Kilnaboy National School, Kilnaboy townland, Co. Clare
NGR: 127450, 191785
Located near the village of Carron and the large turlough, (or seasonal lake) situated there, Kilnaboy National School sits in a landscape that is rich in historical and archaeological sites, with more than 90 megalithic burial monuments in the area. However, the Burren also contains monuments from the more recent past: namely the vernacular architecture of the past two centuries.
Travelling from Corofin toward Leamenah, you will pass the little village of Kilnaboy (any fan of the Father Ted TV series will know this as the location of Craggy Island Parochial House). The village is most notable for its imposing eleventh-century church which is visible from the roadside, and so the quaint features if its eighteenth-nineteenth century streetscape is very often overlooked. In recent years, the former post office here has been turned into an exhibition space, aptly named ‘X-PO’. And close by is a former schoolhouse, built in 1884, but now derelict and empty.
In form, it is one of the standard OPW designs of the late-nineteenth century, and identical to the schoolhouses at Whiddy Island in County Cork and Gortnabinny in County Kerry: a detached, L-plan, four-bay, single-storey schoolhouse, with square-headed window openings including six-over-six timber sliding sash and casement windows. Inside, the building is bare and the remaining school furniture is stacked to one side. On the floor just inside the main doorway lies a pianola scroll.
P.J. Curtis, the present owner of Kilnaboy National School, is well known to many involved in the Irish music scene over the past forty or more years. He has produced some of the most renowned folk and traditional music albums of the past decades. He is a celebrated author and playwright, researcher and lecturer. He grew up next door to the schoolhouse and attended classes here into the 1950s. His family had sold the land that the school was built on to the school board in the 1880s, and when a new school was built in 1952, they bought the land and building back. For him, this building is alive with memories: some fond and some not so fond. There are stories of camaraderie and childhood friendships, and of over-strict disciplinarians and heavy-handed discipline. P.J. is naturally reflective, and in this room his stories are all the more vivid.
He has recently begun maintenance work on the building to prevent its condition from deteriorating further. Amazingly, the building has not been recorded in the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage (NIAH), despite the fact that the identical schools at both Whiddy Island and Gortnabinny in Cork and Kerry respectively, have been. This discrepancy is a noticeable, recurring problem in the NIAH for Ireland; from county to county, there are inconsistencies in the recording and inclusion of architectural heritage in the NIAH. Thus the condition and future of this building lies in P.J.’s hands. It is an evocative place for him and for many local people, and he would not like to see it fall to disintegrate entirely
The photos below were in the possession of Joseph Neylon, whose father Francis attended Kilnaboy National school c.1930. Francis emigrated to the US in 1949, and Joseph has kindly passed on these photos to be featured here. They show Kilnaboy National School c.1940 with the old school wall still standing, and the school children of Kilnaboy National School gathered outside the old post office (X-PO) in Kilnaboy in 1932.
This is an appealing national school building of compact plan and balanced proportions, built to a design prepared by the OPW on behalf of the Department of Education. The school is of particular significance as it is one of the earliest surviving purpose-built educational facilities in the Burren locality.
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.