Scoil Bride Culaid, Cooly townland, Co. Donegal
NGR: 258919, 439198
The picturesque town of Moville lies on the western banks of Lough Foyle in County Donegal where the Bredagh River flows into the sea. The locality was the adopted home of the dramatist Brian Friel, and it still attracts many visitors who make the long journey north to the Inishowen Peninsula and Ireland’s most northerly point on nearby Malin Head.
At the turn of the nineteenth century there were just 50 people living in the town of Moville, but the town would rapidly develop over the following decades. During the second half of the nineteenth century, Moville was a significant point of embarkation for many travellers, especially emigrants to Canada and the USA. Steamships from the Anchor and McCorkell Lines and others en route from Glasgow to New York, Philadelphia, Quebec and New Brunswick regularly dropped anchor in the deep waters off Moville to pick up additional passengers
The new trade brought wealth and development to the town, and a growth in population. Naturally, the growing population would need education, and there were a number of national schools constructed, not just in the town, but in the hinterland also. The schoolhouse featured here is one such building. Scoil Bhride Culaidh is located near Cooly Cross, a rural spot just 3km north-west of Moville.
The building itself dates to 1931, but examining the First Edition 6-inch and 25-inch Ordnance survey maps, you can see that this school house replaced an earlier school named ‘Tiyrone School’ just a few hundred metres to the east. This earlier school house, which dates to at least the 1840s, was unusually located away from the roadside, enclosed in the corner of a field. Two ‘right-of-ways’ led to the school through the surrounding farmland. Perhaps someone out there has an explanation for this school’s inconvenient setting? Was it perhaps built on land donated by a local landowner? Today, an area of rough ground marks the location of the original school building.
The later 1931 building is a simple detached, three-bay, single-storey national school on a T-plan with a gabled projection to the front elevation. It is identical in form to the example from Garrycloher in Co. Tipperary, though the Tipperary example pre-dates Scoil Bride Culaid by 90 years. Garryclogher is largely constructed of dressed limestone while Scoil Bride Culaid is a stone and mortar construction with a smooth render.
Travelling through Co. Donegal to photograph school houses, I have come across a significant number of buildings with late 1930s and 1940s construction dates such as this example from Munterneese. It is strange that Scoil Bride Culaid was built to a design that was almost 100 years old, especially given that most schools constructed in Ireland at this time were built to plans supplied by the Office of Public Works like that at Munterneese.
Inside, the building is in good condition, with many of the original fixtures and fittings still in place. I was particularly drawn to the ornate air vents located in the corners of the diminutive one-roomed school house. These are an almost universal feature of 19th and early 20th century school buildings. Lindsay Baker has briefly looked at the role of ventilation in her publication ‘A History of School Design and its Indoor Environmental Standards, 1900 to Today’. Baker notes that ‘Abundant quantities of warmed fresh air should be introduced through ducts to each schoolroom, and care must be taken that the ducts are of sufficient area and directness for passing the required amount. Ducts should also be provided for removing the vitiated air’.
Built in 1931, Scoil Bride Culaid is featured in the Folklore Commission’s schools collection from 1937/8*. Below is an extract from this collection which includes a fairy story from the locality collected from William Thompson of Gallduff.
Although no longer in use, this simple rural school has retained its architectural integrity and detailing including timber windows, fireplace and slate roof. Although technically a one-roomed building, it appears to have had separate classrooms for girls and boys, separated by a folding screen. The yard to the rear is also divided. It represents an important part of the social heritage of the area, having served the rural education system from the first half of the 20th century.
If you or someone you know attended this 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.