Despite there being a good level of economic activity at the beginning of the 18th cen-
turey there was much poverty. A significant sector of the population lived at subsistence
level and as the population increased this sector became alarmingly greater. The Penal
Laws of the 17th. century ensured the degradation and impoverishment of the people.
Laws were enacted in relation to Education, Religion, Property and Trades and
We are dealing in this article only with the laws which concerned education;
1 All Catholic schools were forbidden.
2 Catholics were not allowed to teach.
3 Catholics were not allowed to send their children abroad to be educated.
Rewards were on offer for information about individuals violating the laws.
The Catholic population were detirmined to obtain some form of education for their children by which they could ensure their cultural survival. Various ways of circumvent¬ing the laws were attempted.
Some wealthy Catholics sent their sons to schools on the continent and many hundreds of Irish youth got an education in this way. For the remainder they benefited from a sys¬tem of unofficial schools which went underground, i.e. they were conducted secretly.
These secretly run schools were conducted in huts, barns, kitchens or in the open air, when weather permitted - 'at the sunny side of a hedge1. Such schools became known as Hedge Schools.
Dr. John O'Donovan wrote as follows "when William O Donovan of Attateemore (his grand uncle) was a child, circa 1730, there was no Catholic school in the Barony of Ida, and he remained illiterate until he was 35 years of age, when, fired with the desire for learning, he went to school - a hedge school, along with his own children, William, John and Michael. Amidst the ridicule of his neighbours he learned to read and write. "It is painful, Dr. O'Donovan remarks, to have to allude to the laws which, at this period, brought the people of Ireland to this level"
The teacher and pupils met at some secluded place A boy was delegated to keep watch from a safe distance and if a stranger was seen the teacher was informed and the scholars dispersed for that day.1
Some schools appear to have acquired a good name and attracted scholars from a dis¬tance. In the majority of hedge schools reading, writing and arithmetic, the 3 rs., were the only subjects taught. Some however gave tuition in science, the classics and navigation and achieved high standards, going beyond primary education. Obviously much depended on the background and knowledge of the teacher.
With few exceptions the teachers were all men. Some had been studying for the priest¬hood and for whatever reason had discontinued their studies, others had been students to very successful teachers in other hedge schools. Some teachers taught school in the win¬ter months and worked with the farmers in summertime as school attendance dropped off due to the availability of farm work for the scholars. There were many variables.
The Hedge Schools were commercial ventures, - the teacher got what the pupils could afford to pay. The teachers who had achieved recognition as having a good school had good numbers of pupils and hence a better income. In some cases Catholic landowners showed a practical interest in the education of the children of their tenants and supported the establishment of the local school, maintained the structure and contributed to the salary of the teacher. In this parish two such schools existed, one in Ringville supported by Lady Esmonde2 and another in Gurteens which Mr. Patrick Power endowed.3
As the Penal Laws were relaxed the schools became more visible. The government took an interest in them as they were suspicious of their potential for political subversion. The numbers of schools and their condition was monitored.
In 1806 a commission was appointed to inquire into the state of education in Ireland.Various reports were issued and much material was collected. The returns from the last quarter of 1824 show that in total there were 11,823 schools throughout the coun¬try and they catered for 561,000 pupils.The total run by Catholic teachers was 8,000 and of these 7,600 were independent pay schools, i.e. Hedge Schools. The schools not run by Catholic teachers were under the control, and patronage, of one or other of the Protestant Societies, e.g. the Kildare Place Society. These societies received funding from the Government to help establish schools, to contribute in the running of them and to assist in the payment of the teachers. In 1831 this grant aid amounted to £30,000.
Local Hedge Schools
Information extracted from the Report of the
Slieverue: the building was of stone, lime and mortar, it cost £40 to build. It was a pay
The teacher was Daniel O Sullivan, Snr., a Roman Catholic. His annual pay amounted to
£15 and he had 80 pupils all of whom were Roman Catholic.4
Gurteens: the house was built of stone and clay and was thatched, it would cost £10 or £12 to build.
The teacher was Daniel O Sullivan, Jnr., he was R.C.. Mr. Power, referred to previously, paid £10 towards his salary and the children paid 2 shillings to 4 shillings and 4 pence per quarter. There was 120 Roman Catholic children in the school. Mr. Power intends to erect a new school.5
No record exists in the parish records of births, marriages or death of a Daniel O Sullivan. However a headstone in Slieverue cemetery indicates that a family of Sullivan is buried there. It gives the following information : erected by Margaret Sullivan in memory of her father, Daniel Sullivan, died Octr. 1837 aged 65 years, also her mother Mary Sullivan died Febry. 1859 aged 70, and her brother Daniel, died Feby. 17th. 1875 aged 66. The family address is not mentioned.
