Feohanagh National School, Feohanagh townland, Co. Limerick
NGR: 134051, 126163
The rural landscape of many parts of Ireland is punctuated by small villages which, for various reasons, have fallen into decline in recent decades. In west Co. Limerick is one such village; ‘Feohanagh’ (the place of the thistles) located 5 miles south-east of the town of Newcastle West on the R522 road to Dromcollogher.
The First Edition 25 inch map (1898-1907) shows that at the turn of the 19thcentury this little hamlet included a smithy, a post office, a terraced street scene, the local church, and a two-roomed school house. Today, no shops, post office or other services remain open here, though to the north side of the R522 are the remains of the disused two-roomed national school built in A.D. 1886.
Prominently sited, this former school provides a pleasing roadside feature, and a reminder of life in the village through the 20th century. The building comprises a detached, T- plan six-bay double gable-fronted national school. The school is approached from the R522 via a narrow laneway overgrown with briars. The exterior is well-weathered, the schoolyard now overgrown, and in the quiet countryside of west Limerick there is an eerie silence around the ruins of this imposing symmetrical building. Although well-worn, the school house retains its original pitched slate roof with rendered chimneystacks and limestone coping. The original timber sash windows also remain, though much of the glazing is now broken and scattered across the old mossy playground. To the rear of the school is the original dry-toilet toilet block, also hidden by brambles and dense greenery.
Inside, the fixtures and furnishings are in good condition. The original open fireplaces in each classroom have been replaced with oil-burning stoves. School furniture is scattered throughout, and despite the feeling that this building is from another era, it is clear that the school remained in use until relatively recently.
This school house is a reminder of life in Feohanagh through the 19th and 20th century when the village was perhaps more vibrant than it is today. The 19th century in Ireland was a period of great social change, particularly in the area of education in the rural countryside. Through the 19th century education was increasingly seen as a means of preparing those children who did not inherit the land for other forms of employment or for migration. Though there was some regional variation, overall levels of illiteracy (a standard measure of the development of any society) fell rapidly, from 53% in 1841 to 18% in 1891. Irish children enjoyed the benefits of a standardised syllabus and the attentions of inspectors whose task was to ensure that standards were kept throughout the country.
Although disused, the building remains in good repair and is enhanced by the retention of its historic slate roof, cast-iron rainwater goods, timber sash windows and doors. In addition to the architectural interest of the building this small school was of undoubtedly great social importance to the local community.
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.