Shraigh School History

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We are blessed to have a super book published in 1995 on the history of our school. With permission, we have taken sections from this walk down memory lane and reproduced it here for you starting with the history of Shraigh school, written by our past principal, Nell McDonnell, followed by a school tour in 1987 described by a past pupil. We also have reproduced the articles on the recollections of past teachers. Máire Ní Ghachain tells her own story, while Mary Gaughan writes her recollections of Michael and Margaret McLoughlin, Stephen Glenn presents "A Master's Memories" and finally P. J. Walshe who taught in Shraigh N.S. in the 1940's presents "The Forties."

The School       

 

SÚIL SIAR

Doolough School was officially open in 1866 under the control of the Board of Commissioners for National Schools. Prior to 1866 scholars from Shraigh attended this school which, according to oral tradition, was situated in Muingmore where Sean Gaughan’s new house now stands. The "master" was Thomas Carrick of Limerick and Anthony Ruddy of Doolough provided accommodation for him. The first pupil to be registered there was John Conway of Doolough with several others also being registered in 1866 and subsequent years. Not until 1868, however, did the first girls name appear on the school register. Interestingly enough, she was Jane Bingham, the local landlord’s daughter. The school records show that in many cases attendance was irregular, particularly during Spring and harvest, when all hands were required to assist

farm work.

 

When Master Carrick retired and he was replaced by Mr. Patrick Dunphy of Ballina, a relative of the late Gerald Courell, the well-known Mayo footballer, and also of the Fitzgerald family, Bangor Erris.

 

Just an interesting detail — in 1883 a large vessel carrying 300 passengers left Blacksod for America under the Free Emigration Scheme set up by the British Government. On March 31st of that year eight boys were struck from the school register. The reason given was "emigration". The conclusion seems obvious enough.

Tá súil le Dia againn gur éirigh an bóthar leo.

BY NELL McDONNELL, N.T.

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NEW SCHOOL AT SHRAIGH

By 1887 permission had been granted for the new school at Shraigh. Monsignor Hewson, P.P., acquired the site from Seån O Ciaragåin, grandfather of Larry Kerrigan. The foundation stone was laid and construction commenced in 1887. The builder was an Attycunnane man by the name of Peter Monaghan. Dick Barrett of Shraigh Hill, grandfather of Michael Barrett, the postman, cut and prepared the stones for the building. Michael Coyle of Glengad was the mason and Jack McDermott of Castlebar did the carpentry. The stones for the building were taken from the quarry in Shraigh Hill and were drawn by horse and cart to the site. Two of the local carters at that time were Seån O Ciaragåin (grandfather of Larry Kerrigan), and Billy Kerrigan

(grandfather of Willie Kerrigan), of Baile na Påirce. It is highly probably that they were employed to cart the stones for the school building. It is believed that the rest of the building materials, as well as the Bangor Blue slates for roofing, were supplied from Westport. As yet no written record of this purchase has surfaced.

 

By Summer of 1888 a one-roomed school, having one chimney on the North side and a small porch facing the road, was completed. The upper part of the large room and porch walls were whitewashed and the lower part was sheeted with dark green wainscoting with a heavy ledge on top.

 

The school furniture consisted of a rostrum on which stood the master's desk and press. Long benches containing ink wells served as seating for the children. There were also two forms, which were a permanent fixture by the West wall. These were sometimes used as temporary seating for those who misbehaved. The playing area behind the school was divided into two sections by a high wall, one section for the girls and the other for the boys. Toilet facilities were situated at the rear of the playing area and although there was no running water, such facilities were considered a luxury in those days. The half-acre site was enclosed by a wall with an iron gate leading onto the road. This wall still stands.

 

June 4th,1888, was an historic day for the area. The teacher, Master Dunphy, and the scholars from the school in Muingmore were absorbed into the new school at Shraigh and the school register was transferred with them. On June 4th also a number of small scholars (aged 4 years), were admitted to the school. They were Ann Donohoe, Kate Barrett, Mary Gaughan, Nora McAndrew, John Gaughan (all belonging to the Shraigh area). The official opening of the new school marked a milestone in the life of the area. For the first time here was a local school officially recognised where little children became scholars at four years of age. The hardships of the long trek to Muingmore were terminated and there was now no excuse for

illiteracy. Monsignor Hewson must indeed have been a proud man on that 4th of June.

