This week (August 20th – 28th) marks National Heritage Week in Ireland. It is a multifaceted event coordinated by The Heritage Council that aims to aid awareness and education about our heritage, and thereby encouraging its conservation and preservation. As part of Heritage Week 2016 there are daily posts to the Disused School Houses Blog and this is the fifth post in the series.
For the past two years I’ve been casually photographing abandoned school houses around Ireland. I don’t have any explanation for why I began doing this, but this hobby started by accident with no real projected outcome. I uploaded a few of my snaps to this blog and from there the project began to develop with a view to publication in the coming months. Matching my images with stories recorded in these abandoned schools by the Irish Folklore Commission in the 1930s, the now-empty buildings came to life once more.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is the second in the series of daily posts to the Disused School Houses blog to mark National Heritage Week 2016 (August 20th- 28th). Heritage Week is a multifaceted event coordinated by The Heritage Council that aims to aid awareness and education about our heritage, and thereby encouraging its conservation and preservation.
Twenty-Sixteen marks the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising in Ireland. The 1916 Rising represented the first ‘major ‘ demonstration of force since the United Irishmen’s Rising of 1798. Already this year there have been many events across the country to commemorate the centenary.
However, this blog post is not so much concerned with the political wranglings and social upheaval during the period. Instead, I would like to take a brief look at the national school system and what everyday school life was like in Ireland in and around the turn of the 20th century.
During the drawn-out process of establishing the Irish State in the early decades of the 20th Century, the government of the time inherited an already established primary education system. The Education Act of 1831 established the Board of National Education, and approval was given for a national system of education in every part of Ireland, partially paid for by the state. The role of the National Board was originally regarded as supplementary, providing inspection, approval, training, additions to salaries, and cheap books and requisites. It was hoped that in a given district the local gentlemen, businessmen, and clergy would not only provide the buildings, but would also partially pay the teachers, raise money for school perquisites, but also devise courses suitable for local needs.
According to the 1831 Act, he two legal pillars of the National School system were to be (i) children of all religious denominations to be taught together in the same school, with (ii) separate religious instruction. There was to be no hint of proselytism in this new school system. The new system, initially well supported by the religious denominations, quickly lost support of the Churches. However, the population showed great enthusiasm and flocked to attend these new National Schools.
In the second half of the 19th century, first the Catholic Church, and later the Protestant churches conceded to the state, and accepted the “all religious denominations together” legal position. Where possible, parents sent their children of a National School under the local management of their particular Church. The result was that by the end of the 19th century, the system had become increasingly denominational, with individuals choosing to attend schools primarily catering to children of their own religion. However, the legal position de jure, that all national schools are multi-denominational, remains to this day though in actuality, the system unfortunately functions much like a state – sponsored, church – controlled arrangement (this is an argument for another day).
The number of schools was not static. In 1899 there were 8,670 schools in operation under the Board. Today that figure is approximately 3160, less than half of what it was over one hundred years previous. Up until the 1950s, small multi-grade schools continued to be established throughout Ireland as part of the education infrastructure. But with an improvement in rural transport and the growing availability and popularity of motor cars, the need for small local schools that children could walk to was lessened, and larger schools covering greater catchment areas were favoured. During the period 1966-73, the number of one and two teacher schools was reduced by c.1,100. For this reason, small one and two room abandoned school houses are almost ubiquitous across the rural Irish landscape.
This week (August 20th – 28th) marks National Heritage Week in Ireland. It is a multifaceted event coordinated by The Heritage Council that aims to aid awareness and education about our heritage, and thereby encouraging its conservation and preservation. As part of Heritage Week 2016 there will be daily posts to the Disused School Houses Blog for the duration of the event to promote awareness of our built and cultural heritage. Below is the first in the Heritage Week 2016 Blog Post series.
As the title of this post suggests, I’m not just interested in the buildings, their architecture, or the fittings, furniture and the debris that is strewn across these echoing spaces, but also in the stories they tell, their settings, and the nostalgia and memory that make up these cognitive landscapes. As time passes they have a growing significance as relics of a disappearing rural Irish lifeway, especially as the landscape around these school houses changes.
Visiting Reyrawer National School in the Slieve Aughty Hills last Autumn was a fine example of such a disappearing landscape. The autumnal evening sun hung low in the sky, and the few clouds that had lingered as twilight beckoned were tainted red and orange around their fringes by the setting sun. On the low hillside, and hidden in the dense forestry plantation of the Slieve Aughtys, was the now-disused, one-roomed Reyrawer National School; dilapidated and empty, haunting and isolated.The now forested hill-sides were dotted with the ruins of former farmsteads. The former pasture and rough grazing lands had been sown with coniferous plantations, and the ubiquitous and imposing wind-turbines highlighted the movement away from agrarian living in this area, as an alternative and profitable use is sought for this now people-less landscape. In the Aughtys, the result is an empty space, a desolate place where few people live.
Killymarly National School, Killymarly townland, Co. Monaghan
NGR: 270176, 333199
Travelling east from Monaghan Town toward the border between the Republic and Northern Ireland, there is a small rural townland named Killymarly located on the northern side of the N 72. The surrounding landscape is characterised by elongated low drumlin hills, interspersed with damp bog-lands and small lakes. On the western side of one of these low drumlins, and set just off a narrow local road, are the crumbling remains of a two-storey school house dating to the mid-19th century. The building is marked on both the First Edition 6 inch Ordnance Survey Sheet (1834-1846), and the later 25 inch Ordnance Survey Sheet (dating to the turn of the 20th century), and the school was probably constructed in the 1840s.
