Education in Dromiskin

Apart from the monastic schools which must have flourished here during the early Christian Period, we find little reference to formal education in Dromiskin until 1692, when records inform us of the existence of an English and Latin schoolmaster named Samuel Rankin. The few Catholic children who received an education subsequent to the passing of the Penal Laws would have resorted to the hedge schools, whereas the low Protestant members would hardly justify the establishment of school in the area. In 1825 we are told of a schoolmaster who ”may be perfectly qualified but it is impossible for him to do justice to the children in the hovel provided for Educational purposes. Pity the Rector does not use a site of approx. 1 acre which is convenient and available for a new school”.

Provision for the Education of Catholic children became available when the National Education Act came into force in 1831.  What we call the OLD OLD School, built in 1830, came under  the jurisdiction of the National Board of Education in 1832. For many years until the OLD School was built in 1926 this establishment provided an excellent education to the large school-going population during and prior to the Famine years and subsequently during periods of unrest covering the Land War Years and War of Independence. In 1837  a Protestant schoolhouse was built by funds collected by Mrs. Mc Clintock (she later became Lady Rathdonnell), Dromiskin House, (Mc Mahon’s live there now) on a site opposite the graveyard.

Patrick Quinn was the first Principal of the Boys’ School. His wife was Principal of the Girls’ School – both under the same roof. In the year 1844 Mr. Quinn was awarded Lord Morpeth’s Premium (awarded only in cases of special excellence). A farm known locally as the Model Farm (presently inhabited by Mr. Tom Dooley) was attached to the Old Old School in 1850 and young aspiring farmers were instructed in `Crop Rotation’ under the supervision of Mr Quinn. The “Agricultural Department” was removed in 1870.

Many excellent scholars were produced who distinguished themselves in various walks of life at home and abroad. Amongst the most noteworthy past pupils were, Doctor Conroy, later to become Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise and Chief Kindlon, who, after a colourful career as a mariner of repute, became head of the New York fire service and played a prominent part in fund-raising for the construction of St Peter’s R.C. Church. 

Teachers who served in the Boys’ school included, James Breen, Joseph Savage, Malachy Moynihan, Timothy and Eugene Crowley (brothers[?] from Cork), Thomas Callan (who resided in the teachers’ residence at the Model Farm), Mr. Joe Armstrong later Principal of Blackrock N.S., who married Mr. Morgan’s sister, Mr. and Mrs. Tom Mc Ardle and James Morgan, who attended the school as a pupil and monitor before taking up duty as an assistant teacher.  In the Girls’ school, over the years we had Brid McEvoy, Margaret Brennan, Margaret Conlon, Ellen Mc Neill, Kate Little (later to marry Tom Mc Ardle), Maggie Kerr, Margaret Mulligan and Ellen Ginnetty. The last Principals of the Boys’ and Girls’ schools in Dromiskin, before closure, were Tom Mc Ardle and his wife Kate. We see the Old Old School today, sadly, in a very poor state of repair. Incredibly this old building was intended, on different occasions, to cater for in excess of two hundred children. Health and safety indeed!!

What is now referred to as the OLD school, was opened in 1927 under the managership  of Canon Johnson P.P. and served the Educational needs of this end of the parish for approx. 50 years. One of the first schools built by the Saorstát Eireann government following independence, it became the envy of many who had, over the preceding years suffered the indignity of a system of Education starved of financial support. At a time when dry-toilets were the norm, the  introduction of flush toilets and wash hand basins was really revolutionary. So many parishioners at the time could not avail of, what we now regard as, basic hygienic facilities in their own homes for many years afterwards.

Before amalgamation took place in the 1940’s, boys and girls were educated separately in 2 classroom units. Principals of the girls’ school were Mrs Mc Ardle and Mrs Halligan assisted by a junior assistant mistress Miss Colliter. Headmasters of the Boys’ school were, Mr T Mc Ardle and James Morgan. Following amalgamation Mr. Morgan became first Principal of the mixed school with Miss May Prendergast and Mrs Byrne as assistants. Up until the opening of the present school the following served as principals and assistants, James Morgan Snr., James Morgan Jnr, May Prendergast, Philomena Barry, Margaret Mc Eneaney, Teresa O Connor, Paul Brennan, Colm Herity, Anna Nolan, Gertrude Hanratty (later Gertie Mc Gee),  Breige Ferry, Breige Feeley, Breige Gillespie, (all the Breiges were from Donegal!!) Florrie Clarke, Mary O’Connor (later Mrs. Jim Morgan), Geraldine Grunnell and a young Pat Hamilton, just out of college. On the retirement of James Morgan Snr. in 1958, he was succeeded by his son Jim as headmaster. Here is the Old School today and as it was in 1927 (note there are no trees – according to past pupil, Jackie Kinahan, these were planted on National Tree Day 1928)

Following his appointment as Parish Priest, Very Reverend Canon Clarke realised that, what was still referred to locally as, the NEW school’ was unable to cater for the needs of an ever-increasing school-going population and for the demands of the new child centred  curriculum. More and more of our pupils were leaving the Primary system at an earlier age and pursuing their studies at Secondary level in preparation for even further advancement. Jim Morgan, later to be succeeded by Mrs Gertie Mc Gee in 1987, was principal at the time of this change-over in 1976. Serving at this time and in subsequent years were Mary Morgan, Patrick Hamilton, Bernie Gallagher, Geraldine Cunningham, Sally Sharkey, Eithne Mc Kiernan, Orla Mc Kenna, Mamie Warren, Orla Sammon, Michele Farrell and Mary Larney, Brian Mc Donnell, Paddy Mc Donnell, Eimear Carraher, Donna Crehan, Caroline Connell, Ann Marie Cumiskey, Martina Mc Connon, Maureen Lambe, Maria O Rourke, Caroline Dennehy (from Cork), Laura Mc Guinness, Liz Keane O Hagan, Patrice Bermingham, Aisling Corrigan, Sinead Coughlan (RIP), Sara Loughran, David Mc Comish, Aideen Smyth, Catriona McKeown, Sheila Mc Keown,  Áine O Hanrahan, Sadhbh Lambert and Rosie Galligan. Patrick Mulligan was appointed Principal in September 2004 to succeed Ms. Gertie Mc Gee.

Below is a gallery of some our our past Principals: Tom Mc Ardle, Kate Mc Ardle, Nora Halligan, Jim Morgan Senior, Jim Morgan Junior and Gertie Mc Gee