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.
Feohanagh National School, Feohanagh townland, Co. Limerick
NGR: 134051, 126163
The rural landscape of many parts of Ireland is punctuated by small villages which, for various reasons, have fallen into decline in recent decades. In west Co. Limerick is one such village; ‘Feohanagh’ (the place of the thistles) located 5 miles south-east of the town of Newcastle West on the R522 road to Dromcollogher.
The First Edition 25 inch map (1898-1907) shows that at the turn of the 19thcentury this little hamlet included a smithy, a post office, a terraced street scene, the local church, and a two-roomed school house. Today, no shops, post office or other services remain open here, though to the north side of the R522 are the remains of the disused two-roomed national school built in A.D. 1886.
Tullystown National School, Tullystown Cross, Co. Westmeath
NGR: 244969, 279596
In 1837 the travelling antiquarian Samuel Lewis described the topography of Co. Westmeath as ‘diversified by hill and dale, highly picturesque in many parts, and deficient in none of the essentials of rural beauty, but timber’. Travelling north from the boglands of Co. Offaly into Co. Westmeath, there is certainly a notable change in the landscape – the brown watery flat-lands give way to green hillsides and winding roads which navigate the undulating farmland. Docile cattle peer over low stone walls, and traffic is largely agricultural.
Cloghboola National School, Drishane, Co. Cork/Scoil An Clochbhuaile, Driseán, Co. Chorcaí.
NGR: 126725, 086631
Driving south from the village of Millstreet to the town of Macroom in West Cork, and just past Kilmeedy Bridge, you pass the rural village of Cloghboola. Nestled in the low hills of West Cork, today the village comprises just a few scattered houses and the modern local national School. However, to the east side of the road lies a curious 19th-century derelict building with two defunct 1950s petrol pumps outside.
Dating to 1868, this neglected structure is in fact a two-roomed school house. With a detached cruciform plan, this school is not of conventional design like many school houses of standard plan from a little later in the 19th century. It is a single-storey school, having four bays to projecting long faces and three bays to projecting short faces.
The building has a slate roof, hipped to the front long face and double-hipped to rear. It retains it’s original cast-iron rainwater goods and clay ridge tiles. The walls are rendered with a render plaque to the centre of the front elevation. It includes square-headed window openings having some tooled limestone sills. These window opes are blocked to front and south elevation, though to the rear nine-pane fixed timber windows are evident (text adapted from the NIAH).
Whiddy Island National School, Trawnahaha townland, Whiddy Island, Co. Cork
NGR: 096974, 049791
Whiddy Island is a small, near-shore island located at the head of Bantry Bay in Co. Cork. Not far from the modern quayside and in the townland of Trawnahaha is a small late 19th-century one-roomed school house overlooking Bantry Bay below. Painted bright blue with a white lime-wash, in recent years the building had been used as a local museum though it has now fallen into a state of disrepair.
Like so many offshore islands in Ireland, the permanent population has dwindled through the 20th century and can no longer support a local national school. John Chambers’ “Islands – Change in Population 1841 – 2011” clearly shows the island’s decline from a peak population of 729 in 1841:
Shanvaghera National School, Shanvaghera townland, Co. Mayo
NGR: 141379, 285917
Shanvaghera National School is situated in the townland of the same name, just off the N17, a few kilometres north of Knock in County Mayo. Although the exterior of the building is not particularly striking, the interior is well preserved. The building is certainly in a ruinous state, with nature invading through the shattered glass and broken doorways. Nonetheless, original features such as the wooden partition that divided the main room into three classrooms, three original fireplaces, and a single school desk add wonderful atmosphere to this building. The separate entrances for boys and girls are to the rear of the school, and the numbered coat hooks once used by the pupils can be seen in the entrance hall. The suspended wooden floor was solid enough to walk on when I visited. The school closed in 1968/69.
To the rear of the main building is the former toilet block where the wooden elements of the non-flushing latrines remain.
