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School Days In Ardmore
3.

Ardmore Memory and Story - The Village

3. School Days In Ardmore
There were of course free primary schools all over the country throughout this century. In our parish, we had Grange and Ardmore national schools. The attendance was inclined to fluctuate; children were often kept at home to help with farmwork and bad weather had an influence here too, as all (children) walked to school.

The School Attendance Act of 1926 brought a great improvement; according to law, all children now had to attend school between the ages of 6 and 14. Special forms indicating absentees had to be filled in by the teacher each week and sent to the local garda station. We have distinct recollections of a guard cycling over the strand with one of the ‘missing links’ behind on the carrier. This happened on more than one occasion. Parents were prosecuted in court for non-attendance of their offspring at school.

Until 1966, very very few attended second-level schools. The very small minority who could afford it sent their children to boarding-school. The most of the others who went to this stage, cycled in to Youghal to the Christian Brothers or to the Presentation or Loreto Convents, so their secondary education was hard earned. A very few utilised the mail car for getting in and out and a few others took lodgings in town. So for the majority, school ended at 14. Life was grim.

Garret Ducey (formerly of Crossford) remembered what were termed ‘servants’ classes’. These children would have left school early without being confirmed; they would have had to go to work to a local farmer probably for about 5/- a week and now before the bishop’s arrival, would have had to attend these classes for religious instruction. He remembered how a local young lad on the morning of his confirmation had to get up at 5am and go to milk the cows at Sand Road and walk up then to Grange Church.

The Ardmore schoolhouse we remember was a very nice stone building on the sea-front with no grounds. The lease to the site would have been granted by the Odell family and before the regrettable demolition of the building in 1956, Mary Odell (died in 1976) the last representative of the Odell family went to the Department of Education to protest. Her protest was ineffectual and she would not have had the wherewithal to initiate legal proceedings.

The eastern gable-end of the school was used as a ball-alley by the local lads and it was there that Jimmy McGrath of Dysert (ex garda now living in Kanturk) got his initial training before becoming national handball champion. The area was a great venue on summer evenings, with crowds of young people around watching the play.

There were two large rooms in the school, one being the boys' school where R. Lincoln (from 1929) and Mrs Keevers (Johns' mother) presided and the girls' school where the teachers were two nuns from Cappoquin Mercy Convent and a Miss Murphy paid by them and staying at the Convent (Stella Maris). The two nuns and Miss Murphy of course all taught in the one room, but there were also classes in 'The Shed'.

At the western side, was 'The Shed' a corrugated iron building which had been erected by Lady Sandeman about 1911 at the rear of the Boathouse for teas, when flower shows were an annual event in the Boathouse. When the flower show was changed to St. Declans Hall, the tea-room was either purchased by the Church or donated to the school nearby, according to Jack Crowley one of the five sons of Patrick Crowley, former Principal of Ardmore Boys' School. Jack was a teacher himself and taught in Cork and was deeply interested in Ardmore local history. He died about ten years ago.

There were frequent classes in 'The Shed'. The floor was of rough concrete, the pebbles through it being quite visible. Behind a draught screen, the fuel for the school fire was stored (when the shed was demolished at a later stage, the boathouse opposite, then the property of Eileen Hurley was used for storing the school fuel, with incidentally never a word of recognition from "the powers that be"). A beshawled nun sat in front of the class. The place must have been very cold but somehow, I have no recollection of that.

When I first went to school in 1923, I wore, as most of the other girls did, a white lace-edged pinafore tied behind the back. They must have looked very nice. It’s a pity they went out of fashion. At that period there was a gallery at the bottom of the school, but this was later removed and new dual desks installed. At the other end, the three old long desks remained. At that end too was the coal fire (a small range). Betty Flynn (later Mrs O' Reilly) when she occasionally got the job of lighting it availed of the opportunity to push forward a little, the hands of the clock on the mantel-piece above.

Furnishing and school conditions have changed immeasurably over the years. Heating in Winter came from one fire-place and naturally that did not reach far. The cleaning was generally performed by the pupils themselves. Sanitary arrangements were of the most primitive kind. The outside toilets of Ardmore were allegedly flush ones and the water came from a large tank in the Church yard above, but this quite often had to be supplemented by water from the river at the entrance to the Strand, and transported from there in buckets by the pupils themselves.