Ballincrea ;a miserable house rented at £1 per year. It was a pay school.
John Quinn was the teacher, he was R.C.. The pupils paid 2 shillings and 2 pence to 4
shillings and 4 pence per quarter.6
This name is not in parish records. A Quin family is buried in Slieverue cemetery. The
inscription includes a John Quinn who died in 1878 aged 58. The address of the family is
Karriganurra (Carriganurra); a poor house rented for £ 1 per year. A pay school.
The teacher was John Carroll, a R.C. The children paid 1 shilling and 8 pence to 4
shillings per quarter.7
No reference to him exists in parish records. A headstone in Slieverue cemetery has the
name J. Carroll, no other inscription.
Ringville: not referred to in the report. It is mentioned in Lewis's Topographical Directory of Ireland as the Esmonde school, a Lancastrian school. This system of education was promoted by Joseph Lancaster, an English educator. It was based on the monitorial sys¬tem in which the older pupils, called monitors, taught the younger ones. P.J. Dowling in his history The Hedge Schools of Ireland' acknowledges that Lancaster promoted the sys¬tem but states that this method was used in the Hedge Schools long before Lancaster's time.
Glenmore; the house was of stone, clay and mortar, it cost about £8 to build and was built by subscription.
The master was William Dunn, he was R .C. It was a pay school and the children paid 1 shilling and 8 pence to 4 shillings and 4 pence per quarter. There was 50 pupils, all R.C.8
There were 4 schools in the Ferrybank area.
Ferrybank (1): was a stone and lime building which cost £160.
Marianne Roycroft was the teacher, she was a member of the Established Church and had
59 pupils, 52 were R.Cs. and 7 were Church of Ireland. The school was attached to the
Kildare Place Society and the teacher received £10 per year from a Mrs. Nevins who also
built the school. The pupils also contributed to the pay of the teacher, the amounts are not
A Roycroft family have a burial plot in the Abbey Cemetery. William Roycroft died
1815, aged 27. No record of Marianne Roycroft.
No record in the Abbey Cemetery of a Nevins family.
Ferrybank (2): small cabin rented for 4 pounds and 10 shillings. It was a pay school.
Eliza Maxwell was the teacher, she was R.C. and had 30 pupils, 29 R.C. and one Church
Her income from the school was £10 per year.10
The Maxwell name does not appear in the parish records. However it does turn up in
Slieverue Cemetery. One Eliza Maxwell was buried there, the date of her death is given
as October 6th. 1852, aged 71 years. The headstone was erected in her memory by her
husband, Richard Maxwell of Waterford.
. & Snr. Infants: Tramore beach and playground on a day yet to be decided.
Ferrybank (3): this house cost £7 or £8 to build and was rented for 4 guineas per year. It was a pay school.
The teacher was Benjamin McDermott, he was R.C. and had 36 students, 34 R.C. and 2 C of I. The pupils paid 2 shillings and 2 pence to 3 shillings and 3 pence per quarter."
Christendom: this was a stone and lime building in good repair, it cost £60 to build. George Francis,a member of the Established Church was the teacher. His income was £16 including his stipend as sexton of the church. The number of pupils was not recorded. 12
In 1828 a select committee of the House of Commons studied the reports of the Commissioners of Irish Education Inquiry of 1825-27 and also the reports of the previous Royal Commission of 1807-12. As a result of their deliberations 'they passed a series of resolutions in favour of the establishment of a system of education in Ireland, in which no attempt should be made to influence or disturb the peculiar religious tenets of any sect or denomination of Christians'.
A grant of £30,000 was made available to the National Schools. This was not 'new money' but the redirection of the funding which had heretofore been paid to various Protestant socities for educational purposes.
The National System was strongly opposed by the Established Church who regarded proselytism as a duty. 13 Presbyterian opposition was even stronger. They resorted to violence, in some cases, to close National Schools. 14
It took years before the National Board was accepted by all.
Local communities were invited to apply to the Commissioners of Education for aid towards the payment of teachers salaries and for the supply of books and other equipment.
Application was usually made by the local Parish Priest or the local landlord, who may have already been supporting the school.
The application forms sought a considerable amount of information about the local area, the site and its ownership, the type of building available, who built it, if rent was payable, on whose behalf was the application being made, was it being made on the initiative of the teacher, what Society or group, if any, was supporting the application, were the clergy of the other religious denominations in the area consulted about the application, the names and locations of other schools in the general area and the distances to them.
