SCHOOLS THROUGH THE YEARS
We have little information about the education of children in the parish before 1824. The harsh Penal Laws passed in 1695 forbade the holding of Catholic schools. Hedge schools may have existed in the area before and more probably after that date. Some of these schools literally were places where the master taught classes in a sheltered place on the sunny side of a hedge, away from public view.
They were held outdoors because a householder could be severely penalised for having a school in his house, or an outbuilding. In the townland of Moat there is a hill called Cnoc na Scoile and there is also a field nearby in Crossdrum Lower called “Scholars Field.” Hedge schools probably existed there. Schoolmasters sometime had a number of schools in a locality. His payment was usually in the form of farm produce such as chickens, vegetables or a cart load of turf. Although parents had little money they recognised the value of education for their children.
From around 1760 onwards there was some relaxation of the Penal Laws with regard to education but it was not until 1782 with the passing of the Catholic Relief Bill that major obstacles to Catholic schools were removed. A license from a Church of Ireland bishop was still needed; but this requirement was removed in 1793. The Catholic Bishop of Meath Dr Patrick Plunkett (bishop from 1779–1827) was a strong advocate of education. Mainly because of him the Diocese of Meath already had about 240 schools even before the Catholic Relief Bill was passed.
In 1824 there were six schools in the united parishes of Mountnugent and Ballinacree. An Irish Society school was held at Mountnugent under Christopher Nugent, a Protestant. It was attended by 20 Protestants and 14 Catholics.
In March 1824 Henry Grattan MP presented a petition on behalf of the Irish Catholic bishops to the House of Commons outlining their grievances on education; particularly the lack of financial support for Catholic schools. As a result a commission was set up which sat in July/August 1824. The report it published laid the foundation for the National Education System in Ireland set up in 1831. The commissioners of this Irish Education Inquiry of 1826-27 looked at the situation in the Half Barony of Fore (Demifore) and the Parishes of Killeagh and Kilbride. The chart below summarizes their findings.
In 1832 grants were provided for the setting up of schools; the result was that many new schools were opened. Locally in 1835 there was 7 schools in operation.
(1) Dungimmon where the teacher was Bartle Smith
(2) At Crossrah the teacher was Bernard Brady This school opened in 1835
(3) At Kilbride the teacher was Patrick Lynch
(4) A new school opened in Dungimmon in 1834 and the teacher was Michael Donnelly
(5) In 1834 a school was opened in Greeve (Gneeve) and the teacher was Owen Daly
(6) A school at Ross was also opened in November 1834
(7) Patrick Griffin taught a school in Killeagh chapel
In 1835 there were seven schools in operation.
1. At Dungimmon, teacher Bartle Smith
2. At Crossragh, teacher Bernard Brady, opened 1835
3. Kilbride, teacher Patrick Lynch
4. Dungimmon, teacher Michael Donnelly, opened 1834
5. Grieve, teacher Owen Daly, opened 1834
6. Ross, opened November 1834
7. Killeagh chapel, teacher Patrick Griffin
SCHOOLS IN THE PARISH FROM 1851 TO THE PRESENT
Tradition tells of a school at Kilbride graveyard in the house later occupied by James Gillic. The master’s name was Finnegan and the pupils sat on stone benches around the walls and brought straw mats.
Opened in 1851. It was replaced by a new school built by Fr. Gerrard in 1916. Dungimmon school was closed on 1 July 1966 and its 26 pupils were transported by bus to Garrysallagh school.
Erected in 1855, a replacement school, build in 1896 was opened 3 January 1897. Closed 30 November 1981.
Ballinacree was opened in August 1864. It was replaced by a new building in 1891. Ballinacree new school was built in 1960, it was officially opened and blessed by Rev. Michael Troy in September 1961. The architect was Mr. Boyd-Barrett of the Board of Works and it was built by Messrs. Doherty & Son of Ballyjamesduff. The teachers were two sisters, Dalys, from Greeve. It had four classrooms, two for boys and two for girls. The old school today is the Community Centre.
In 1993 a fourth classroom along with a storage room was added. This was funded by the parents and parishioners of Ballinacree. In 2009 a Resource room was added to one end of the main school building and was fully grant aided by the Dept of Education and Science. It was officially opened and blessed by Bishop Michael Smith, Patron of St Fiach’s on October 1st 2009 together with the newly resurfaced car park, adjoining the school, the latter work been undertaken by Ballinacree Community Association.
A school at Ross was erected in 1884 and was replaced by a new school opened in 1960. This school closed in 1969 and its pupils were transferred to Ballinacree and Garrysallagh schools.
The new school was opened and blessed on 1 December 1981 by Rev. John Molloy. It was designed by Mr M Daly of the Board of Works and was built by Messrs. Doherty & Son of Ballyjamesduff. In 1940 there was a total of 220 pupils in the parish, this was reduced to 175 in 1966, but by 1988 had increased to 202. A new Mountnugent school was opened and blessed on Ist of December 1981 by Rev John Molloy. It was designed by Mr M Daly of the Board of Works and built by Contractors Doherty and Son, Ballyjamesduff.