The present school in Ardmore is the fourth in the village. Two in the region of the present beach were carried away by the tide. Fr. Wall built one of those in 1857; Fr Enda Ducey’s (O.Cist) mother (nee Keane) went to school in it.

The third national school in Ardmore was built in 1875 by Fr. John Shanahan, on a site on the sea-front given by the Odells. There was no playgournd but that did not present a problem as the road surrounds of the school were used freely by the children, the traffic then being negligible.

The only problem was when the ball went into Mrs Mulcahy’s yard and she re-acted strenuously when the boys went to retrieve it. She and her husband Johnie lived beside the Boathouse and the yard was in front of the house.

The school was a pleasing building regrettably demolished in 1956.

Mr Patrick Crowley was appointed Principal of Ardmore School until his retirement in 1929 and Richard Lincoln was appointed. Mr R Keating (whose relatives., the Mooneys still live in Ardmore) left in 1920. Mrs Caroline Keevers (then nee Burke) came in 1916 and remained until 31/12/1955, when she retired, having decided not to go to the new school.

Mrs Barry (nee Dwyer) had come on the educational scene in Ardmore in the 1900’s. She was also very involved in the Temperance movement and was a close friend of the famous Fr. Mathew apostle of temperance.

Mrs Barry had sisters in the Cappoquin Mercy Convent and went to Bishop Hackett and offered to provide the nuns with a house, ‘if they went to teach in Ardmore Girls’ School. She bought Monea Lodge (now belonging to the McCarthys) for them and five nuns came in April 1900. We are told she paid a pension to the existing teachers so the change-over was effected without incident. Miss Davis, former teacher, occasionally visited the school, later.

In 1923 she bought a larger house from Lady Clodagh Anson, the present Stella Maris, and had the nuns transferred there. Sr. Gertrude (aunt of T Walsh, Cloghrue, Monsignor Walsh and Mrs G McCarthy) was the first local superior.

The coming of the nuns brought a new regime in the school. The senior girls did cookery, using a small stove at the top of the school, and they went to the convent to do laundry. The nuns taught music and took charge of th choir in the church. Long before the advent of the Co. Library, the nuns had one in school and books were borrowed at 1p a week.

About the mid-twenties, Srs. Ita and Teresita came to Ardmore and were responsible for many innovations.

The children in the school were well organised as a work force. Turns were taken in sweeping the school on Friday evenings. Sand had to be first got from the nearby strand and scattered on it. Eileen Colbert remembers doing it every five weeks with Kitty Keane, Crossford, who lived in the house now occupied by Cissie Burke, so she had a long walk home alone when the chore was completed. All the children walked to school then. The sweeping operation was overseen by Miss Murphy, as was the dusting at 4pm, two others taking turns for that. The clean dusters would have been folded under the side desk and brought up to be laundered at the convent. The standards of cleanliness were meticulous and woe betide the one who marked the new desks in any way. Another chore was sweeping the porch after the midday break.

There was a major cleaning, before school holidays. The windows had to be cleaned and Eileen Colbert has memories of being terrified standing on the front window sills; she never had a head for heights. The desks were polished and the covers of the inkwells 'brassoed'. The inkwells themselves were washed, being brought down to the river. I well remember two of them floating off down the river. We were also sent up to dust the church on occasion and also to collect sticks for the fire from the churchyard.

Litter as a problem, I don't remember, but then children partook of real food at lunch hour, as distinct from their present day contemporaries, the most of whom eat junk food for lunch and its attendant plastic packaging naturally causes major litter problems.

Sweets were bought by the lucky ones at Lizzy Foley's (R.I.P.) in the shop adjoining the Beachcombers. Lizzy took a small sheet of paper and wound it into a cone called a tomhaisín (a little measure) and dropped the sweets into it. Her brother Sonny (R.I.P.) used the pages of old copybooks, there being some barter system between him and the copybook owners. My mother (Joe Foley who lived in what is now Paddy Macs' Bar) was mortified on one occasion, when Sonny for a joke placed a blotted page of her copy book on the shop window. That was another peril with which we contended, in the days of N pens and ink, the peril of blotting your copybook, it just wasn't done.

Of course, nobody raised an eyelid at corporal punishment. It was accepted as the norm. For failure at lessons etc., one was kept in after school. That meant being brought up to the convent and doing 'one's time' there at the 'garage' which held a boat. I remember investigating Will Mockler's scythe there and trying it on some potatoes, a fact of course which was noted afterwards and due punishment meted out.