It is evident that the Commissioners were anxious to be seen to adhere to the spirit of the new system introduced in 1831.
Application was made by Dr. Edward Walsh, PP, on April llth. 1840, it was received in Dublin on the 15th. 15
From the responses to the questions on the application form we learn the following : The population of the parish was given as 4,000, of whom 3,500 were 'of the poorer class'.
School location - it was situated in the church grounds, on the right of the path on the right as one approaches the church from the road. It is marked on the 1839 Ordinance Survey map. In responding to the question regarding ownership of the site Dr. Walsh stat ed 'not properly speaking on chapel ground, but is a leasehold belonging to parish dis trict from the leasehold on which chapel is built'.
School building - built of stone and mortar, slated, overall dimensions-60ft. long. 22ft. wide and 10 ft. high. It is divided into two rooms, 32 ft.by 18 ft. for boys, and 21 ft. by 18 ft. for girls. Built by local subscription and rent is not payable.
The application stated that there was no clergyman of any other denomination in the parish, hence the need to consult them did not arise
Regarding the query as to who or what group was promoting the application the PP stated that the request came from the parishioners. The Inspector added the comment 'Dr. Walsh has as his object that not a child in the parish should have an excuse not to be edu¬cated'. In reply to the question about other schools within 3 miles the following were mentioned:
• Kilculliheen N.S., one and a quarter miles;
• Ringville, Lady Esmonde's female school, two and a half miles, it is beside a boys
school in the same place but not actually in operation;
• Ballincrea, two miles.
None of the other schools which were in operation 15 years previously, in 1825, were mentioned. Can we conclude that they had been discontinued in the interim?
Operation of School
It was agreed that the policies and regulations laid down by the Commissioners would be adhered to, the principal of which was;
• all students would be free;
• the school would be open to all denominations;
• the school will be operate from 9am. to 3pm. daily;
• there will not be an interval but a break of half an hour may take place in the middle of
• Religious Instruction will be given by the teachers from 3 to 3.30pm;
• on Saturdays parish clergy will visit the school for instruction;
• the public may visit the school, can inspect the register, witness the mode of teaching
and see that the regulations of the school are faithfully observed. They cannot howev¬
er interfere with the management or interrupt the business of the school;
• the Manager agreed that a register of daily attendance will be kept and that weekly and
quarterly averages will be recorded,
• the inscription National School will be put up in a conspicious place on the building.
This was a condition that was strictly enforced. There are numerous instances in
Inspectors reports of the Manager being spoken to regarding the absence of, or the
poor condition of, the inscription on a building.16
Teachers: the Headmaster was Thomas Keeffe, aged 37 years and the Mistress was Ellen
Halligan aged 17 years.
The salary of each was £6 per 6 months, however payment was not very punctual. Salary
due on 31st. of March was paid on 28th. of May, while salary due on 30th. of September
was paid on 27th. of November.
Neither teacher was trained .or had previously conducted a school. Both were given the
highest moral recommendation by the Parish Priest and the inspector having examined
both was satisfied as to their competence.The inspector visited the school on 25th. of July 1840, a Saturday. There was 56 boys and 28 girls in attendance. The number on the roll for the previous quarter was 220 boys and 173 girls. The average attendance for the period was 128.5 boys and 85 girls. The Inspector comments, 'this is fictional as there is no documentation'.17
Boys School: Having been there throughout the famine period Thomas Keeffe died on
March 1st. 1851 aged 48 years.
His replacement was Patrick Hackett who was appointed on June 1st. 1851, he had been
teaching in Stoneyford.18
He was admonished in November for inaccurate accounting with a recommendation that
salary be withdrawn. He was dismissed from his post on February 1st. 1852.19
There followed a period of great instability for the school. During the next 7 years five
teachers were appointed to the position but all left, sometimes after a few months.
The names of the teachers were, Patrick Grace, Joseph Kennedy, W.H.Hayes, James
Corcoran, John Hayes.20
Patrick Hackett was reappointed as a junior teacher on 10th. January 1859 and remained
teaching until he reached retirement age on 31st. Match 1882. He was granted a pension
of £36 per year.21
On May 25th. of that year the Manager wrote to the Commissioners stating that he could
not get a replacement and that he had asked P Hackett to continue.22
Patrick Hackett died on June 11th. 1890, aged 70 and is buried in Slieverue.
His wife, Mary Hackett had died two months previously, on 21 st. April.
Girls School: Ellen Halligan left in 1845 and was replaced by E.Croake who took up her appointment in September. She was replaced by Mary Walsh who was appointed on August 25th. 1847. The school had been closed since December 1846. No reason was recorded for this lengthy closure, perhaps the famine had something to do with it. Mary Walsh left on December 14th. 1849 and throughout the 1850s there was a series of changes as there was in the boys school.
