Tag Archives: Co. Donegal

The School House in Ireland: Architecture and Meaning – Part 3

The School House in Ireland: Architecture and Meaning (contd…)

The original architect's drawings for Derryneen National School, in Co. Galway drawn up in 1914 (National Archives OPW5HC4872)
The original architect’s drawings for Derryneen National School, in Co. Galway drawn up in 1914 (National Archives OPW5HC4872)

School house designs supplied by the OPW toward the end of the 19th century vary in form but maintain the same basic features; an entrance porch, a cloakroom, the classroom, tall sash windows, an open fireplace and high ceilings, wainscoting on the lower parts of the internal walls, a raised wooden floor, ventilation features etc. The architectural drawings were supplied and distributed by the OPW to locations around the country, and for this reason you can often find identical school buildings at opposite ends of the country. There were a variety of designs available through the decades, and it is often possible to date the construction of a school house to within a few years based on the form of the building.

Lettermore NS Co.Donegal 1909
The partially removed wainscotting from the walls of Lettermore National School in Co. Donegal built in 1909

Many of the school houses that were built ‘to-plan’ were extended and modified and many remain in use today. Often a modern school building will have an original 19th-century construction at its core. It is interesting that the many of the principle features of the early schools have been retained such as high ceilings and windows. These features reflect the ecclesiastical and monastic origins of school house design that persist to this very day. They also reflect the continuing control that Churches had on the school system.
Although there were architecturally elaborate school buildings (most often patronised by a local land owner), they more frequently comprised functional structures, usually lacking architectural ornamentation, and built to serve a small local population.

After the National Schools Act of 1831, the need for, and mechanisms to build new school houses created a demand for new school buildings in rural areas, and these simple structures helped to meet that demand. Many were built by local communities using local materials, but to a number of standard designs supplied by the Office of Public Works; hence there are schools of identical form scattered all across Ireland. This in itself tells the story of standardising education and providing for the educational needs of the general public; a huge, and progressive leap forward at the time.
Better education was both a goal and a tool in the comprehensive modernising projects of the 19th century. The schoolhouse held notable significance as an institution for education and represented a shift towards better education and schooling. In reality, it cannot be understated how significant these buildings were in bringing learning to the masses. They were at the heart of the community and remain symbolic of a more progressive ethos that stemmed from the 1831 Act.

Rural in character, for a young teacher, these buildings were often outposts of education. At times, a school might only serve a handful of families in locality. Nonetheless, schools that children could walk to were required, and therefore many small schools with comparatively small catchment areas were constructed. Prior to this, many rural areas lacked any kind of formal educational infrastructure, and these buildings represented the first steps in making a formal education available to all.

Affane-Sluggara National School, Co. Waterford - Segregated schoolyard
The wall to the rear of Affane/Sluggara National School, Sluggara townland, Co. Waterford which separated the boy’s schoolyard from the girl’s schoolyard. This school was built in 1914

Where resources and architecture allowed, multi-room school buildings generally divided their pupils, initially by age (with infant girls and boys being taught together), before the older school children were divided by sex. Where possible, girls and boys were taught in separate classrooms, or even separate school buildings. It was not uncommon for many schools to have separate doors, or even separate schoolyard entrances for boys and girls. Often, a plaque over the doorway identified the boys’ and girls’ doorways. Where there were separate entrances, more often than not there were separate cloakrooms inside. The schoolyard often further enforced gender segregation, with a dividing wall running down the centre of the play area to ensure that boys and girls would not mix during lunch times.

Shanvaghera National School Co. Mayo 1935 Classroom
The sliding screen which divided the classroom at Shanvaghera National School, Shanvaghera townland Co. Mayo (dated 1935)

Often the easiest way to identify whether a derelict building was once a school house or not is by the presence of windows that are not characteristic of a domestic building. Light, and allowing light into the building were practical necessities before the arrival of artificial luminescence from the electric bulb. For reading and writing, high windows allowed the optimum amount of light into the room throughout the day. Even today, it is recognised that maximising the amount of natural light in a school building is beneficial to the learning environment.

