Cross National School, Cross South Townland, Co. Roscommon
NGR: 164621, 298618
The town of Ballaghaderreen is located in northwest Co. Roscommon, close to the borders of both Mayo and Sligo. Prior to 1898 the town and parish of Ballaghaderreen and Edmonstown were in fact part of Co. Mayo until its transfer to Co. Roscommon under the Local Government Act 1898. Like many smaller market towns in the midlands, Ballaghaderreen was a hub of activity in the rural landscape at the turn of the 20th century. Key to this was the fact that the town was served by the Midland Great Western Railway. The station at Ballaghaderreen opened in 1874 and served the region for almost 90 years. But like so many of the regional railway lines and stations, Ballaghaderreen Station finally closed along with the Kilfree Junction branch line in 1963.
The town is rich in vernacular architecture, largely dating to the 19th century. In 1837 Lewis’ Topographical Dictionary of Ireland described it as ‘a thriving market town in the west’. This was no surprise as at the beginning of the 19th century Ballaghaderreen had been re-designed by Charles Strickland, an agent for Lord Dillon of Ballaghaderreen. The modern character of the market town is still visible today, and the town has an well organised streetcape. The street and place names reflect many of Strickland’s efforts to formalise the layout of Ballaghaderreen. Strickland was responsible for the building of a market place called The Shambles with 16 lock-up stores. Strickland was also instrumental opening the railway line for the town, allowing merchants to transport their goods.
En route to Kilfree junction, the train stopped at Edmondstown Station, just a few kilometres to the northeast of Ballaghaderreen, and not far from the Edmondstown Demesne. In 1786 William Wilson referred to Edmondstown Demesne as the fine seat of Mr. Costello – the Costello’s being settled in Roscommon and Mayo from at least the early 16th century.
Like Ballaghaderreen, the landscape of Edmondstown is dotted with handsome vernacular buildings dating to the late 18th and 19th century, including a small school house in the townland of Cross South.
The building was originally constructed as a two-room school house with all the trademark characteristics of school buildings at the time; outdoor dry-toilets to the rear, a schoolyard divided for boys and girls, high sash windows and a fireplace in each classroom. Some remodeling seems to have occurred, perhaps in the mid-20th century. One of the features added was a projecting gable to the front with a concrete and iron porch to the front of the building.
The school remained in use for 88 years until it was amalgamated with St. Aiden’s National School, Monasteraden which opened in 1974. Today it is derelict inside and the roof has begun to collapse, though some of the original school furniture remains in the brightly painted classrooms.
Vegetation grows up through the rotting suspended timber flooring, nurtured by the light and rain which pour in through the holes in the ceiling.
Among those who taught at Cross National School there were Mr. P. Reid, Mrs. Kearns, Mrs. Nan Noone, John Drury, Annie Stenson, Mary Cregg, Gertrude Finan, Brigid Coleman, Michael Brennan, Richard Higgins and Teresa Murtagh. The photograph below shows the school children at Cross c.1900. Charles Grady received this photo some years ago from Maire McDonnell Garvey (author) who lived in Dublin and who grew up in Tobracken, Ballaghaderreen. Mary Towey (b. 19 May 1895 in Curry, d. 16 July 1972 in Tobracken) is in the 2nd row from the top with the two ribbons in her hair. Mary Towey later married Michael Sharkey. Left from Mary Towey is Maire McDonnell Garvey’s mother. The father of Maire McDonnell Garvey, James McDonnell, is fourth from the right in the 2nd row from the top, with the small face.
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. An extract from these records for Cross National School is featured in the slideshow below.
A sincere thank you to Ballaghaderreen Past and Present for supplying much of the information included in this blog post. 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. If you would like to purchase the book The Deserted School Houses of Ireland, visit the shop page here.