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.