Tubrid National School Co. Tipperary
The form, style and placement of windows vary greatly from school to school, though many early school houses reflect an ecclesiastical genesis, with high pointed windows similar to those found in a church sometimes being present. Some can be ornate and intricate, with features such as switch-line tracery. This is an example from Tubrid National School, Co. Tipperary and dates to 1821


When considering the ecclesiastical appearance of these windows it is worth bearing in mind that during the medieval and early modern period, in many places a monastic life was often the only avenue to literacy, and so for a long time, church and the learning environment were one. Hence, school architecture often reflects that of ecclesiastical buildings.

Porterstown National School Co. Dublin
The pointed arches on the windows of Porterstown School House, Porterstown Road, Fingal, Co. Dublin built 1854. Architect: James Kennedy Esq.


The presence of unnecessarily ornate architectural features often indicate a wealthy patronage of the school, sometimes by the church, but also sometimes by the more progressive landlords who understood the significance and importance of education. In these cases, great effort was often made to create a place of learning with stimulating and intriguing architecture. Such buildings often also reflected well on the local patronising landlord as a display of their wealth and progressive nature. Below, the national school at Kilfinnane, Co. Limerick breaks from the ‘to-plan’ norm of national schools built at the turn of the 20th century. This former school retains many of its original features and materials such as the limestone plaque dated to 1908, copings and boundary walls, and of course, the ornate windows at the gable.

Kilfinanne National School Co. Limerick
The 1908 national school at Kilfinnane, Co. Limerick breaks from the ‘to-plan’ norm of national schools built at the turn of the 20th century.

In contrast, many other schools dating to this time that were built locally ‘to-plan’ following designs commissioned by the OPW, lack architectural originality, with windows often flat-headed and plain.

This was perhaps a ‘one size fits all’ effort by the OPW that was simple and cost effective. Sash windows were the most common form of glazing, set into deep window opes like the example in below from Reyrawer National School, Co. Galway.

Reyrawer National School. Co. Galway 1883 Window
The light shines through the simple sash square headed window of Réidh Reamhar (Reyrawer) National School, Reyrawer townland, Co. Galway. This school house, built in 1883 is located high in the Slieve Aughty Mountains in Co. Galway. It is reported as the highest school house in Ireland

It is worth bearing in mind the harsh conditions experienced by school children just a handful decades ago – when even the simplest of life’s necessities could be a test of endurance. With the onset of the winter rain, wind and snow, the luxury of indoor plumbing was generally beyond the expectation of most attending school at this time. When nature called, it was commonly necessary to brave the elements and venture outside to a cold and drafty detached toilet-block, usually located at the rear or to the side of the already cold and damp school house. Through the 19th and into the 20th century, even the most basic plumbing in the outside toilet was not at all common, with dry-toilets being far more prevalent, particularly in rural Ireland. These dry-toilets varied in form and design. Generally, a single free-standing toilet block would be located at the rear of the school building and divided for male and female pupils; accessed through separate gender-assigned doorways. Occasionally, when a school yard was divided by sex, each side of a centrally located toilet block had an entrance allowing access from either the male or the female side of the yard.

Dry toilets were a simple and practical design with an absence of convenience, and luxury not even an afterthought. They comprised a number of separated cubicles over a shared trough which could be cleared out from the rear of the building, a task which frequently fell to more hard-up members of the local community or often passing vagrants. A wooden plank with an adequate opening was all that separated you from the most foul quagmire which lay beneath.
Some older toilet-blocks opened directly onto the schoolyard though a simple wooden door kept you from the view of your schoolmates while in the most vulnerable of positions.

Shanvaghera National School, Shanvaghera townland, Co. Mayo
The dry toilets and encroaching greenery of Shanvaghera National School, Shanvaghera townland, Co. Mayo constructed.

Many early free-standing toilet blocks were later plumbed and re-fitted meaning some degree of comfort. New-build school houses and schools with extensions added from the 1930’s onward generally incorporated indoor plumbing like the example Scoil Cill Criosta Co. Galway (below).

Scoil Cill Criosta - Scoil Naisunta, Co. Galway
The Autumn leaves are piled high around the outdoor toilet at Scoil Cill Criosta, Ballingarry townland, Co. Galway built in 1931. This must have been a chilly spot in winter

With this added degree of luxury there was finally enough comfort to allow you to ponder over your lessons, and perhaps scribble some of your musings on the wall.