Killymarly, Co. Monaghan – First Edition Ordnance Survey Sheet
Killymarly, Co. Monaghan – Second Edition Ordnance Survey Sheet
Laughil National School, Rabbitpark townland, Co. Longford
NGR: 217408, 270367
The townland of Rabbitpark is located to the south-east of Longford Town in Co. Longford. Rural in character, the surrounding landscape is barren and of low quality. Like the environment surrounding Drumlish National Schooland Gaigue National School in the same county, farming remains important to the local economy, though rural life has changed, and the hustle-and-bustle of the market town is no longer what it used to be.
This school house was built in 1937. Looking at the First and Second Edition Ordnance Survey sheets, it can be seen that this is not the first National School built at this site, and that this building replaced an earlier school house built sometime before the First Edition Ordnance Survey in the late 1930s.
Corvoy National School, Cornahoe townland, Co. Monaghan
NGR: 272335, 324722
Through the closing decades of the 19th century, there was a notable increase in the construction of new school houses in Ireland. During this time a number of ‘to-standard’ designs were utilised across the country including the detached eight-bay single-storey school house like example featured here from Corvoy in Co. Monaghan (built in 1902). Further almost identical schools can be found at Carrigan Co. Cavan (built in 1897) and Brooklawn Co. Galway (built in 1885).
Built in 1902 and replacing an earlier school house once located adjacent to the local Roman Catholic Church (see the First and Second Edition Ordnance Survey sheets above), this detached eight-bay single-storey school remains in good condition both internally and externally, and so it is a fine example of this ‘to-standard’ design’. It has a standard double entrance, one entrance for boys and one for girls. Sometimes there were local variations in the design, like the example from Gortahose, Co. Leitrim (built in 1890) with it’s centrally located doorway. Corvoy School includes a pitched slate roof with single red brick chimneystack to mid-roof, and cast-iron rainwater goods and harl-rendered walls, having carved stone date plaque to the centre of the front (west) elevation.
Inside, it is white-washed and bare, bright, but empty. It retains the majority of it’s original features including a built-in cloak cupboard inside the northern doorway. Outside, the surrounding rubble limestone boundary wall also separates girls’ and boys’ yards, and includes a post-Independence postbox, another common feature of schools of this era. Continue reading Corvoy National School, Cornahoe townland, Co. Monaghan→
Latton National School, Latton townland, Co. Monaghan
NGR: 268647, 314073
In the village of Latton in Co. Monaghan there has been a progression of four school houses since the first school building was marked on the First Edition Ordnance Survey in the 1840s. The national school featured in this blog post dates to 1941, and was replaced by the modern school building situated closer to the centre of the village. Broadly similar in form and fabric to the school at Gortadooda in Co. Tipperary, this was a standard design by the Board of Works that was used throughout the country in the late 1930s and early 1940s.
Latton National School, Co. Monaghan 1941
Latton National School, Co. Monaghan 1941
Latton National School, Co. Monaghan 1941
Latton National School, Co. Monaghan 1941
Latton Co. Monaghan 1941
Now standing in open pasture, the structure is gradually giving way to the elements. To the front of the building there is an inscribed limestone date and name plaque reading ‘Scoil Mhuire Leacht Fhinn Scoil Náisiúnta 1941’. However, inside many of the fixtures and fittings remain, and each classroom retains much of the original furniture giving the environment a particularly spooky feeling.
Drumlish National School, Drumlish townland, Co. Longford
The village of Drumlish is situated in North County Longford, close to the Cavan and Leitrim Borders, and near to the village of Ballinamuck. Just outside the centre of the village is Old School Road where a series of old school houses have stood over the past 180 years. The First Edition Ordnance Survey map from the mid-19th century shows a school house marked at the southern side of the modern R198 where the Cairn Hill View estate is now located. The Second Edition Ordnance Survey sheet from the turn of the 20th century shows that by this time, the school had moved to opposite the old Constabulary Barracks at the junction of Old School Road and the R198. However, the school featured here post-dates both these buildings and is located to the east of the School Road Junction on the southern side of Old School Road. Here, hidden behind trees and brambles are the remains of a detached seven-bay single-storey former H-plan primary school, originally constructed c.1930 and extended c.1950.
Drumlish Co. Longford c.1930 Shelter
Drumlish Co. Longford c.1930 Entrance
Drumlish Co. Longford c.1930 Entrance II
Drumlish Co. Longford c.1930 Water Tower
Standing beside the building is a pebble-dashed water tower typical of 1950s school construction, while to the rear is a concrete playground shelter, which was cast in-situ. It is a particularly evocative abandoned schoolhouse, only going out of use in recent years. On entering the school through either of the cold, cast-in-situ side entrances, its functional 1950s architecture gives the interior a haunting feel, as encroaching nature gradually reclaims the building.
Bunnanaddan National School, Ballynaraw South townland, Co. Sligo
NGR: 160854, 311897
County Sligo in the north-west of Ireland is undoubtedly rich in history, heritage, mythology and folklore. The dramatic and spectacular landscape rises from the wild Atlantic coast with expansive, sandy dunes and beaches, to the Tolkien-esque Dartry Mountains where every cave, cliff face and hill has its own unique story to tell. This environment lends itself easily to storytelling and the imagination, and it is easy to see why it has inspired and featured in a wealth of fantastical folklore throughout the millennia.