Fr McKenna became the first Principal of the new school, a position he held until 1974.In 1974 Sr. Margaret Lyons became Principal. In 1975 the lower pre-fabs were built and in 1979 the Gym was opened and in 1980 the GPA and surrounding classrooms were built.In 1988 Mr John Gallen was appointed Principal and at this stage plans were well underway for the building of a new extension on account of the ever increasing numbers attending Our Lady’s. This extension, consisting of 5 classrooms, a Demonstration Room, a Biology Laboratory, 2 Home Economics Rooms, a Construction Studies Room, a Technical Graphics Room, 2 Computer Suites, a staff room and office space was completed and opened for use in September 1999. As part of that development, the original school building (1918) was refurbished and turned into the school library. The Architects for the project were Grafton Architects, Dublin and their design won an award from the Institute of Architects, Ireland. In 1993 a brand new Concert Hall with all the ancillary facilities was opened by President Mary Robinson. Three further classrooms were included in this project which was largely funded by the Staff and Parents’ Association by way of a £100 ticket draw which raised the amazing sum of £167,000. During the 1990’s several new programmes such as the Junior Certificate Schools Programme and the Leaving Certificate Applied Programme were introduced to the school curriculum. The Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme came into being around that time and the Transition Year Programme was introduced in 1998. Because the Transition Year established a 6 year cycle for all students in Our Lady’s it is interesting to note that, for the first time in the history of the school, there was no Leaving Certificate class in 2000. The school also provided a Secretarial Course and all of the above existed to complement the traditional Junior and Leaving Certificate Programmes.
In 2002 Mr Gerard McGuill was appointed Principal of Our Lady’s and in October 2005 the all weather pitch was replaced with a state of the art floodlit all weather pitch, this was a catalyst for the notable increase in the schools participation and success in Gaelic Games for boys and girls. Our Lady’s continued to go from strength to strength with outstanding curricular and extra- curricular success highlighted by numerous academic scholarships and notable provincial and national titles in GAA, Basketball and Music. In 2014 Mr Eddie Kelly was appointed Principal. Mr Kelly, a native of Castleblayney, is the first past pupil to hold this position. In September 2015 the number of pupils in Our Lady’s Secondary School exceeded 700 for the first time and the school was allocated a second Deputy Principal by the Department of Education and Skills. In September 2016 Mr. Darren Bishop was appointed as Deputy Principal, joining Mr. Eddie Kelly and Ms. Jane Treanor in the Senior Leadership and Management Team. In 2022 student numbers exceeded 800 and to cater for the increased numbers, in 2023 the school opened a new 15 classroom extension consisting of 11 general classrooms, a Technology Room, 2 Science Laboratories and an Art Room. As part of the work on the new extension the existing floodlit astro turf pitch was replaced with an up to date 4G surface.
As a school we pride ourselves on the strong relationships that exist between our enthusiastic students, supportive parents/guardians along with the professionalism and dedication of our staff to ensure a holistic education for all our students. We offer a rich, wide and varied curriculum which provides our pupils with a range of subjects that meets the learning needs of all our students. Our Lady’s students have performed to a consistently high standard in State Exams since 1971 with a very impressive number progressing to a wide range of third level courses, apprenticeships and training programmes. One Our Lady’s student, Martina Kerr, was placed first in the 1991 Leaving Certificate Home Economics. Each year a large number of Our Lady’s students are awarded Entrance Scholarships, based on their Leaving Certificate results, to their chosen college (UCD, UCG, Maynooth, Trinity College, DCU), an acknowledgement of the excellent learning and teaching taking place in Our Lady’s. In recent years Sports Scholarships have been introduced by many colleges, with Our Lady’s students securing many more than would be expected. In 2008 two National Scholarships were introduced (Naughton Scholarships and JP McManus All Ireland Scholarships). These very prestigious awards are based on a student’s Leaving Certificate results and intensive selection processes. There is a small and limited number of scholarships awarded each year. Here again Our Lady’s students have exceeded all expectations with fourteen recipients since 2010, another testament to the dedication of our teachers and the hard work and commitment of our students. Our Lady’s students, both individuals and groups, have always been extremely active in co-curricular activities receiving many prestigious awards across the Arts, Literature, Music, Business/Enterprise, the Sciences and the Environment. Our Lady’s was well ahead of current thinking and actions in Environmental Awareness receiving our first Green Flag in 2005 and being one of the first schools in the country to reach seven Green Flags in 2017. Special Environmental Awards were received by Our Lady’s students in 1998 (ESAT Telecom Senior Environmental Award) and 2002 (Volvo Young Environment Award). The Business/Enterprise area has also had its share of national recognition beginning with the National Enterprise Award in 1993 and more recently from success in the 2012 Central Bank Generation Euro Competition, the 2018 European Parliament Euroscola Competition as well as success in the Young Economist of the Year competition in 2015, 2019, 2020 and 2022. In 2018 a group of Transition Year Students were placed first in Ireland and went on to participate in the World Mock Law Trials in New York City. In the area of ICT a Transition Year student Mai Witthoff was placed first nationally in a Microsoft Office exam and she represented Our Lady’s and Ireland in the MOS Four Nations Competition final in London on June 14th 2019.