Catherine Hackett, daughter of Patrick Hackett, was appointed Junior Monitor on February 4th. 1861, and was appointed Senior Monitor on March 20th. of that year.23 On April 22nd. 1884 the Inspector reported that the state of the house was unsatisfactory and that the building of a new school would commence immediately.24 Though unfinished the new school was occupied on 15th. September, 1884 as the old building was now most unsatisfactory. The school was still in the hands of the contractor and the Manager was having great difficulty in having him get the job finished. The Manager was now Fr. John Walsh, Dr. Edward Walsh having long since, in 1846, become bishop of Ossory.
The cost of the new school was £531. There was a grant of 66%, i.e. £354 available and the local contribution was therefore £177.
The cost of the enclosing wall was £45/15s, again the grant was 66% and £30/10s was received.25
At this time the Inspector made a recommendation to the Manager that a teacher's resi¬dence be provided. The Manager agreed to the suggestion.26 The house was never built, instead the residence of the curate was given to the Principal Teacher.
The report of the Inspector on 13th. of February 1885 indicates that William Dowling was the Headmaster.
He had come from Attanagh, Co. Laois and in 1883, June 16th., had married Catherine Hackett who was now Mistress in the girls school.
Edmund Wall was a monitor in the boys school and on the day of the inspection there was 46 students in attendance.
In the girls school there were two monitors, Mary Ryan and Hannah Fitzgerald. The atten¬dance on the day was 49.
At one stage the Headmaster, William Dowling, was admonished for going home to lunch during the day and also for allowing the pupils to go home to lunch. On another occasion he was again reported for using 'unbecoming remarks' in addressing the Inspector!.
The salary of the Headmaster was related to pupil attendances and this seems to have been a consistent cause of complaint. William Cowling's salary had reduced considerably over the years from 1895 to 1900, viz.,
year ended March 31st. 1896 salary - £141/18/8
year ended March 31 st. 1897 salary - £139/12/4
year ended March 31st. 1898 salary - £126/19/10
year ended March 31st. 1899 salary - £123/8/3
year ended March 31st. 1900 salary - £118/11/2
Mr. Dowling strongly protested that the situation was most unjust. He pointed out that there had been considerable emigration from the parish, also that many children were kept at home for weeding in Summertime and that the stronger boys were employed as 'nip¬pers' or messengers on the construction of the two railways which were being constructed through the parish.27
There is no record that his complaints were listened to or his salary altered. William Dowling died on November 19th. 1906, aged 42 yrs. He is buried in Slieverue in the same burial plot as his father-in-law, Patrick Hackett.
Ringville: Grant application was made by Thomas H. Devereaux, Barrister and J.P., on 6th. July 1852.
The school had been in operation since about 1832.
The building , which was situated on the Castle Lane, was of stone and lime and was thatched.
It was 54 ft. long, 18 ft. wide and 9 ft. high.
As in the Slieverue application it was stated that there wasn't any Protestant clergy or Protestant population in the area.28
Teachers: A husband and wife team of Francis and Marianne Drew took up an appoint¬ment at this school on July 1 st. 1852. They had been teaching in Durrow. Both of them had been trained.
The pupils pay from one shilling and a penny to three shillings per quarter, the amounts are regulated by the Manager. There was a grant of 100 books for each school, boys and girls.
There seems to have been a great stability in relation to teaching staff. The first reference
to an appointment was in 1863 when Edward Wallace took up a post of senior monitor on
1st August He left on July 1st. 1864.
Francis Drew is recorded as having retired on 27th. May 1879.30
He died the following day, aged 54 years.
The family burial plot is in Slieverue, and he was buried there.
The following doggeral was written by way of tribute to him.
At Ringville school,
I learned the Rule,
To find the spring of tide,
Some logic too,
From Tommy(?) Drew,
Down by the Barrow side.
Tom Aylward, Rochestown, was the reputed author.
Joseph Brennan was appointed to the post of Headmaster on 1st. July 1879 and remained in the position for 9 years, he left on June 30th. 1888.31
During his time in the school Joseph Brennan and a monitor in the school, called E. Hartley, had a serious conflict. The monitor hid the masters cane and the students were aware of the prank. The master eventually discovered what had happened and took Hartley to task. He gave the monitor 12 'palms' and 'a clout on the side of the head'. Hartley resented this treatment and rushed out the door using abusive language towards the master. He was suspended and was absent for 23 days during which time the Inspector carried out an investigation. He claimed he had been sick for 4 days and had been recov¬ering from the 'beating-up' for 4 days. The remaining 15 days represented the duration of his suspension. Meanwhile the Manager was being petitioned by the parishioners to have him reinstated to his post. He was allowed to resume. The records give no details of his later career.32
In November 1894 Richard Grace, a native of Kilbride, Glenmore, took up the position of Headmaster in the school. He was 36 years old.