The building comprises a detached, five-bay, single-storey national school, built and opened in 1935, on a T-shaped plan with single-bay, single-storey, lean-to projecting bays centred on single-bay, full-height, gabled projecting porch; there is a seven-bay, single-storey rear (east) elevation. It has a pitched slate roof on a T-shaped plan extending into lean-to slate roofs centred on a pitched (gabled) slate roof with clay ridge tiles terminating in red brick.
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 structure. 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.
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. An example of this from Tubrid National School, Co. Tipperary is shown below:
Brooklawn National School, Fartamore townland, Co. Galway
In 1937 Margaret Dunne, (then only a school girl at Brooklawn NS) wrote of her local district: ‘All those old people can speak the Irish language… …a good deal of people went to America… …each farmer has only nine or ten acres.’ Brooklawn National School is situated in the townland of Fartamore in the parish of Kilconly in east County Galway. It is now derelict but in relatively good condition (although recently a large hole has been knocked in the rear wall). The place-name Fartamore means ‘great/big grave’. Like so many of the disused school buildings that punctuate the rural Irish landscape, Brooklawn represents a time now past when there was a need to provide easily accessible local education for the children of a rural farming population. Today its empty, collapsing shell also poignantly reflects social change and the impact of rural depopulation and migration to the larger urban centres in Ireland – the movement away from the land and farming.
Hollygrove National School, Hollygrove townland, Co. Galway
NGR: 178226, 257469
Like so many disused national school buildings present in the rural Irish landscape, the simple ‘to-plan’ architecture of Hollygrove and it’s isolated location in north Co. Galway reflects somewhat juxtaposed concepts of rural homogeneity (a school building like many others, built cheaply and ‘to-plan’ by the state administrators for a homogeneous local rural population) and the uniqueness of each rural area in its isolation (built in a isolated spot near the shore of Ballaghdacker Lough, seemingly far removed from the offices of design and planning – like so many other civic buildings planted in these locations from afar).
Above is the Second Edition 25 inch to 1 mile OS sheet for Hollygrove showing the location of the School to the southwest of Ballaghdacker Lough at the turn of the 20th century
Each of these schools is undoubtedly similar in a broad sense (each school was to serve the same general role as an institute of education), but also undoubtedly unique. For the casual onlooker today, this school house could be confused with many others of a similar design, however, for those children who attended the school, the building was unmistakable – identifiable through minor unique qualities or its landscape setting. Hollygrove, or sometimes Holly Grove, is a townland of 283 acres in Athleague parish, Killeroran district, Killian barony, Union of Mountbellew, in County Galway. The townland is on the border of Roscommon and Galway. Hollygrove National School is situated to the southwest of Ballaghdacker Lough in the townland.
Coolmountain National School, Coolmountain townland, Co. Cork
NGR: 118544, 60287
A few miles north of Dunmanway in west Cork is the rural hamlet of Coolmountain. In summer, this is a particularly lush and green place, wooded and mountainous, isolated and peaceful. The land is rough but resourceful. The landscape of Coolmountain seems to have retained an authentic rural feel: the roads are poor, the houses sparse and there is a sense of timelessness about the place.
Here, just off a small local road and partially hidden by trees, is the disused Coolmountain National School; a diminutive one-room corrugated asbestos structure that is among the more unusual schoolhouses in the country
The ruins of Coolmountain National School comprise a detached gable-fronted three-bay single-storey school, built c.1945. It has a pitched asphalt roof with cast-iron ‘rainwater goods’ (i.e. gutters and drainpipes). The windows comprise square-headed openings with metal casement mullions and timber sills. It also has a square-headed door opening with a timber battened door, overlight and concrete steps. Rendered walls to the front and sides of the plot enclose a small schoolyard which can be accessed through a wrought-iron gate. The building ceased being used as a school in 1969 but was lived in until 2005. It is near collapse and unlikely to survive much longer.