Bunglash (Bun Glaise) National School, Bunglash South townland, Co. Kerry
NGR: 69192, 87189
On the 12 September 1893 the Great Southern and Western Railway opened a branch-line off the existing Tralee-Mallow main line which would connect the village of Farranfore in County Kerry with Valentia Harbour on the southern shore of Dingle Bay. At that time it was the most westerly railway line in Europe and passed through some of Ireland’s most spectacular scenery as it climbed through Kerry’s mountainous countryside. It served as the main transport system for the Iveragh Peninsula for 75 years with the last train departing Killorglin on 30 January 1960.
So for sixty-seven odd years, a steam-powered locomotive chugged daily along the Farranfore to Valentia Harbour line, passing just north of the glacial lake Lough Carragh, and stopping at the Glenbeigh station. Glenbeigh Station was located at the foot of Seefin Mountain, and the surrounding landscape at the turn of the 20th century was beautiful, wild and remote. There were few distractions intruding from the outside world, and the coming and going of the steam train served to punctuate the day. In surrounding the hills and mountains, schools did not have clocks, and the whistle of train in the quite landscape as it passed over Curraheen level crossing at 10.15 am let the local school children know that it was am sos (break-time).
There were six schools in the parish of Glenbeigh– Glenbeigh, Curraheen and Leitir, Bunglash, Bohesill and Shanacashel. One of these schools, Bunglash National School, is located at the western end of Lough Carragh and still stands though it is now disused.
It is a detached, two-room national school built in 1873. The form of the building is somewhat unique, or at least does not appear to be one of the easily recognisable ‘to-plan’ designs distributed by the Office of Public Works during the latter part of the 20th century. It is a T-plan building with a hipped roof to the west, and a projecting gabled roof to the east with a date plaque located high on the gable end. Today, the modern pebble-dash has been painted a sober, almost vomit-inducing off-yellow colour, and I wonder what the underlying original brick and stonework must look like.
Handsome and sturdy six-over-nine sliding sash windows allowed plenty of light and hte mountainous views into the into the classrooms, though much of the glazing has been broken.
The building is in good condition considering it is about 144 years old. Inside there is still some of the old school furniture including school desks and shelving. Most remarkably, many of the old text books that were used. I don’t know when the building went out of use as a school, but given that I recognise many of the books that are scattered about the floor, I’m guessing that children were still being taught here in the 1990s at least.
The walls of the classrooms include poster rails. Quite often these do not survive as the building begins to rot, but at Bunglash they are intact, and in the corner of the classroom, a map of Ireland still hangs. The maps shows nearby Lough Carragh and the old, now-disused railway line.
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.