Our students have always excelled at Art and Literature receiving National Awards as far back as the 1987 Europe at School Art/Essay Competition winning again in 1990, 1991, 1996 and 1999. National recognition also came in the form of the National Texaco Art Award in 1980, the National SIPTU Art Award in 1991, the Ronan Keating Christmas Card Competition in 2002, the Coca Cola’s Form and Fusion All Ireland Design Awards in 2004 and the CEIST Art Competition in 2015. Our Lady’s students have received Credit Union Art Awards at local, regional and national levels on an annual basis for many years. Castleblayney is synonymous with music and musical traditions with many of the town’s sons and daughters performing on the national and international stages. We in Our Lady’s have played our part adding to this story. Among the outstanding awards bestowed on Our Lady’s students are World Titles at the internationally renowned Llangollen Eisteddfod Festival in 2008 (Fuinneamh), 2012 and 2019 (Spraoi). At National level our students have won the Walton’s Music for Schools Competition in 2016 and Showchoir in 2017 and 2018. Our biannual school musical that is now held in the Iontas Theatre is always one of the main highlights on our school calendar.
Science is another area where Our Lady’s Students have excelled and received recognition at national level with Young Scientists Category Awards in 1976, 2003, 2015, 2020 and 2021. In this area two major achievements stand out. The first is the success of pupil Mary Kelly in winning the National Young Scientist of the Year Award in 1976. Mary subsequently went on to win the European Title. In 2015 Christopher Carragher emulated Mary’s success by winning the National Sci-Fest Competition going on to represent Our Lady’s and Ireland at the Intel World Science Fair in the United States where he was presented with an award recognising his innovative achievements. Science Olympiads also brought National and International successes to our students with Irish Olympiad medals in 2005, 2009 and 2011 and European Union Olympiad medals in 2007 and 2010.
We offer a wide variety of extra curricular activities and encourage our students to participate as widely as possible in activities outside the classroom. The amalgamation in 1971 allowed Our Lady’s to enter both boys and girls in basketball competitions. This decision has benefited generations since as Our Lady’s has achieved some very memorable accolades on the basketball courts the length and breadth of the country. The school has featured in many regional finals and experienced success on the national stage in 1989, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2012. In 1993 the Senior Boys Basketball Team had the honour of representing Ireland at the World School Basketball Championships in Athens. Over the past fifty years a number of our students have also had the opportunity and honour of representing Ireland at various grades.
GAA for both boys & girls has been an integral part of our school over the past 50 years with success achieved at the highest level in both boys and girls GAA at Ulster Schools Level. At boys’ level the school experienced success at provincial level in 1985, 1991, 1994, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2019. In recent years this success was more than matched by the girls with success at provincial level in 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2019 with our girls now competing at A grade in all competitions at provincial level. At national level the U/16 Boys competed in the All Ireland final in 1988 and in 2005 the Senior Boys captured the All Ireland title. In 2023 all our boys teams competed at A level in Ulster Schools competitions as we competed in the prestigious Mac Rory Cp for the first time. The talent, commitment and leadership skills of our players has been recognised at county level with many of our players progressing through development squads to represent Monaghan at senior level. In the past decade alone, we have had 5 boys’ captain minor teams and 3 girls captain their minor teams.Our school has had notable success with player representation on the prestigious Ulster Colleges All-Star teams with numerous boys & girls from the school selected to represent the province. In the Ladies All Star team the school has had an outstanding 22 Ulster Ladies All Stars in the past 10 years.
Hurling and Camogie increased in popularity with notable wins for our Camogie team in 2018 at Ulster level. Rugby, Soccer, Volleyball and Hockey are also part of Our Lady’s sporting repertoire increasing participation and bringing great satisfaction to teachers and students. Individual sports such as Track & Field, Cross Country, Equestrian and Swimming have also seen our students excel at district, provincial and national level with many fine athletes achieving excellence in their events. Our sports facilities are constantly being upgraded to cater for the diverse and evolving sporting needs of our students. In the summer of 2023 the school opened a fitness suite for students and staff. We have been fortunate to have access to superb sporting facilities in the local area thanks to the generosity of various sports groups and organisations.
When the Sisters of Mercy first opened the doors of the secondary school to five/ six girls over 115 years ago I don’t think they could ever have imagined the day when over 800 boys and girls and over 70 staff would continue their work. The seeds were sown in their hard work, vision and determination. As students and staff, we have inherited not only their land and buildings but also their extremely rich values and traditions. It is these traditions and values together with our ethos which makes us the successful school that we are. All of the work that we do in our school is underpinned by a culture of care, compassion and support to all members of our school community and Our Lady’s is a place where endeavour is valued as much as excellence.
These are just some of the successes and achievements of our school community, however it is the energy, enthusiasm and generosity of all our students both inside and outside the classroom which has made Our Lady’s a centre of care and excellence and a really special place since 1971.As a school we are incredibly proud of all that our students have achieved but more importantly we are equally, if not more, proud of the type of people our students are and the contributions they have made to society.Looking to the future we will continue to develop and improve school facilities and we are committed to supporting our students and providing them with as many positive experiences as possible inside and outside the classroom. As a school we look forward to building on the rich tradition that exists in our school and adding many exciting new chapters to the history of Our Lady’s Secondary School.