Plate 33 - The idle musings on the walls of the bathroom at Drumlish National School, Drumlish townland, Co. Longford built in c.1930
The idle musings on the walls of the bathroom at Drumlish National School, Drumlish townland, Co. Longford built in c.1930

As part of their contribution to the upkeep of the school, the parents of the school children were required to supply fuel through the winter months (in rural schools, this was typically peat turf) to heat the classroom as needed. Generally, the location of the fireplace at the head of the classroom meant that the teacher enjoyed the benefit of the warmth much more than the children. However, as a small comfort the fireplace was sometimes used to heat glass bottles of milk which each child often brought to school.

Very often, supplying turf for the school fire amounted to the school children carrying a sod or two of turf to school each morning in winter. In some cases, each family who had children attending the school had to provide one cart-load of turf each year. When this was used, each pupil had to bring further fuel each day until the weather improved. Turf was often stored in the porches where the children’s coats hung.

It is noted by many who recall the practice of bringing turf to school, that failure to supply the required fuel resulted in a caning, though officially children were not supposed to be caned for this. In 1911, government funding was made available to heat classrooms, though the practice of carrying sods of turf to school continues for several decades afterwards.

Each morning during winter, the fireplace was cleaned of the ashes from the previous day’s fire by the school children and the fire was then set. The style of the open fireplaces vary greatly from school to school though they are invariably located at the head of the classroom – be this at the gable end of the building or at an opposing central load-bearing wall which included a chimney-stack. Some fireplaces included mantle-pieces, hearthstones and occasional decorative brickwork, though often the hearth comprised a basic masonry or brickwork construction with little embellishment.

Plate 34 – The brightly coloured fireplace inside one of the classrooms of Ballycastle National School, Carrowkibbock Upper townland, Co. Mayo
The brightly-coloured fireplace inside one of the classrooms of Ballycastle National School, Carrowkibbock Upper townland, Co. Mayo. This school house was constructed in 1892.

School fireplaces were naturally smaller than their domestic equivalents as domestic fireplaces included cranes and space for food preparation in the home. The hearth wall itself was usually very deep and extended to the ceiling with the chimney stack protruding further above the roof. As a result of this, the chimney wall is often one of the best-preserved features of abandoned school houses today.

Even today with the wonders of central-heating, attending school through the cold winter months is a testing experience for many school children. Think back to what it must have been like before insulation, double glazing, and warm radiators were common place in the classroom. The fireplace is an almost ubiquitous feature in every school house built in Ireland through the 19th and into the first half of the 20th century. During this period, it was common for each classroom to have its own open fireplace to keep the classroom warm, though stoves could also be found in some schools.
It is striking that for so many people who attended these schools, one of the most lasting memories is supplying fuel for the school fire.

Sluggara National School, Co. Waterford
A textbook lies on a rotting desk in an outbuilding of Affane/Sluggara National School, Sluggara townland, Co. Waterford


You can read The School House in Ireland: Architecture and Meaning Part 1 here and The School House in Ireland: Architecture and Meaning Part 2 here



Avery, D. (2003) ‘Victorian and Edwardian Architecture’ Chaucer Press Books, Oxford.

Bernard, H. (1848) ‘School Architecture, Or, Contributions to the Improvement of School-houses in the United States’ H. W. Derby, Cincinnati.

Coolahan, J. (1981) ‘Irish Education: Its History and Structure’ Institute of Public Administration, Dublin

DCMS (2010) ‘Principles of Selection for Listing Buildings’ Public Document of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, Available [ https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/principles-of-selection-for-listing-buildings ] Accessed December 15 2017

De Silva, S. (2014) Beyond Ruin Porn: What’s Behind Our Obsession with Decay? Online Article, Available [ https://www.archdaily.com/author/shayari-de-silva ] Accessed December 12 2017

Glassie, H. (2000) Vernacular Architecture Indiana University Press

Patterson, W.M. (1875) ‘A Manual of Architecture for Churches, Parsonages and School-houses containing designs, elevations, plans, specifications’ Methodist Episcopal Church

Tilley, C. (1994) ‘Places, Paths and Monuments; A phenomenology of Landscape’ Berg Publishers, Oxford.

