Tryhill National School, Trihill East townland, Co. Galway
NGR: 178847, 249237
Nineteenth-Century two-storey National Schools are relatively unusual in Ireland, particularly in a rural setting. They often date to the early part of the 19th Century, before the construction of ‘to-plan’ school houses began to be overseen by the OPW, after the the National School Act of 1831. There are exceptions to this of course, such as Clenor and Carraig National School, Co. Cork built in 1884, or Killymarly National School in Co. Monaghan, built c.1850. But these are few and far between.
Tryhill National School in Trihill townland in Co. Galway is perhaps on of the best preserved disused two-storey National Schools in a rural setting that I’ve encountered over the past few years – this despite the fact that a gaping hole has been knocked into the rear of the property where a staircase once allowed access to the two classrooms on the upper floor. The building is situated next to the island on the river Shiven in an area known as Islandcase, located to the south of the town of Ballygar in East Galway, and the surrounding landscape is predominantly low-lying and wet with areas of bogland and wet pasture throughout.
The building comprises a detached, five-bay, two-storey school, built c.1830, but now derelict. Georgian in period, it includes a fine pitched slate roof which still serves its purpose well and which still retains its cast-iron rainwater goods.
One of the most attractive features of the building is the segmental-headed fanlight over the entrance which in turn retains its original double-leaf timber-ledged and braced door. A stone plaque is still located over the front door and reads; ‘Tryhill National School’; a crude stone cross is included underneath the plaque. The building is set back from road in open ground with a random rubble stone boundary wall to the front, and hedges to side and rear which mark the area of the associated playground. This playground was once divided into boys and girls sections by a high wall.
Inside, recent alterations to the stairwell and exterior wall not withstanding, many of the details of the former school still remain. The painted wooden ceiling over the former stairwell remains vibrant, and the wood paneling that separated the first floor classrooms seems nearly as fine as the day it was installed.
Outside the main entrance to the building, some of the old school desks are broken and strewn among the vegetation that is slowly claiming back the old schoolyard that once surrounded the school house. The mark on the desks indicates that they were manufactured at CLARK (?) FOUNDRY MANUFACTURERS WATERFORD.
The scale of this former national school is testament to the high regard for the education of the local community, both boys and girls. As a two-storey school building, it is unusual insofar as the boys were educated on one floor and the girls on the other, instead of in separate parts of the same floor. Though meant to be multi-denominational, the keystone above the door has been fashioned into a crude cross, a subtle signal of the school’s Catholic leaning.
Among the illustrious past pupils of Tryhill National School was Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore (1829 – 1892), bandmaster and, by all accounts Americas first music superstar. Gilmore grew up in Ballygar and went to Islandcase/Tryhill National School. He emigrated to the United States at the age of 19 after studying music in Athlone. He quickly threw himself into the music scene there and went on to lead the first official New Year’s Eve celebrations in Manhattan, played with his band at President Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration dinner and lead his band at the head of seven presidential inauguration parades.
Another famous former pupil of Tryhill was Laurence J. Logan (Logan/Boston Airport is named after his son). The photos of the school included below were taken by Laurence on a trip home in 1908). The school closed in the 1960’s and the children were moved to Ballaghlea National School.
The 1937 Schools Folklore Collection* contains an uncertain record for this school, and the example below, although referring to the area of Islandcase, is extracted from the record for Béal Átha Gearr/Ballygar National School, the teacher being Labhrás Ó Síoráin.
*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.
Many thanks to Mount Talbot through the Ages for providing some of the information and vintage photography used 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.