These days, the children of the Dunfanaghy area have their education needs looked after by the National Schools in the community; Holy Cross, Holy Trinity, Faugher, Ballymore and Murroe which in recent years have undergone refurbishments to bring them into the digital age. It has not always been like this and schools have come a long way since the days of the Hedge Schools when teachers would teach in the open air and in private homes to give children a chance of an education. The Hedge Schools were set up in response to the 1695 Stuart Monarchs Act which prohibited Catholics from getting an education. This remained in force until 1782 but Hedge Schools were still running until the 1880s. Despite the circumstances around them, most Hedge Schools provided a high-level of schooling for around 400,000 students in 9000 schools, by the mid-1820s. In the early 1800’s Ignatius Rice established formal education for Catholics in Ireland and then in 1831 saw the establishment of the Board of National Education and the National School System. The British Government appointed a commissioner of national education whose task was to assist in funding primary school construction, teacher training, the producing of textbooks, and funding of teachers. The Free Secondary Education was introduced in the Republic of Ireland in 1967 which opened up secondary education for all.
Just over 100 years ago in Dunfanaghy, there were different National Schools to what we know now but unfortunately some of these buildings are no longer standing.
For the children of Hornhead, their school was located in a building in what is now Wilson’s farm in Lurgabrack. This was the school that my grandmother would have attended. She often spoke of having to run the gauntlet of passing Stewart, the landlord’s Bull, which was in the field on the way to the school morning and evening in the late 1800 and early 1900’s. In those days children walked to school Summer and Winter often in the bare feet.
When the landlord’s left, this school was moved to the Gate Lodge at Hornhead House at The Bridge.It features on old pictures of when the sand blew in Hornhead, and back then the teacher and pupils would have to dig themselves out of the sand in the evening. Even their Lunches would be filled with blowing sand!
In the late 1930s, a decision was taken to close this school and move the pupils to the Robertson School Board School, located where the car park beside the Holy Trinity Parish Hall is now. Parents were unhappy with this decision to move the school and there was a strike for a few months before the children eventually went to the Robinson School. It became known as Dunfanaghy’s Number 1 National School. This meant a long walk for the children of Horn Head. There was no clock in the school and the Master would send the children over across the road to the Garda Barrack to get the time and often the Guard on Duty would give them the wrong time which meant the children would get sent home early!
The headmaster here was Master Barlow and he went on to teach in Holy Trinity School when it was opened. Eventually, the original Robertson School was knocked down to build the car park.
In the 20th century, the Catholic Children of Dunfanaghy and the surrounding area would have been receiving their education in a school which is now also demolished at the entrance to the present day Holy Cross Cemetery. The school then moved to the Old Fever Hospital in Dunfanaghy which is now the Gallery. The teacher here was Eamon Cannon who moved to Dunfanaghy from the south of the county and was to be instrumental in the Educational, Sporting and Musical life of Dunfanaghy for decades afterwards. Like their neighbours, Cannon and his pupils moved to a new school with the opening of Holy Cross NS which is still educating children today.
The Old Murroe School was also in operation and would have been providing education to the children in its area in the early 1900’s, with the new school being built and opened in the 1960s. and like all schools at the time pupils would be absent from school when the hard work had to be done on the farm.
Among the other schools in the area were at Roshine which has closed and Kildarragh which only closed in the 1980’s when its pupils moved to Creeslough.
Around this same time, the Ballymore School would have been providing education to all the children in the area and among those who would have attended in the early 1920’s would have been the late Bridget McBride from Knocknafaugher who only passed away recently. The School at Ballymore continued to educate the children of the area until Faugher NS was opened.
Like Ballymore, Faugher NS continues to provide education for the children of the area and this is due in no small way to the campaign led by the parents in the 1980’s to keep the school open when plans were made to close the school and move their pupils elsewhere.
Ireland was largely a rural economy back then and the horses and carts were the driving force on the farms and the hiring fairs were still a fact of life which saw many children take the train to Letterkenny to be hired in the agricultural heartland of the Laggan and elsewhere. The impact on this is that a lot of children would be absent from these schools to help with the farmwork.
This is just a small history of some of the schools in the area and things have certainly changed in the past 100 years. Those at school back then just at the start of the Irish Free State could hardly have thought that in a few short months a Civil War would have broken out and only seventeen years later would find themselves in ‘The Emergency’ as the Second World War was known here would break out and they would certainly not have known about the technological advances which would take place during their lifetime and change their lives forever.