Tag Archives: Co. Leitrim

Brockagh National School, Brockagh Lower Townland, Co. Leitrim

Brockagh National School, Brockagh Lower Townland, Co. Leitrim

(dated c.1885)

NGR: 201431, 337272

The little village of Glenfarne is located in north County Leitrim, surrounded by rolling drumlins and boggy lakelands that are so characteristic of this part of the country. The soil quality is poor, the lands are often damp and unproductive, and in recent decades, much of the landscape has been planted with vast  expanses of commercial forestry in an effort to put the landscape to some commercial purpose.  Leitrim is the least populous county in Ireland – often the butt of the joke in regional banter and rib-poking. But I don’t think anyone there really cares about that. In reality the county offers wonderful lakeside isolation, with forest-covered hills over-looking small hamlets, vernacular houses and ruinous clachains. It is a peaceful landscape, and though it can be harsh during a long winter of short evenings, in summer the still lakes glisten in the sunshine without the disturbance of excessive tourism.

The village of Glenfarne is probably best known as the site of the original “Ballroom of Romance”, which inspired a short story by William Trevor and was subsequently turned into a movie by the BBC. The story itself is a little grim; set in rural Ireland in the 1950s, the lead protagonist Bridie has been attending the local dance hall for years in the hope of finding a good husband who can help work her family’s farm. Now surrounded by younger prettier women at the dances, she comes to the realisation that all the good men of her generation have emigrated or have been spoken for; and her only remaining hope for marriage is with the alcoholic and unreliable Bowser Egan.

The name-plaque above the gabled porch of Brockagh National School in Co. Leitrim, show the date of construction 1885

The story of The Ballroom of Romance is set in a landscape of rural decline and emigration – common themes of rural Ireland that are particularly strong in Co. Leitrim through the 20th century. Glenfarne was once serviced by the Sligo, Leitrim and Northern Counties Railway line from Eniskillen to Sligo. The line opened in January 1880 and finally closed on 1 October 1957. A sawmill and creamery operated adjacent to the railway line, and a tourist hotel was located in the adjacent townland of  Sranagross. And just to the south of the railway in the townland of Brockagh was the the old two-roomed school house – Brockagh National School, built in 1885, but now empty and abandoned.

An extract from the First Edition 25-inch Ordnance Survey Sheet showing Brockagh National School at hte turn of the 20th  Century

Brockagh National School was closed in the 1970s when St. Michael’s N.S. Glenfarne, was constructed and opened. However, the new school was the result of the amalgamation of 6 local schools, Brockagh, Loughross, Cullentra, Tawnyinshinagh, Cornamon and Carringengear. The initial enrollment was 195 pupils in 1970. The school has current enrollment of 65 pupils drawn from the immediate locality. Today it is difficult to imagine that the locality once required six individual national schools, albeit somewhat smaller in size.

An old cupboard on the disintegrating floor of Brockagh National School
An old cupboard on the disintegrating floor of Brockagh National School

 

The standing remains at Brockagh are that of a two-roomed school house of a ‘to-plan’ design supplied by the OPW at the time. Originally the building comprised a single classroom with three tall windows at one gable, and an open fireplace at the other. The interior was subsequently divided with a partition wall. Inside, the suspended timber floor has begun to rot and collapse beneath your feet. Large parts of the slate roof have fallen away, and what remains of the school furniture is slowly disintegrating inside.

 

 

 

 

A view through the doorway from one classroom to the next
A view through the doorway from one classroom to the next

The tall gable windows are particularly striking. They are three ‘six over twelve’ sliding sash windows that allow light to beam into the classroom from sunrise. When the school originally functioned as a one-classroom school, the whole interior was illuminated by the sun as soon as it rose above the horizon. Today, the light beams in over the rotting timbers and discarded furniture.

The tall 'six-over-twelve' windows in the gable end of the school house
The tall ‘six-over-twelve’ windows in the gable end of the school house
A partly boarded up window in the entrance porch
A partly boarded up window in the entrance porch

This 19th-century school house is a charming little building in rural county Leitrim. Closed in the 1970s, it is a fine example, or even symptom of, the rural decline experienced here over the past few decades. The population has been dwindling here for some time, and the entire county is dotted with disused school houses. In the landscape around these disused schools are the remains of collapsed and abandoned vernacular houses, old farmsteads and out- buildings, often being swallowed up by the encroaching commercial forestry. It is bittersweet in some ways; a delightfully quiet and peaceful place that is green and lush in summer time – but is a simultaneously withering rural lifeway.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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 Brockagh National School is featured in the slideshow above.

A school desk, bathed in light inside the old classroom
A school desk, bathed in light inside the old classroom

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. You can do so here. If you know of  further schools that I could visit, please do let me know.

 

Drumreilly National School, Kilnacreevey townland, Co. Leitrim 

Drumreilly National School, Kilnacreevy townland, Co. Leitrim 

(dated: 1887)

NGR: 219888, 312629

Drumreilly National School Co. Leitrim 1887

Every now and then I find myself on the road when I chance upon some old empty school house by a roadside somewhere. I wouldn’t say that I’ve become obsessed with these abandoned buildings, but it recently occurred to me that in the past 12 months I’ve visited just over 100 tumbling down ruins of old schools, and that at the moment I feel compelled to stop and take a quick look around when I do accidentally stumble across one. While travelling from Ballymote to Armagh last month, I happened across a late 19th-century school house in the townland of Kilnacreevy in Co. Leitrim.

