The building process of the current school in Garryhill began in 1935 and the official opening of the new school took place the following year when Fr. Breen C.C. Bagenalstown said the Mass at the official opening. But education in Garryhill goes back much further and synonymous with Garryhill National School is the ‘Ryan’ family. Originally there had been a National and Agricultural school in Garryhill at the site of the Walsh family home now. Loughlin Ryan who had been a hedge school master in the 1840’s (before Lord Bessborough of Garryhill House built a school for him), taught there until he retired in 1886. He was awarded several prizes in agriculture such as best cultivated tillage farm in 1854 presented by the Idrone Farming Society, also best root crop in 1854 and again in1856 both presented by Co. Carlow Agricultural Society. Loughlin’s son Malachy taught in Garryhill and also taught Greek and Latin to several students who wished to study for the Priesthood. Malachy’s son John taught there for only one year but sadly died and Malachy’s other son, Patrick also taught in Garryhill but he taught in the new school which was built a short distance away form the old one. He married Cecilia Kealy from Kilanerin Co. Wexford also a teacher who taught in Garryhill until her retirement. Patrick and Cecilia Ryan built their house in 1937 on the site of the old National and Agricultural school.
Cecilia came from a very musical family and, in 1943, when prompted by a question from a school inspector she formed a flageolet band. She selected 16 pupils to teach and soon the children were playing at every concert and outing all over Carlow and Wexford and marching tunes, jigs reels and hornpipes were no bother to them. The mothers made uniforms and the band members wore green cap and blazer with cream skirts and trousers. The banner was green and gold with ‘Foireann Cheoil Garrdhachoille’ embroidered on it. The band was invited to play on the children’s hour on Radio Eireann and when they performed time stood still in the local area with everyone glued to the radio. Local cars provided the transport to Dublin and the excitement was only terrific – the pupils not only got the thrill of being on radio but they also got the opportunity to climb ‘Nelson’s Pillar’ go shopping in ‘Woolworths,’ had tea in the ‘monument café’and the sights of Dublin were a sight to behold for a group of country children that had not even electricity at the time.
In 1983 Sandra Ryan, granddaughter of Cecilia and Patrick and a great great grand-daughter of Loughlin came to teach in Garryhill where she spent two and a half years before moving into educational research. Sandra Ryan left Garryhill in 1986 exactly one hundred years after her great, great grandfather Loughlin Ryan retired from Garryhill in 1886!
Apart from the Ryans many other great teachers and Principals have served Garryhill N.S. well, right up to the present day but one unusual story is worth mentioning. In 1997 a Garryhill School Reunion took place and in the souvenir booklet that was produced for the occasion, a past pupil, Gerry Fenelon, Coolnacuppogue who had gone to school in Garryhill in 1914 told the following story of a teacher in Garryhill called Mr. O’ Sullivan from West Cork. ‘I have a very clear recollection of an incident that happened one particular day. The postman arrived at the school with a letter for Mr. O’Sullivan and when he read the letter he broke down and cried and he told the class that his family home in West Cork had been burned by the Black and Tans and his two brothers had been arrested by the English Government.’
Many past pupils of Garryhill have made their mark locally and globally but one past pupil returned to his alma mater for inspiration. Richie Kavanagh got the idea for his song ‘Aon Focal Eile’ from his school days in Garryhill N.S. and the school was featured on his videos. The song was a No. 1 hit in the Irish charts for seven weeks and Richie was presented with an IRMA award and appeared on numerous television shows and got the opportunity to appear on stage with such acts as ‘Spice Girls’ and ‘Boyzone’ He got the stage ‘bug’ from Mrs. Ryan who had him appear in a school concert in 1957 in Garryhill Hall.