Dyzart National School, Dysart townland, Co. Louth
NGR: 309710, 288382
The parish of Dysart (occasionally spelled ‘Dyzart’) is located about 3 kms from Dunleer in Co. Louth, on the coast road from Drogheda to Dundalk. In 1837 the village was visited by the travelling antiquarian Samuel Lewis who reported 699 inhabitants living in the parish at the time. He noted that the land was of superior quality and well cultivated: about two-thirds in tillage, and about 50 acres of bog. In the village of Grange Bellew, there was a mill for grinding oatmeal, and another for dressing flax. Among the most notable buildings in the parish was the old castle of John Bellew in Barmeath (one of the lords of the English pale). At the time of Lewis’ visit it was the residence of Sir Patrick Bellew, and stood ‘in a richly wooded demesne, commanding extensive views of the surrounding countryside’.
In the village of Dysart, Lewis remarked on the handsome chapel there, the site for which was presented by Sir Patrick, who also contributed towards its erection. A quick look at the Ordnance Survey 6-inch sheet which dates to just a few years after Lewis’ visit, shows there were few buildings in Dysart during the 1830s-1840s, bar the aforementioned chapel, and a national school.
Lewis recorded that the school of about 160 children was aided by Sir Patrick, who also contributed largely towards the erection of the school-house. Though now derelict, this building still stands today.
The building is in poor condition, with the windows partially bricked up and the hipped slate roof beginning to collapse. Built in 1835 it comprises a detached seven-bay, single-storey rendered national school set back from roadside.
Surviving early-19th century school houses are not overly common in Ireland, and altough in poor condition, this is a fine example of a school house not built to a standard Office of Public Works design.
Dysart National School is a simple structure with plain, unadorned surfaces and balanced proportions. As a local national school, (an important amenity in rural communities), this building is of social interest, forming an interesting group with the aforementioned parish church to its west.
The school folklore records of the Irish Folklore Commission* notes a rich folklore tradition in the area, particularly relating to the Penal period and Cromwell; unsurprising considering the village’s proximity to the town of Drogheda. However, below I have extracted just a single page from the records for Dysart National School. It relates to an earlier ‘Hedge School’ in the locality.
Catholic schools were forbidden under the Penal laws from 1723 to 1782, and so to educate Catholic children, somewhat secretive and unofficial ‘Hedge Schools ‘ were arranged, usually taught by an educated person from the locality. ‘Hedge school’ was the name given to this educational practice, so called because of its rural nature rather than schooling being held outdoors.
If you or someone you know attended Dysart national school, please do get in touch and share any stories, anecdotes, photographs, or any other memories you may have.
*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.