Drumreilly National School Co. Leitrim 1887

County Leitrim is Ireland’s least populous county, predominantly rural in character, with Carrick-on-Shannon being the only sizeable town of note. However, the countryside is stunning in an understated way, defined by rolling, boggy drumlins with small lakes interspersed between. The land is agriculturally poor, and the hollows between the drumlins tend to become water-logged and boggy. In 1837, the antiquarian Samuel Lewis described the region as ‘generally wet, sour, and moory’.

Drumreilly National School Co. Leitrim 1887

I feel Samuel Lewis was a little unfair with his description of the region. In the area around Garadice Lough on the Leitrim/Cavan border, meandering country lanes navigate the hillocks and lakes, and lead from one small village to the next. It is on the northern shore of Garadice Lough that you’ll find Kilnacreevy townland; a place that hasn’t changed much in the past 100 years. 

It was just a little over 100 years ago that a small one-roomed school house was built here overlooking the lakeshore. It is located on the northern side of the modern R199 road. The school building comprises a detached, single-storey, three-bay,one-roomed school house of rubble and brick construction, with a pitched slate roof. The date plaque indicates that it was constructed in 1887. It is near identical in form to the example from Sonnagh Old in Co. Galway, and in a similar state of decay.
Continue reading Drumreilly National School, Kilnacreevey townland, Co. Leitrim 

Borderlands; ‘generally wet, sour, and moory’ – Samuel Lewis, 1837 (Heritage Week 2016 Series)

This is the third in the series of daily posts to the Disused School Houses blog to mark National Heritage Week 2016 (August 20th- 28th). This post presents images of abandoned school houses from Ireland’s ‘Borderland’ region, along with a brief narrative outlining the changing social landscape of the area over the past 100 years.

Gaigue NS Co. Cavan 1890 - 1900: Now a mechanic's workshop
Gaigue National School, Co. Cavan

aThere are a number of reoccurring motifs and themes that I have come across in the course of researching and photographing the disused school houses I visit. Rural depopulation and changing rural settlement patterns are amongst those themes. In some rural areas, the negative affects of this depopulation are partly offset by a thriving modern tourism industry. However, along the border region between the Republic and Northern Ireland where fewer tourists visit, the affects of demographic change have only been exacerbated further by social upheaval over the past century or so.

Drumreilly NS Co. Leitrim 1897 Fireplace
Drumreilly National School, Co. Leitrim (built in 1897)

The social history of the border already fills countless tomes and theses. The borderlands of Northern Ireland and Ireland are amongst the most disadvantaged and deprived areas of the island, and the proliferation of abandoned national schools in the area tells that story in itself. In March of this year, I spent a few days travelling through counties Monaghan, Cavan and Leitrim. These counties make up a significant percentage of the north/south border, and in terms of looking for derelict school houses, this is prime territory.

Corvoy Ns Co. monaghan 1902 Piano Through the Door
Corvoy National School, Co. Monaghan (built in 1902)

Besides dramatic social change, the creation of the custom barrier in 1923 significantly affected the movement of goods. Duties were payable on items such as tobacco, clothing and other manufactured goods. This had significant implications for retailers who formerly served areas that were now on either side of the border and for ordinary people whose patterns of shopping were disrupted by the new customs barrier.

Latton Co. Monaghan 1941 Classroom
Latton National School, Co. Monaghan (built in 1941)

Even before the decades of violence, the creation of the border badly affected existing retailers, manufacturers and services near the border. For many business the cost and inconvenience of new customs system – duties, paper work, delays and longer journeys – as well as the growing divergence in the administrative systems on either side created difficulties which led to a dramatic decline in trade across the border.

Continue reading Borderlands; ‘generally wet, sour, and moory’ – Samuel Lewis, 1837 (Heritage Week 2016 Series)

Gortahose National School, Gortachoosh townland, Co. Leitrim

Gortahose National School, Gortachoosh townland,  Co. Leitrim
(Dated 1890)
NGR: 218430, 307284

gortahose-national-school-co.-letrim-classroom.jpg.jpeg

Just a few miles south-east of the town of Ballinamore in Co. Leitrim, and set amongst the rolling, boggy drumlins and frequent small lakes, is the small rural village of Corrawaleen. During the first part of the 19th Century a small school house was located in the village and is marked on the First Edition Ordnance Survey map for the area. However, in 1890 a new school house was built in the nearby townland of Gortachoosh just outside the village.

This school house still stands today. Though derelict and beginning to collapse, inside, it is in good condition, and the echoes of past schooling can almost be heard amongst the scattered school furniture. It bright daylight, the school rooms seem vibrant still.

Continue reading Gortahose National School, Gortachoosh townland, Co. Leitrim

Carrigeencor National School, Carrigeencor townland, Co. Leitrim

Carrigeencor National School, Carrigeencor townland, Co. Leitrim

(dated 1872)

NGR: 184325, 333970

111ADSC01211

Carrigeencor National School is located in the townland of Carrigeencor in Co. Leitrim. The surrounding landscape comprises rural blanket bog with a sparse population. Nonetheless, Carrigeencor is one of two school houses located in the area, the other being Kilcoosey National School just 1.5 km away. Leitrim has suffered from rural depopulation more than most counties and today it is difficult to imagine that this area once required two schools.

Carrigeencor Ns 2nd Ed OS

The school house comprises a detached single-storey one room building with a lower projecting pitched-roof gable porch, and a rear extension with a lean-to roof. It has a pitched roof and the walls are rendered and scored to imitate cut-stone blocks. It was constructed in 1872. There is a low coarsely built rubble and mortar wall to the front with a wrought-iron gate. To the rear is the former toilet block. It is a simple stone and mortar construction with brick lintels over the doorways and a sheet-metal roof that has managed to stand the test of time. Continue reading Carrigeencor National School, Carrigeencor townland, Co. Leitrim