Shawkey, M.P. (1910) ‘School Architecture – Containing Articles And Illustrations On School Grounds, Houses, Out-Buildings, Heating, Ventilation, School Decoration, Furniture, And Fixtures’ The News-mail, Charleston.

Upitis, R. (2004) School Architecture and Complexity In ‘Complicity An International Journal of Complexity and Education Volume 1, Number 1

Weiner, D.E.B. (1994) ‘Architecture and Social Reform in Late-Victorian London’ Manchester University Press, Manchester.

The School House in Ireland: Architecture and Meaning – Part 2

The School House in Ireland: Architecture and Meaning (contd…)

What makes a building important?

Contemporary 19thand early 20th-century sources in Britain and the US (Bernard 1848; Patterson 1875; Shawkey 1910) provide, first-hand insights into the ideological and societal backgrounds behind school architecture of the period. In Britain Weiner (1994) dedicates significant wordcount to architecture and social reform in late-Victorian London from the perspective of school design, however it is part of an over-arching examination of the subject as a whole. Similarly, Avery (2003) presents a comprehensive overview of Victorian and Edwardian architecture in Britain which includes dedicated passages relating to school houses designed and constructed during this period. Both publications treat the physical and architectural environments in their historical contexts, offering a late-20th century perspective on the impact of Victorian and Edwardian reform on architecture. However, neither publication is concerned with the modern-day significance of these buildings to the modern-day populations which engages with them on a daily basis. To be fair to both publications, such a consideration is well beyond their assigned academic remit.

Gurtovehy National School, Gortaveha townland near Lough Greaney in Co. Clare This school house was built in 1920 to replace an earlier school house that was located nearby

What is important to consider is that these and other studies have been primarily concerned with ‘Architectural Interest’ from all almost exclusively historical architectural perspective. They fail to draw upon or recognise the identical social significance of many similar buildings that have served the same institutional function, but were perhaps of a lesser intrinsic architectural value for a variety of reasons (date, originality of design etc.). Hence, these buildings have been overlooked.  In defining a building to be of ‘Architectural Interest’, Historic England have condensed the general principles applied by the Secretary of State under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (DCMS 2010) to this simple statement:

‘To be of special architectural interest a building must be of importance in its architectural design, decoration or craftsmanship; special interest may also apply to nationally important examples of particular building types and techniques (e.g. buildings displaying technological innovation or virtuosity) and significant plan forms.’ – Historic England 2017 Continue reading The School House in Ireland: Architecture and Meaning – Part 2

Gola Island National School, Gola Island, Co. Donegal

Gola Island National School, Gola Island, Co. Donegal
(Dated (1846), 1880-1900)
NGR: 177221, 426202

Northwest Donegal is possibly about as rural as you can get on the island of Ireland, and the islands off the Donegal coast are probably about as isolated a spot as you will find. Many do not have permanent populations, and if you’re ever looking for somewhere to go to get away from it all, then this is the place for you.

Gola (in Irish Gabhla or Oileán Ghabhla) is a small island located off the coast of Gweedore. The island measures 424 statute Acres in area with mildly hilly terrain. It is a haven for artists, birdwatchers, photographers and walkers, and the cliffs on the north side of the island attract many rock climbers. Near the Island’s lake, bird life abounds; cormorants, razorbills, guillemots as well as gannets and kittiwakes can be admired. Although many Irish people may not realise it, they may be familiar with Gola Island through song; Gola is the birthplace of renowned Irish writer, Seán ‘ac Fhionnlaoich, and the island has also been immortalised in the traditional children’s song Báidín Fhéilimí (Féilimí’s Little Boat)

Gola Island First Edition OS Sheet
The First Edition Ordnance Survey 6 Inch Map Showing Gola Island in the late 1830s

For centuries, a couple of hundred people eked out a living on Gola from fishing and subsistence farming. But by the 1950s, the island could no longer compete with the economic opportunities offered by the mainland. Gradually, Gola’s families stripped their houses, boarded their boats and sailed away to the mainland. The closure of the island’s national school in the mid-1960s marked the beginning of the end.