He had done his teacher training in the De La Salle Training College which had opened in 1891
His starting salary was £74 per year.33
In March 1894 Ulick Madden seems to have replaced a teacher called Cuddihy. Ulick however made a sudden departure, he left on December 13th 1894 without giving notice -formal or informal. He did however, according to local legend, leave a note on the black¬board which stated:
Men may come and men may go
But Madden is gone for ever!
Female School: Marianne Drew continued to teach until she reached retirement age in 1883. She retired on April 30th. Her retirement pension was £47 per year. She was replaced by her daughter Emma who took up the position on May 1st.34 Emma Drew later married Richard Grace and their daughter, Bridie, also taught in the school thus equalling the Slieverue achievement of having three generations of a family following on in the same school!.
Ferrybank: W.H. Barren applied for recognition for this school in 1834 and this was granted on September 11th. of that year.
The building was situated in 'Hills Field' in the corner beside the boundary of the present school and next to the N 25. It was a two storey building measuring 21ft. by 17ft. A grant of £60 was passed for the building and £17 for the boundary wall. The local con¬tributions were £33 and £10 respectively. The grants were paid in October - up front! An inspection of the house was carried out on 23rd. July 1836 and it was deemed to be ready for occupation except that 'the floors were not quite dry'35
The school seems to have been in use for some time at this stage, perhaps the upper storey, as Michael Forristal was appointed as teacher on January 1st. 1836 and was 'on salary' from that date. The salary was £4 per 6 months and on November 7th. 1836 he was paid £6 for 9 months, there is no indication of how he survived financially during the year. He had not been trained.36
Mary Craven was appointed as Mistress of the female school from the same date.37 She was replaced in May 1838 by Catherine Lawlor.
The salaries had risen to £6 per half year as from May 7th. 1840. This remarkable 50% increase may have been due to a very significent increase in numbers of students which went up from 102 to 143, winter attendance, over the period.
Michael Forristal died on November 3rd. 1841 aged 60. He must have been absent for some time as his son , John, was appointed as from November 1st. 1841. The school then went through a troubled period as far as staffing was concerned. John Forristal was dismissed for drunkeness on 31st. March 1842 and paid £3/6/8, salary due to him. The school was then closed for a couple of weeks as a teacher was not avail¬able. However on April llth. Thomas Sullivan was appointed. On July 14th. the Inspector reported that the teacher had been charged with bigamy and had left. Abraham Tobin was next appointed.39
On October 29th. 1842 the Inspector reports that Thomas Sullivan had been paid £3/6/8 salary for his time in the school and also that Daniel Sullivan had been paid £1 for one month he had spent as teacher. This may have been during the period between the depar¬ture of Thomas Sullivan and the appointment of Abraham Tobin.40 Was this the Daniel Sullivan who had been the Hedge Schoolmaster in Slieverue?.
In the female school there were difficulties also. Catherine Lawlor resigned on July 14th. 1842 in consequence of her salary not being increased!41 Perhaps she did not get the 50% increase allowed to the Master. She was replaced by Eliza Ruth who was appointed as from 1st. November 1842.
Daniel O'Sullivan was appointed Principal in 1855 and continued in his post until February 17, 1874, when he retired. He was granted a pension of £128/6/5. Timothy Bowe replaced Daniel O'Sullivan and he in turn was succeeded by William Foleyinl879.42
In 1896 application was made to the Board of Education for a grant to build a new school to accommodate 150 pupils at a cost of £525 and a surrounding wall costing £89/18. The grant was sanctioned on November 10th. 1896.
Application was also made at this time for grant aid for a teachers residence. This took longer to get sanction and the house was built in 1901 when the full cost, £250 was paid by the Board: There is a record on 25th. April 1901 that the house was finished.43 As the century drew to a close the educational structures in the parish had greately improved. New schools had been provided in Slieverue, Ferrybank and in Ringville. School attendance was on the increase in general terms and the level of funding for class materials had improved.
The expressed wish of Dr. Walsh, 60 years earlier, that every child in the parish should have an opportunity to be educated seemed to be realised as far as facilities were concerned.
Slieverue N.S 1920
Local Folklore submitted to the Irish Folklore Commission in
1937/38 by pupils from Ringville and Slieverue National Schools.