Hundreds of years ago most people in Ireland could not go to school. The only schools were bardic schools, for people who were going to be poets.
The monks in Ireland created great centres for learning in their monasteries but like the bardic schools not everyone got an education. Hedge schools became very common during the penal times of the 17th and 18th centuries when education was forbidden for Catholics. Many travelling schoolmasters set up hedge-schools where children were taught reading, writing and arithmetic.
Ballycullane like other areas had Hedge schools. These came to be because of the Penal Laws. These laws meant that Catholics could not go to school or catholic teachers could not teach in schools. Hedge schools only operated in fine weather and many of the teachers were not qualified.
Parochial Returns for Wexford 1826-1827
These returns show 16 such hedge schools in the parish of Ballycullane. All the teachers were unqualified.
The Parish Priest is Father Peter Doyle. His curate is Rev Peter Barden. They establish a little school in the village which is really only a shed. Mass is said in it each Sunday and school is held there during the week. Teachers are Peter O’ Brien who got £8 per year, and Mrs. Neville who got £6 per year.
Fr Andrew O’ Farrell was the priest in Ballycullane and he applied for a school. Bridget McGrath was appointed teacher and was paid £25 per year. Catherine Power was the other teacher and got £24 a year. This school had lots of problems and only settled down when David Fitzgibbon was appointed principal of the Boys School and Mrs Cardiff was appointed principal of the Girls School. At this stage Canon Joseph was parish priest and school manager.
There is a new priest and school manager – Canon O’ Connor. Mrs Cardiff retired in 1905. The Department of Education wanted to amalgamate the Boys and Girls schools because numbers were falling. Canon O’ Connor refused and appointed his cousin Mary Kate Larkin as the principal of the Girls school and David Fitzgibbon was still principal of the Boys. The Department eventually got their own way and the two schools were amalgamated in 1908 with David Fitzgibbon as principal and Miss Larkin as privileged assistant. When Mr Fitzgibbon retired Miss Larkin took over as Principal until she had to retire because of bad health in 1933.
Dúchas.ie have compiled a fantastic online resource with their project “The Schools Collection”.
Approximately 740,000 pages of folklore and local tradition were compiled by pupils from 5,000 primary schools in the Irish Free State between 1937 and 1939.
This collecting scheme was initiated by the Irish Folklore Commission and was heavily dependent on the cooperation of the Department of Education and the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation.
It was originally to run from 1937 to 1938 but was extended to 1939 in some cases.
For the duration of the project, more than 50,000 schoolchildren from 5,000 schools in the 26 counties of the Irish Free State were enlisted to collect folklore in their home districts.
This included oral history, topographical information, folktales and legends, riddles and proverbs, games and pastimes, trades and crafts. The children recorded this material from their parents, grandparents, and neighbours.
There are 1,128 volumes, numbered and bound, in the Collection. A title page prefaces each school, giving the name of the school, the parish, the barony, the county and the teacher.
Manuscripts relating to Ballycullane and the surrounding Tintern Parish can be found by clicking on this link to Dúchas.