Since the 1960s onward the trend on most of the off-shore islands has been a decreasing population. In fact, during the 1950s and 1960s, many of the smaller islands were forcefully evacuated by the Irish Government as continuous bad weather meant that islanders were unable to travel to the mainland for several consecutive months. The most recent census taken during 2016 showed 15 permanent residents on Gola, although the return of permanent settlement to the island is a recent phenomenon, with the island being largely un-populated since the late 1960s.

Gola Island Population

In 2005 the island was connected to mains electricity for the first time, and from being totally deserted over 30 years ago Gola now has electricity and water and the future looks far more positive. However, the population remains small and somewhat seasonal.

Gola Island National School
Gola Island National School, Co Donegal, with Mount Errigal in the backgroud

The old school house on Gola has been closed since 1966. Located on the shore, it is in a most precarious position, with coastal erosion threatening to erase the structure from the landscape. Stormy weather in recent years means the sea now comes right up to the door at high tide. It is weather beaten, the roof has collapsed, and in all likelihood, it will be completely washed away in the coming years. Continue reading Gola Island National School, Gola Island, Co. Donegal

Knockastolar National School, Knockastolar townland, Co. Donegal

Knockastolar National School, Knockastolar townland, Co. Donegal
(Dated 1880-1900)
NGR: 180992, 423154

I got a call last week to take a trip up to North Donegal at short notice. Despite the 1002 Km round trip I really didn’t mind going; we were headed for Mulroy Bay and Rosguill, and I knew that I was a relative stones-throw from Gweedore and Bloody Foreland. This was of interest to me as a few months back I’d be contacted by Sile Ui Ghallchoir, who had gone to school on the now deserted Gola Island in Gweedore Bay. Since then I had been eager to get some shots of the the school house there that had been closed since 1966.  The sea was slowly reclaiming the land that the school was built on, and it would not be long until it was washed away.

And so I packed my bags and left the next morning for the north. We made our way from Ramelton toward the coast early the following evening, taking in what I already knew was some of the most beautiful scenery in the country. Crossing through Glenveagh National Park, you couldn’t help but be struck by the wonderfully barren mountainous landscape; reminiscent of many parts of Connemara and West Kerry, but with a far greater feeling that you are a long way from anywhere (a six hour drive from Cork can give you that impression at least).

The plan was to coax a lift from a fishing boat in Bunbeg and make my way out to the island. With a few hours to spare before I could hitch the lift I had arranged, I ambled around the village of Bunbeg. Just outside the little hamlet in the townland of Knockastolar, I happened accidentally upon another school house lying empty. Painted in the Green and Yellow of Donegal and perched above the road from Bunbeg to Dungloe at a Y-junction, it looked like a late 19th-century style school house with a later extension perhaps. The original section of the building was identical to the old school house on Whiddy Island off Bantry Bay in Co.  Cork (dated 1887), with an entrance to porch to the side. A hole in the door allowed me to get in to take a few quick photos.

Knockastolar National School, Co. Donegal (1880 -1900)
Knockastolar National School, Co. Donegal (1880 -1900)
Knockastolar National School, Co. Donegal (1880 -1900)
Knockastolar National School, Co. Donegal (1880 -1900)

Continue reading Knockastolar National School, Knockastolar townland, Co. Donegal

Scoil Bride Culaid, Cooly townland, Co. Donegal

Scoil Bride Culaid, Cooly townland, Co. Donegal
(Dated 1931)

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 endeavour to make the long journey north to the Inishowen Peninsula and Ireland’s most northerly point on nearby Malin Head.

At the turn of the 19th century there were just 50 people living in the town of Moville, but the town would soon rapidly develop over the following decades. Through the second half of the 19th century, Moville was a significant point of embarkation for many travellers, especially emigrants to Canada and the United States of America. 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 schooling, and there were a number of national schools constructed, not just in the town, but in the surrounding hinterland also. The school house featured here is one such building.  Scoil Bride Culaid is located near Cooly Cross; a rural spot just 3 km to the northwest of Moville Town.

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.

Continue reading Scoil Bride Culaid, Cooly townland, Co. Donegal

Munterneese National School, Munterneese townland, Co. Donegal

Munterneese National School, Munterneese townland, Co. Donegal
(Dated 1938)

NGR:183512, 375634

Located in the south of Co. Donegal, and on the northern shore of Donegal Bay, the village of Inver is sometimes referred to as the hidden jewel of the northwest. In recent years, the ‘Wild Atlantic Way’ coastal driving route has brought an increase in tourism to the area, with the parish being situated on the bay of Inver. Nonetheless it remains a quiet spot; rural in character with hilly and rough grazing land that is occasionally lashed by Atlantic winds and rain.

