Students at a West Cork secondary school are attempting to “get their teacher’s goat up” after enlisting the help of some unlikely caretakers.
Goats Billy, Ginger, Tuesday, Friday and the “two kids” were introduced to St Brogan’s Community College in Bandon this week as part of sustainability efforts at the facility.
The herd were hired to clear overgrowth in a portion of the school grounds to allow for the construction of an outdoor lunch area for students. It comes amid concerns that rapid expansion will significantly reduce outdoor space at the school.
It was initially thought the school would have to hire machinery to tackle the vast overgrowth. However, English and history teacher, Conor Enright, and school sustainability officer, Hugh Murphy, decided on an environmentally friendly alternative.
The four-legged caretakers are enjoying a new lease of life following their previous careers at Templebreedy cemetery in Crosshaven. They had been employed in the area to consume overgrowth obscuring headstones and boulders.
The idea was the brainchild of Fianna Fáil Councillor Audrey Buckley, who saw a similar initiative during a visit to Wales some years ago.
Conor Enright, who is from Crosshaven, came across the goats in the area towards the end of their tenure.
“St Brogans is growing massively and we are in the process of building two extensions,” he explained.
“We were worried that the kids wouldn’t have anywhere to go at lunchtime. There was a patch at the back of the school that was like no man’s land.
“Our plan was to get a machine to clear it, but I thought the goats would be more sustainable.
”When I contacted their owner she was the most amiable person. I was trying to work out how much they would cost but she told us they were ours for free and we could have them for as long as we needed.”
Students and staff are looking forward to enjoying the end result, Mr Enright explained.
“We would love to make a lovely lunch area with benches where students can eat their lunch,” he said.
“The kids love having the goats here and there are streams of students every day coming over to see them.
“They are getting selfies with the goats and are really enjoying having them here.”
Mr Enright added that the goats all have their own unique personality traits.
“Ginger is definitely the head honcho,” he said. “She’s the matriarch which helped when we were struggling to get them into the trailer.
“As soon as she got in they all just followed her lead.”
The school is now holding a competition to name the kids of the herd.
“The owner of the goats said we can have a competition to name the kids,” Mr Enright added.
“We’re asking the students to pick out the names they like because we like the idea of kids naming kids.
“Some of the names in the running so far include Messi, Jordan and Ronaldo. Our plan is to announce the winner on Good Friday.”
Mr Enright revealed that the goats are already working their way through much of the undergrowth on the school grounds.
“We’ve been watching them eating briars and wondering how their stomachs are coping,” he said.
”It would have been a lot more costly to get the machines down and we would have had to get rid of some trees in the process.
“It was important to us that the trees were preserved, and this has allowed us to do that,” he added, saying staff instantly warmed to the idea of introducing goats into the school.
“Our principal Helen Cadogan and vice-principals Derry O’Donovan and Teresa Vaughan loved the idea.
“I asked them early on if they were okay with it but I didn’t want to promise anything until I knew it was definitely happening.
“In recent days one of the smaller goats escaped,” Mr Enright revealed.
“Hugh and I were trying to corner them. I’ve no history in dealing with goats so I had no idea how to even lift him.
“All the students were watching us chasing after them and I’m sure they found it very entertaining.”
Meanwhile, Cllr Audrey Buckley, who forms part of the ‘Templebreedy SOS (Save Our Steeple)’ committee, said she is happy to see the goats move on to greener pastures.
“The goats did so much while they were with us.
“The graves here date back to the 1800s and there was one marking uncovered by the goats that hadn’t been seen for 100 years,” she added.
“We were even able to find the grave of one little girl who was the ancestor of a family that had no idea they had that connection. That little girl’s grave dated back to 1840.
“Hopefully, this will catch on in more areas,” said Cllr Buckley.
”It could also serve as a solution to all the gorse fires we are seeing of late, which have been devastating to wildlife locally.”