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Saint Helens Jr School, Limetree Ave, Robswalls, Portmarnock, Co. Dublin

History of St. Helen's JNS

In the early 1970s, education was a big topic for discussion among many parents of young children who had moved to a growing Portmarnock. Public meetings were held in the old North Coast Hotel, now White Sands Hotel. In answer to the demand for a new primary school at the northern end of the parish, Saint Helen’s school was founded in 1977 starting with two junior infant classes, ably taught by Bill Lowe, principal and Paddy Griffin, deputy principal. The school was housed in two small prefabs in the school yard of St Marnock’s School, Strand Road.

The original site for the permanent school building was the present Dunnes Stores site. Dunnes Stores owned the present Saint Helen’s site and a swap was agreed to give the school more land and to give Dunnes a more central location in the community. 

The first chairperson of the Board of Management, Father Richard Philips, named the school Saint Helen’s, as the new school would be built in the Portmarnock townland of Saint Helen. Saint Helena was considered a saint in the Eastern and Western churches. She was credited after her death with having discovered fragments of the True Cross and the tomb in which Jesus was buried at Golgotha. Father Philips particularly liked the connection with neighbouring Malahide parish of Saint Sylvester’s. Saint Sylvester converted and baptised Constantine, son of Saint Helena and was the first Roman Emperor to become a Christian. 

September 1978 saw the school move to Limetree Avenue, housing five classes in prefabs. It was surrounded by fields. By September 1979 the school had grown to 9 classes. There were over three hundred children enrolled. There was no phone, no secretary, a dodgy duplicator, a dodgy electricity supply and old fashioned storage heaters that regularly failed. In spite of these shortcomings, the school flourished with great support from the parent body. Up until 1980 the children did not wear a school uniform. The parent body was in favour of one, and Bill Lowe chose navy and blue as the school colours to remind Paddy Griffin that the Dubs beat Kerry in 1977. Brendan Hennigan designed the school crest which shows a girl and a boy holding hands and the torch of knowledge shining on them. 

The permanent building was ready for the beginning of the 1979-80 school year and there was great excitement moving in. The school now comprised of fourteen classes. By September 1981 the senior school was founded but continued to be housed in the present Junior School building for another year. Pat Healy was appointed principal of the Junior School and Bill Lowe became principal of Saint Helen’s Senior School. 

Over the following years, the school continued to flourish under the guidance of Pat Healy as principal and Brendan Hennigan as deputy principal. The numbers of pupils continued to grow, necessitating the erection of two prehabs in the schoolyard in 1985. Then over the next few years as the building of houses stopped and the children of the locality grew older, the numbers declined somewhat. The building of the new estates Dal Riada and Torcaill soon provided new pupils, restored the numbers and once again the school was full. 

The Cabhair Centre,  catering for the educational needs of children with autism was established in 2000 and added greatly to the service that the school has given the community. 

Saint Helen’s School has flourished under the guidance of its principals, Bill Lowe, Pat Healy, Brendan Hennigan, Miriam Dowdall and the present one, Lorna Lavin. It has lost members of staff who gave great service to the school and its community, Angel O’Neill, Pat Healy, Audrey Ruane, Lorraine Cormican and Brendan Hennigan. Ar Dheis Dé go raibh a n-anamacha dílse.