Although now quiet, the area was once home to an important whaling post during the 18th and 19th century, and a large whaling station and fleet was based in the Port of Inver, 2 km from the modern Inver Village.

Thomas and Andrew Nesbitt set up the whaling business in Donegal Bay in 1759. Thomas was the inventor of the gun-harpoon, which was witnessed by Arthur Young during his tour of Ireland 1776-1779, as he states: “From many experiments he brought the operation to such perfection that, for some years he never missed a whale, nor failed of holding her by the harpoon”.The ruins of the old whaling station still remain in the port but have eroded and deteriorated to rubble.

During the 19th century the area was busy enough to require a railway, and Inver railway station opened on 18 August 1893. However the final train passed through the station on 1 January 1960. It has been closed since.

Just a few kilometres east of Inver Village and situated to the south of the old railway tracks, are the townlands of Munterneese and Drumcoe. The townlands are sparsely populated today, though a quick glance at the historic mapping for the area shows that in the time since the publication of the First Edition Ordnance Survey 6 inch map series in the 1840s, there have been no less than four school houses constructed in this small area. Only two if these buildings remain today (both disused), and this blog post looks at the last of these to be constructed; a detached six-bay single-storey national school, dated 1938. Continue reading Munterneese National School, Munterneese townland, Co. Donegal

Lettermore National School, Lettermore townland, Co. Donegal

Lettermore National School, Lettermore townland, Co. Donegal
(Dated 1909)
NGR: 185124, 383735

Lettermore National School Co. Donegal (1909)

The island of Ireland is small but diverse. From the southwesternmost point at Mizen Head in Co. Cork, you need only travel about 550 km to reach the northerly tip of the country at Malin Head in Co. Donegal. But along that journey, you will witness a variety of landscapes, both physical and cultural – each different from the other in striking, or sometimes subtle ways. From productive mixed farmlands for both tillage and stock, to the mire of endless bog, the physical landscape has been shaped and manipulated, initially by geological process, and subsequently by the the people who have lived in it. Particularly in rural Ireland, the physical and cultural landscapes are entwined and form a narrative that is often not immediately clear, that requires an insight into, and interpretation of what shapes the lived experience of the world around you. In short, the landscape and what it contains tells the history of it’s inhabitants.

This blog post features the first abandoned school house from Co. Donegal (the northernmost county in Ireland) that I’ve visited, and it’s difficult to communicate the significance of the school without first placing this building in context.

Lettermore National School, Co. Donegal (1909)

The slogan ‘Up here it’s different’ has been used to promote tourism in, and attract tourists to the Donegal region in recent years. But what makes this area different? In terms of geography, Donegal is pretty similar to West Cork, Kerry and Connemara; a rugged western coastline shaped by the Caledonian Orogeny, and battered by the Atlantic Ocean, mountainous lands of blanket bog to the west, better, more productive lands to the east.

But Donegal different to these other places. Depending on your perspective, the circumstances of history have not done Donegal any favours other than to perhaps help preserve it’s striking landscape. The Partition of Ireland in the early 1920s had a massive direct impact on the county. Partition cut the county off, economically and administratively, from Derry, which had acted for centuries as it’s main port, transport hub and financial centre. But even before this, Donegal was one of the worst affected parts of Ulster during the Great Famine of the late 1840s. Vast swathes of the county were devastated by this catastrophe, many areas becoming permanently depopulated. Vast numbers of people emigrated at this time. Particularly in West Donegal, there was a spiral of decline from the 1900s onward, and what was once seasonal migration from the islands and highlands was replaced by more permanent migration to cities in Britain such as Glasgow.

Lettermore National School, Co. Donegal (1909)

The abandoned school house at Lettermore symbolises the recent history of the region, and the story of migration. Opened in 1909 to meet the educational needs of the local community, the school had a relatively short life. Continue reading Lettermore National School, Lettermore townland, Co. Donegal