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By Andrew O Donovan. A 6th class pupil in Ballygarvan National School 2009/2010.

An updated version for the new school is in the works. Watch this space!


Ballygarvan National School was established on the third of May 1858. The school was situated in the townland of Ballyduhig. The school was buiIt from the funds of a farmer in the neighbourhood. It consisted of two rooms which were 28 ft x 14 ft in size. One room was for males and the other was for females. The school day lasted from ten o’clock to three o’clock. When the school first opened there was 85 males on roll and 77 females in May 1858, however, the average attendance for males was 46 and 50 for the females. An inspector that visited the school in May 1858 reported that the teachers were well qualified and that the classrooms could accommodate up to 70 in each room.

Records show that school fees were paid at the time, however, it doesn’t seem to add up to too much and it went towards teachers’ salaries. There were two teachers in the school at the time, both twenty-three years old. John Murphy had a salary of £17 and Mary Daly had a salary of £15, but both teachers were paid corresponding to their performance. Inspectors visited the school regularly to grade the teachers. So if you didn’t know your tables your teacher didn’t get paid!

The children that first attended Ballygarvan National School were mainly the sons and daughters of farmers and neighbours in the area. Even though the first school was opened in 1858, by 1864 an application was made by the parish priest, Fr. Patrick Begley, to build a new “school-house” as the current one couldn’t accommodate the amount of children attending the school, originally the 1858 school wasn’t built as a school-house, it was built as a dwelling house. The new building was to be a two storey building, located in the schoolyard of the current school. The school would receive a grant going towards the building of the new school, but the locals had to make up  of two hundred pounds. Building began in 1867 and the school was open in 1870 .


Children attending school were between the ages of three and twelve years old, although roll-books indicate that there were a few fifteen year olds on the roll. Attendance was described as average most of the time but sometimes the attendance was very poor, especially when help was needed on the farm at home or illness. On one occasion the school had to be closed for six weeks due to an epidemic (1898), very wet days were another reason for poor attendance, as children used to have no choice but to walk to school. Teachers’ pay depended also on attendance, but it was only on two occasions that the salaries had to be cancelled due to poor attendance. In accordance to ‘The School Attendance Act’ Of 1926 it was now obligatory to attend school between the ages of six and fourteen.



Books were very different to the ones children use today, for starters the vocabulary was of a much higher standard than what children learn today and had a scarce amount of pictures or diagrams (if any). The school had to apply for grants for the books. English, Geography and Arithmetic were taught in these schools. The school focused on the three R type curriculums. Religion was not part of the curriculum. Religion was taught after school hours on weekdays. In 1900 a new curriculum was introduced, this included Science, Physical Education, Singing and Cookery. There was a big emphasis on infant education. Irish was to be taught in the 1900 curriculum! In the 1920s Irish was to be taught for one hour each day! In 1922 out of 12,000 teachers only 1,107 could speak and teach both English and Irish. And 2,845 could teach Irish as a subject. From 1922 -1929 teachers were sent to An Gaeltacht by the Department of Education, also by the end of the 1920s printers wouldn’t print Irish so the teachers had to carry out their work without textbooks! In November 1924 Infant classes were taught how to read and understand Irish.


The Burning of The 1870 School

On the 21st of December the 1870 school was burned down by the ‘Black and Tans’. All books and records were destroyed. This was during the ‘War of Independence’. New temporary accommodation was needed during this time. The girls went to the protestant school building, and the boys went to learn in a building next to the former church. The school immediately preceding the current school was built in 1926, situated adjacent to the site of the former 1870 school. A house has recently been built on this plot.


The Present

The newest school (the existing one) was built in 2012.

The previous school was built in 1926.


It consisted of four classrooms and the school was kept warm by fires as there was no central heating. Since 1926 there has been five principals. They were: Mr. Tully, Mrs. McCarthy, Mr. Garvey, Mrs. Guinane and presently Mrs. Coakley. After the old school was burned down its ‘shell’ remained for twenty-five years!  


Our school crest was designed by a student, Rita Dineen, this is what it looks like:


Our school motto is:

 “Fás Trí Fhoglaim” which means “Growth Through Learning”

This is the site of 1870s school:


Above is a picture of the original gate into the 1870s school!