 

Mr. Dunphy lived with Seán and Ketty Ciaragáin across the road from the school. On his first day in the school he had a total of 77 scholars, 30 girls and 47 boys, with ages ranging from 4 years to 17 years. However, in May of the following year, 1889, 41 scholars (14 girls and 27 boys), were struck off the roll. In December of '89 Miss Kate O'Flynn from Attymass was appointed as an assistant teacher to the school.

 

The Doolough and Muingmore scholars travelled to Shraigh each day for their education. It is interesting to note that in the school register scholars names were entered in English and Anglicised versions of their addresses were used — Sraith became Srah, Bothar Bui became Boherbee, Baile na Páirce became Parke, Loch na h-Eilí became Lakefield, and Bun an Mhuilinn became Bunawillian. By law all instruction was through English and "the scholars" were forbidden to communicate through their first language, Irish. Failure to comply with these regulations would reap a bitter reward.

 

SUBJECTS TAUGHT

The basic subjects “reading, writing and arithmetic” were well taught. The approach to reading was formal and direct and reading readiness consisted of a firm grasp of the alphabet. When this was thoroughly mastered the small scholar was introduced to the famous "red book". This was the first in the standard series of books.

 

which were used in all Irish schools at that time, and was so well drilled in Shraigh  even today our senior citizens readily recall many of its simple phrases like:

 

"Meg's leg is not bad now."

"Ned put his leg in the tub."

"Jack has got a cart, he can draw sand and clay in it."

"The wind blew off Luke's new hat and cast it to the storm."

 

Those who succeeded in reaching and completing the green sixth book had acquired a good basic knowledge of the English language. For thirty years these books were used year after year until around 1916, when a new series was introduced. Rote learning was favoured at all levels. A high standard of spelling and tables was demanded and scholars learned long poems and recitations by heart. For those who were prepared to remain on into their teens, opportunity was given to study English at greater depth, even some of Shakespeare's plays. Some of these students also learned Euclid and Algebra. A high standard was also attained in world geography.

 

Slates were used for writing on and the old slate pencils, which cost a farthing each, were skilfully used. Pens made from goose quills were also used and a very high standard of penmanship was expected. At a later date steel pens were introduced and the ink was made from ink powder.

 

Religious instruction took pride of place in the school's programme. Scholars were conscientiously prepared for the sacraments and every question and answer in "The Catechism" was thoroughly drilled.

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SCHOOL AT DOOLOUGH

By 1893 a new school had been completed in the Doolough village and officially opened in that year. Named among its scholars is well-known author Seån Ó Ruadháin, who had previously spent two years attending Shraigh school. No longer had Muingmore and Doolough scholars to travel such long distances for their

education. The two schools operated independently and Shraigh school catered exclusively for the local children from Cleggan, Bale Thiar, Cnoc (The Hill), Bothar Bui (Lakefield), Bunawilliam and Baile na Påirce. Long after Doolough had been taken into the Kiltane parish the link between Shraigh and Doolough remained. Relationships established during school days stood the test of time. The young people from both

villages mixed freely and enjoyed each others company at the sixpenny raffles, the wakes and the weddings and quite a number inter-married. Even today among the young people there is an indefinable good-natured attachment to the Doolough area. No doubt this leaning has its roots in history.

 

SCHOOL REPAIRS

In 1929 the existing accommodation in Shraigh was inadequate for the 110 pupils on rolls at that time. A new room was added to the North side and a new and larger porch was built. Folding doors were fitted which divided the original large room into two. Pat Collins of Bangor Erris was the contractor engaged by Archdeacon Hegarty. Patrick McAndrew of Belmullet and Tom Deane of Bangor Erris were the builders.