Organisation Of The School

Everything was very neat and tidy, the copy books in particular. One wrote one's essay at home; it was corrected and only the corrected version found its way to the school copy book. Mother Teresita in particular had extremely high standards in English. Eileen Colbert can still reel off whole passages from Macbeth, and we were well ground in the mysteries of the 20 rules of syntax and such things as metaphors and similes and onomatopoeia.

We were very resentful of the fact, that on election days, the girls had to go to school, while the boys next door had a free day, the school being used as a polling booth. We also had to go to school on bank holidays.

Examinations

The annual Diocesan Christian Doctrine examination was dreaded. We had to have the answers to the questions in the Green Catechism (junior material) and then the Red Catechism, also Schuster's Bible History and the Manual which last was a succinct résumé of Doctrine including such things as the Matter and Form of all the Sacraments, Fast Days and Days of Abstinence, the Ember Days. Eileen Colbert remembers writing out the Ember Days 14 times; apparently she had failed to identify them initially,

We were brought to school on Saturdays before the Diocesan examinations and specially before Confirmation which happened every two years. Such was the dread engendered, that one girl, on the eve of St. Brigid's Day, instead of putting out the usual Brat Bride (a piece of cloth which after that held a cure for various ailments) put out instead her Bible and Catechism. We're not sure whether or not St. Brigid co-operated. We were tried out with series of questions sent from other schools already visited by the Diocesan inspector. We were allotted our places in the class which stood around him. I suppose giving a judicious mix of 'the sheep and the goats.' To make our examiner more comfortable, an armchair was taken down from the convent for the duration.

The coming of Miss Earle, the needlework inspector was a day dreaded by me, as I wasn't over proficient in that subject. We had sampler books, with samples of our work displayed in it, gathers, patches, gussets etc. I'm sure Ann Flynn (R.I.P.) sister of Kitty Gartland did a few of mine, as she was a wonderfully neat 'needle-woman'. Like wise, both Biddy and Mary Power were requisitioned to do some of the knitting for the "duds" in that sphere.

Treats and Play Hour

On at least one, if not two occasions we had a most wonderful treat, a Christmas tree with Santa Claus distributing presents from it. This was really a memorable event.

As regards play-hour, motor traffic was non-existent so it was quite safe to play on the roadway.

Rounders was a game played by the bigger girls and there must have been some Irish left in the area, as I remember the two leaders calling sides and beginning with "Cuirim ort" and the other said "Ligim leat". 'Colours' and 'Hide and Go Seek' were other games played and vigilant as the nuns were, they didn't know that some had games at jumping across the stream and also of daring one another to walk as far as possible on the narrow ledge behind the storm wall.

A concert in the hall once a year was a major event and our nun teachers really excelled in preparing us for them, and went to endless trouble rehearsing us in songs, dancing and little plays. The costumes all had to be perfect, in fact every detail had to be perfect.

The nuns introduced the custom of the First Communicants coming to the convent for breakfast afterwards, a treat to which all eagerly looked forward.

In 1934, because of falling attendances, the nuns left Ardmore and returned to Cappoquin, but still retained the house, which has since become the property of the Mercy Sisters in general in Ireland. Now the school became a mixed one of just two teachers. Mrs Keevers presiding over the juniors in what had been the girls school and Richard Lincoln over the seniors in the other room. He it was, who introduced teaching through Irish. There are still people in Ardmore who do arithmetical calcuations in Irish, sé faois ceathair, fiche ceathair, etc.,

In October 1956, a new school was opened out the Youghal Road, this being the fourth primary school in Ardmore. There are now four teachers in this school; the principal Victor Mullins, Olive Keane, Bernadette O'Brien and Maeve Curran. The school has a telephone and the pupils do not have to get involved in the cleaning. It is centrally heated as is Grange School, unlike the previous ones, which just had a coal-fire at the top of the room, that being lighted and looked after by the pupils and teachers.

The most of the children are driven to school. Their predecessors walked, even those who were at a distance of 3 miles.

Until 1966, very very few children went to second-level schools. Then came Donogh O’Malley as Minister for Education and he quite suddenly launched free secondary education. Now there are buses picking up children all over the country side and bringing them to the secondary schools in town. Every one takes it for granted now, but it was an absolute revolution in its time. It depends on the individual child, whether he/she can secure a niche in the numerous third level courses which are available.

Author: Siobhan Lincoln

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