Shanvaghera National School, Shanvaghera townland, Co. Mayo
NGR: 141379, 285917
Shanvaghera National School is situated in the townland of the same name, just off the N17, a few kilometres north of Knock in County Mayo. Although the exterior of the building is not particularly striking, the interior is well preserved. The building is certainly in a ruinous state, with nature invading through the shattered glass and broken doorways. Nonetheless, original features such as the wooden partition that divided the main room into three classrooms, three original fireplaces, and a single school desk add wonderful atmosphere to this building. The separate entrances for boys and girls are to the rear of the school, and the numbered coat hooks once used by the pupils can be seen in the entrance hall. The suspended wooden floor was solid enough to walk on when I visited. The school closed in 1968/69.
To the rear of the main building is the former toilet block where the wooden elements of the non-flushing latrines remain.
The building comprises a detached, five-bay, single-storey national school, built and opened in 1935, on a T-shaped plan with single-bay, single-storey, lean-to projecting bays centred on single-bay, full-height, gabled projecting porch; there is a seven-bay, single-storey rear (east) elevation. It has a pitched slate roof on a T-shaped plan extending into lean-to slate roofs centred on a pitched (gabled) slate roof with clay ridge tiles terminating in red brick.
It has lichen-covered chimney stacks with chamfered capping supporting terracotta pots and cast-iron ‘rainwater goods’ (i.e. drainpipes and gutters). The window openings are square-headed with cut-limestone sills and concealed dressings framing the remains of six-over-six timber sash windows centred on four-over-four timber sash windows with six-over-six timber sash windows to rear (east) elevation. There are square-headed opposing door openings with concealed dressings framing timber boarded or tongue-and-groove timber panelled doors.
This is a dilapidated national school erected to a standardised design for the Department of Education, representing an integral component of the twentieth century architectural heritage of County Mayo. A prolonged period of neglect notwithstanding, the elementary form and massing survive intact together with substantial quantities of the original fabric, thus upholding much of the character of a national school. It makes a forlorn visual statement in a rural street scene. Maud Murphy recalls of this school; ‘I grew up across the road. The school was on our land as was the school that preceded it. My mother taught there and our family all went to school there’.
The First Edition 25-inch Ordnance Survey sheet for the area, which dates to the early years of the twentieth century shows that there was a school adjacent to this site before 1935, and the present building represents a new build at the time. The original school house at Shanvaghera still stands, though in a very poor condition.
Some 30 familes lived in the townland/village of Shanvaghera at the time of the 1901 census in Ireland. Family names in the area included; Kenny, Neafcy [sic], Boyle, Lyons, Fitzmaurice, Gauly [sic], O’Brien, Judge, Muldoon, Carney, Lavin, Moran, Giffers, Gill, Quinn, Cannon, Walshe, Carney, Canfield, Campbell, Caufield, Kerons, Curry, Fleming, Rogers, Morley and Cunnane.
In 1937 the Irish Folklore Commission, in collaboration with the Department of Education and the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation, initiated a revolutionary scheme in which schoolchildren were encouraged to collect and document folklore and local history. Over a period of eighteen months some 100,000 children in 5,000 primary schools in the twenty-six counties of the Irish Free State were encouraged to collect folklore material in their home districts. This of course included Shanvaghera National School. Below is a rather blunt description of tamps in the locality from this collection gathered by Christina O’Brien:
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.
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