Myles Reilly of Doolough was the carpenter and two local men, Martin Lally and Willie Kerrigan, were also employed. The stones for the building were taken from the quarry in Shraigh Hill. Sonny Moran (Shraigh Hill), was one of the men employed to

 

cart the stones to the building site. Becketts of Ballina supplied the building materials.

 

The school has been well maintained through the years. Recent repairs undertaken in 1981 were negotiated by Reverend G. Gillespie, Chairman of the Board of Management. New teak windows were fitted, the old wooden floors replaced by concrete and covered with tiles and the playground was tarmacadamed. Jim Kelly, the parents' representative on the Board of Management, gave permission to have a well sunk in his field. This provided a satisfactory water supply for the new water scheme which was installed at the school. All concerned express their gratitude and thanks to Jim for this facility. Later Fr. Gillespie made application to the Department of Education for new furniture and window blinds and in 1986 these were supplied. In

this centenary year further repairs are being undertaken and by July 31st we hope to have a new roof on the school.

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THE TEACHERS

In January, 1889, Kate O'Flynn of Attymass came as assistant to Master Dunphy. Her sister, Lena, taught in Glencastle and she and Kate shared accommodation in Seán and Catherine Gaughan's house, Shraigh Hill. During Miss O'Flynn's stay with the Gaughan family, their son, Tommy (Nellie Heffron's father), emigrated to Scotland. Years afterwards Tommy spoke about how much he appreciated the gold sovereign she gave him on that occasion.

 

In 1891 Mr. Dunphy left the teaching profession and subsequently emigrated to America. He was replaced by Master McLoughlin of Glencastle, who also stayed with the Kerrigan family for his first year in Shraigh. He then went to live in Glencastle and came to school on horseback. Later he travelled by horse and trap. The senior boys fed and looked after the horse and ensured that all was in readiness for the return journey

in the evening.

 

In 1907 Miss O'Flynn said goodbye to Shraigh and was replaced by Mrs. McLoughlin, who taught with the master (her husband), until 1934. They were the grandparents of Mrs. Mary Gaughan, who is Principal of Glencastle school today.

 

In 1928 a third teacher, Winifred Rice, a native of Co. Monaghan, was appointed to the school. She stayed for a year and then went to teach in Bangor Erris, where she settled down to married life with Garda Sergeant Dorene. Bridget A. Barrett of Derrycorrib replaced her and taught in Shraigh for a few months. In 1929 she was appointed to Glencastle. Later she married Dr. Tom Kelly, settled in Belmullet and

was Principal of the school there for many years.

 

In 1929 Maggie Murphy of Breaffy, Ballina, came to teach in Shraigh. She stayed with Mrs. Monaghan of Glencastle for some time and later joined Miss Cassidy — one of the Glencastle teachers who had accommodation from Larry Barrett (Tom) across the road. She cycled to Shraigh each day and in 1931 she returned to Breaffy to teach there. Some years later she married and continued her teaching as Mrs. Walshe. Mary Queally of Co. Clare replaced her. She also stayed in Glencastle and travelled to Shraigh with the McLoughlins by horse and trap until the master retired in 1936. She taught in Shraigh for 13 years and was then appointed to Glencastle.

 

They were intelligent, sociable, creative and achieved a high standard in their places of work. When given opportunity they didn't shy away from the challenge.

They carried themselves with dignity and honour, remained loyal to their faith and remembered their homeland. Some set up their own businesses in England and America and were highly successful. A number of girls entered the nursing profession and were well-known for their efficiency, good humour and kindness. Some became members of the Legion of Mary and gave generously of their free time to those in need.

 

Through them many were restored to their families, to their faith and to a sense of their own dignity. A prominent member, Rose Munnelly, subsequently entered the Convent with the Good Shepherd Sisters.

 

In this year of celebration we congratulate all past pupils on their achievements and sincerely hope that many will return to Shraigh for the week beginning July 31st. During this week, no doubt, many school friendships will be renewed and many pleasant childhood memories recalled. Those who are no longer with us will have a special place in our Centenary Mass. Go dtuga Dia solas na bhflaitheas dóibh.

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