Rev. Fr. Matthew Clavin P.P. Longwood 1945-76.

Fr. Matthew Clavin was a native of Ballinamill, Streamstown, Co. Westmeath in the parish of Castletown-Geoghan. Son of Joseph and Mary (nee Farrell) Clavin Matthew Joseph was born 12th October 1891. His father’s occupation is given as farmer and miller. The Clavins purchased the property at Ballinamill in the early 1800s. Matthew was the oldest boy, there was an older sister Anna Maria, and younger brothers and sisters – Patrick, Joseph, Josephine, William, Angela and Madeline. His sister, Josephine, died in Tullamore Hospital in 1949. His father died in 1939 and his mother in 1950.

Matthew was educated at St. Finian’s Mullingar and Maynooth. In his early days Fr. Clavin was an excellent sportsman playing golf, handball, hurling and football. Ordained in 1920 he served in Rochfortbridge and Slane before his appointment as chaplain to the new National Army in 1922. Fr. Clavin blessed the first tricolour unveiled at Gormanstown after it was taken over by the Irish forces. In 1927 he served again in Slane and subsequently went to Delvin where he was a noted player of golf. In 1936 he was appointed Diocesan Catechist and served in Milltown 1944-45. In 1945 Fr. Clavin was appointed P.P. of Longwood in succession to Fr. John Gilsenan who had been transferred to Kinnegad parish. Fr. Clavin retired in September 1971 as Pastor Emeritius and lived in the parochial house in Longwood until his death on 26 June 1976 aged 84.

Photo: Clavin Family 1926 – Back: Joe, Willie, Josephine, Fr. Matthew, Middle Father, Mother, Fr. McCormack and front Lil and Josie.    

Work in Longwood Parish

A new organ was installed in Longwood Church in 1945. The interior of the church was re-plastered in 1946.  A native of Longwood, Most Rev. John Kyne, was appointed bishop of Meath in 1947 and he was welcomed at Longwood by Fr. Clavin. Later that year a crozier was presented to bishop on behalf of his native parish. The exterior of the church was re-plastered in 1948 and a new wall erected  to replace the north-west wall, a new apse was installed in the sanctuary and a new sacristy was built.

The church was re-dedicated on the feast of St. Thérèse, 3 October, 1949 by Bishop Kyne. The cemetery was also consecrated on the same day.  In 1969 a new heating system was installed in the church. In 1973 plans for a new parochial house were agreed by Fr. Clavin and the construction was completed in June 1975.

Work in Killyon Parish In 1949-51 Killyon church was renovated but soon afterwards it was decided to erect a new church. A local student, James Fehilly, was commissioned by Very Rev. M. Clavin, to design a new church for Killyon. His revolutionary design was accepted by Father Clavin. The new church was built by direct labour. The parishioners dug the foundations; mixed and poured the cement; made the concrete blocks; attended on the tradesmen; took care of the drainage work and carried the materials to the site; all the work being voluntary.  

The first sod on the site was cut on 18th April, 1954. On the day the putting in of the foundations commenced, eighty of the parishioners were on the job, and there was a daily average attendance of three or four. The rate of progress was decided by the flow of funds. The completed building, including the furnishing, cost less than £16,000. Its estimated that if the work had been carried out by contract the cost would have been in the region of £30,000.  

Even the organ was bought and paid for—by the children of Killyon —as a result of a weekly school raffle organised by Mrs. Fehilly for prizes presented by adult parishioners. The church was solemnly blessed by the Bishop of Meath, Most Rev. Dr. John Kyne, and dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption in March, 1957.

Vocational School

In 1947 Fr. Clavin bought two Nissan huts for £160. One was erected  beside the National School  in Killyon and the second across the road from the Longwood National School on a plot of ground rented from Gus Foran.  Fr. Clavin then approached Paddy Byron, the head of Meath V.E.C  to develop a vocational  school at Longwood. Liam Carey was appointed to conduct classes in Drawing and Woodwork. On three afternoons per week boys undertook classes and then two evenings a week Carey gave night classes in Killyon and Longwood. Mrs. T. Herbert organised classes for girls from 5.00 to 7.00 and then night classes from 7.00-9.00 for adults in crafts, needlework and cookery.

Fr. Matthew Clavin P.P. Longwood and Meath Vocational Education Committee founded the school in 1952. Initially the school catered only for girls but in 1956 boys were enrolled in the school. In 1957 an exhibition of finished work was held by the students of Longwood Vocational School.  The exhibition was divided into three sections, domestic science, wood work and building construction and general commercial subjects. The display was officially opened by Very Rev. M. Clavin, P.P., Longwood, who presented Department of Education certificates gained during the year in the school curriculum subjects. Addressing the assembly of parents and pupils, Father Clavin paid tribute to the exceptionally high standard attained in the short life of five years.P. Hayes was appointed teacher of Woodwork and Building in 1956. A new wooden pre-fab was added on to the existing structure.Classes were held in many outlying districts.

Longwood Vocational School Nissan Huts

In 1966 the school moved into new accommodation on a two-acre site of parochial land. The school was renamed St. Fintina’s Post Primary School in memory of a nun by that name, who had a nunnery in Clongiffen. In Longwood the first significant increase in enrolment occurred in 1963, which coincided with the beginning of the new regulations concerning entry to apprenticeships. The new school was completed and opened in September 1966.  

Colaiste Clavin opened

With the introduction of free education, two prefabricated classrooms had to be erected in 1967. By 1982 there were seven prefabricated classrooms in use at Longwood Vocational School and an extension was planned. Longwood Vocational School commenced a Leaving Certificate course in 1970.

Construction of a new school to be named Coláiste Clavin commenced in July 2015 on the site adjacent to the primary school. It is fitting therefore that Fr. Clavin be honoured by remembering his name in the title of the new school. The building has been designed by Jackie Carroll of McCarthy O’Hora Architects, Portlaoise and is a very modern design with a number of unique architectural features which will fit naturally into the surrounding landscape. The contractors are Ganson Engineering based in Balbriggan.

Fr. Clavin at 1975 Senior Citizens Party Photo thanks to Gerry Keogh, Clongiffen. Back Row Left to right: Jimmy Murphy, Mary Murphy, Pat Murtagh, Jimmy Mullally, Nicholas Leonard, John Giles, Agnes Rochford, Tom Foran, Josie Farrell?, Patsy Dargan, Marie Murtagh, Katty Murtagh, Barney Keogh, Julia Flynn. Front Row – left to right: Maura Campbell, Finian Campbell, Rose Corrigan, Fr. Clavin, Peggy Cusack, Fr. Carberry, Sissy (Ann) Eivers, Maeve and Gerry Keogh.

Opening of Colaiste Clavin 2019

SOURCES: Meath Chronicle, Westmeath Examiner, Olive C. Curran History of the Diocese of Meath 1860-1993 (Mullingar, 1995); Longwood ’84; Thomas Stack, A Case Study of a small Vocational School in County Meath in the Context of Major Educational and Demographic Change (1995, unpublished).

With thanks to Rev. Fr. Michael Kilmartin, Bishop Michael Smith, V Rev Joseph Clavin, PP, Tom Stack, Chaplains Office, Department of Defence, Maura and Tom Maguire.