The top prize in an All-Ireland history project competition has been won by Knockavilla NS in Dundrum
There was great excitement in the school when principal Eleanor O’Dwyer received word from the Department of Education that the Sixth Class project ‘Fr Matt Ryan and His Enduring Influence on the Parish of Knockavilla- Donaskeigh’ - had won a top prize.
Students at all levels of primary and post primary schools across the island of Ireland were invited to submit a project that identifies a particular event or person from the decade 1912 - 1922 and examines the impact of that person on their local area.
Over 180 projects were entered into the competition. The three best history projects in each province will receive prizes in the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin at the end of May. This means that there will be 12 winning projects in total. One of these 12 projects will be selected as the overall winner. All winning projects will be published online on the Scoilnet website.
Fr. Matt Ryan was Parish Priest of Knockavilla-Donaskeigh for 40 years from 1897 to 1937. Fr. Matt – or ‘The General’ as he was called - is famous in parish lore even today, and has had a very powerful influence on the area and its people. He was a patriot, a nationalist, an Irish language enthusiast, a stout supporter of education and an eloquent speaker who spoke out to support the small tenant farmer.
During their examination of Fr. Matt’s life and influence, the Sixth Class pupils, guided by their teachers Anne Dalton and Eleanor O’Dwyer, learned of his participation in the Land War, the national struggle, the revival of the Irish language, music and culture, and the furthering of education in the parish. Such was Fr Matt’s fame during his long life that when he died in October 1937 two future Presidents of Ireland – Seán T Ó Ceallaigh and Eamonn de Valera were among the thousands of mourners at his funeral in Knockavilla.