Coolmountain National School, Coolmountain townland, Co. Cork
NGR: 118544, 60287
A few miles north of Dunmanway in west Cork is the rural hamlet of Coolmountain. In summer, this is a particularly lush and green place, wooded and mountainous, isolated and peaceful. The land is rough but resourceful. The landscape of Coolmountain seems to have retained an authentic rural feel: the roads are poor, the houses sparse and there is a sense of timelessness about the place.
Here, just off a small local road and partially hidden by trees, is the disused Coolmountain National School; a diminutive one-room corrugated asbestos structure that is among the more unusual schoolhouses in the country
The ruins of Coolmountain National School comprise a detached gable-fronted three-bay single-storey school, built c.1945. It has a pitched asphalt roof with cast-iron ‘rainwater goods’ (i.e. gutters and drainpipes). The windows comprise square-headed openings with metal casement mullions and timber sills. It also has a square-headed door opening with a timber battened door, overlight and concrete steps. Rendered walls to the front and sides of the plot enclose a small schoolyard which can be accessed through a wrought-iron gate. The building ceased being used as a school in 1969 but was lived in until 2005. It is near collapse and unlikely to survive much longer.
Though constructed in the 1940s, there has been a school at this site since the 1830s. Lewis’ Topographical Dictionary of 1837 records that:
‘There are four National school-houses in the parish; three were erected by the R. C. clergyman and his parishioners, one at Kilbarry, one at Inchegeelagh and one at Ballingearig; the fourth was built at Coolmountain in 1836, in aid of which the Commissioners of Education granted £30. They also gave a gratuitous supply of books, as a first stock, to each of these schools, and continue to furnish them with books and school necessaries at half price; they also grant an annual sum of £40 towards the salaries of the teachers: the average attendance of children, both male and female, at these four schools, is 500. Th ere is also a private school, in which are about 20 children, and a Sunday school.’
This structure was strategically positioned for use by the local rural population and its educational and social importance is highlighted both by its commanding views of the surrounding landscape and by the large plot of land on which it is sited. The use of corrugated-iron as wall cladding adds texture and interest to a building of modest dimensions and materials.
According to Jerome Kelly, from the nearby townland of Clogher, the original school at Coolmountain was built in 1835 for the sum of £50. It burnt down in the early 1940s. Following the fire, pupils were temporarily schooled in a cottage in Clogher while the school was being reconstructed. The cottage was owned by a Mr Murphy. Jerome’s older brother, Michael, started school in 1943 in that cottage.
Jerome Kelly himself started school in the ‘new’ school building on 23 August 1949. He remembers that a plaque over the door of the new building had a date of 1945 on it, probably the year that the rebuilt school opened. The new build comprised a one-room structure with a porch. There were two dry toilets. The building was heated by means of a small cast-iron stove – students themselves brought in the fuel.
If you or someone you know attended this national school, or if you have any further information about this school – please do get in touch and share any stories, anecdotes, photographs, or any other memories you may have. If you know of further schools that I could visit, please do let me know.
9 thoughts on “Coolmountain National School, Coolmountain townland, Co. Cork”
What beautiful photos of a building i have walked past a lot! Growing up just down the road and having prettt much free reign of our surroundings we were however not allowed to go into the school. Article says it was lived in until 2005 but it wasnt as far as i remember ever lived in, my memory probably goes back to mid 90’s. The entire front garden was covered in all different coloured primroses until the fir tree in the corner fell few years back in that storm. It always had an eery feeling about it and i never went further than clambering along the wall! Anyway keep up the good work…its beautiful. Have you paid a visit to old secondary in dunmanway….
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Thanks Emerald. A local man in Coolmountain has been in touch recently and I have some new information. I’ll be updating this post soon and adding in the new details. Thanks for getting in touch
Oh thats great. I am actually currently writing a community profile and looking for any info historically i can use so that will be helpful 😊
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My Grandfather attended this school and his home was situated at the very top of the driveway adjacent to the school. I am told that the original structure was destroyed by a fire some years ago. Apparently the father of the renowned Dublin goalkeeper John O’Leary taught there for a spell in the 1930’s.
I also would have visited Coolmountain on and off as a child in the 90’s and never remember the school being lived in.
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Thanks for the information and for checking out the Blog Pat. I’ll add that to the info for Coolmountain – it will be included in the forthcoming publication with Collins Press
Brilliant article… I grew up in coolmountain from the early 80’s to the mid 90’s and do remember the school house being lived in by a brother and sister who’s parents passed away when they were quite young and they were reared by there uncle and Aunt and moved back to the school house when they were older. I am not sure if either of them lived there as late as 2005 though. I agree with Emerald there was always an eery feeling about the place.
Enda, great article! I’m in my 60’s, and my great -grandfather was the school master at the school in Cool Mountain. His last name was O’Leary. His son Jim O’Leary (b about 1888) was one of my grandfathers. My other grandfather, Michael Crowley, also born about the same time was a fellow student. Both emigrated to America in early 1900’s. Best Regards, Robert Emmett Crowley firstname.lastname@example.org