Bunnadden National School, Ballynaraw South townland, Co. Sligo
NGR: 160854, 311897
Co. Sligo in the north-west of Ireland is undoubtedly rich in Irish history, heritage, mythology and folklore. The dramatic and spectacular landscape rises from the wild Atlantic coast with expansive, sandy dunes and beaches, to the Tolkienesque Dartry Mountains where every cave, cliff-face and hill has its own unique story to tell.
This environment lends itself easily to story telling and the imagination ,and it is easy to see why it has inspired and featured in a wealth of fantastical folklore through the millennia.
Within the rolling hills of the drumlin belt in south Co. Sligo, and under the shadow of the Bricklieve Mountains, is the sleepy hamlet of Bunnadden (Bunnanaddan or Bunninadden), 9 km from Tubbercurry and 8 km from Ballymote.
During the late-19th century this was a busy spot with a local mill, two churches, a Constabulary Barracks, and a sylvan street scene with a row of detached houses. On a low rise to the north-east of the village was the local school house over looking the goings-on below.
A plaque on the northern end of the building dates its construction to 1883 although the First Edition Ordnance Survey sheet above shows that there was a pre-existing school at this site in at least the 1840s . Although in ruin, the interior is relatively well preserved, with the brightly painted walls having a now spooky patina.
The building is of a standard design comprising a detached multi-bay single-storey rendered construction. It has two contiguous three-bay north-south classroom blocks with gabled entrance porches to north end of east and west elevations.
The pitched roof is feeling the strain of time but it still protects the interior from the outside elements. When visiting the school in March of 2016, the building was still home to two inquisitive and woolly school children.
Given the schools setting among the inspiring landscape of Co. Sligo, it is not surprising the that school children here were well-able to spin a fantastical tale. 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, information about local traditions, games and pastimes in their home districts. In Bunnadden, many of the local tales recorded as part of this scheme feature some element of the supernatural, set in the local landscape. Below, local lad Michael Wynne from Everlawn relates one such story:
This traditional village school retains most of its original features and, although derelict, is a good example of an unaltered late-19thcentury National School, with large well-proportioned classrooms and clear segregation of accommodation for male and female pupils.
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.