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Under the terms of the Gavelkind Act, the (Protestant) Irish Parliament in 1704 enacted Penal Laws intended to make sure that the Catholic majority would never again endanger the Protestant Ascendancy. Among other things, these laws provided that "No Catholic may attend a university, keep a school, or send his children to be educated abroad. 10 pounds reward is offered for the discovery of a Roman Catholic teacher."
As the years went by these laws led to the creation of the "Hedge Schools", schools for Catholic children taught by often itinerant schoolmasters, and which frequently met in the outdoors in good weather behind "hedges" for fear of being observed.
With the coming of Union between England and Ireland and the abolition of the Irish Parliament in 1800, the English Parliament began to feel more responsibility for the welfare and education of its Irish subjects. The Penal Laws had by that time become effective more in the breach than in the observance and many schools had grown up with officialdom ignoring the fact. By 1810 or so, most of the "Hedge Schools" had indeed died out and more formalized "public" education, much of it for a fee, had been created. But the government decided that a National School System, similar to that under consideration for England itself, was probably needed and the Parliament commissioned studies of the existing situation in Ireland before making their decision.
The "Second Report of the Commissioners of Irish Education Inquiry" issued a report in 1826 which published the results of an 1824 survey of EVERY SCHOOL IN IRELAND. They sent forms to all the Parish Priests, Catholic and Protestant and asked them to do a survey of their parishes on a certain day and return those forms with the requested information. The bureaucrats compared the Catholic and Protestant returns and then published a 1,400 page report summarizing those returns.
That report is now on microfiche and is available for researching in the Irish Genealogical Society, International library.
This wonderful report surveys all of the schools in the country and lists them by County, Barony, Diocese and Town or Townland. The records list the name of the Schoolmaster or Mistress, the religion of same, whether or not the school was "free" or "pay", the salary of the teacher, a description of the school house and its cost of replacement, the number of students, by religion and sex, from both the Protestant and Catholic returns, the sponsoring Society or Parish, if any, and which version, if any, of the Scriptures were read, or not, in the School.
While not primarily a genealogical record, this report does give perhaps the only information other than the census substitutes on most of the townlands of Ireland and can, by reading between the lines, provide a hint as to what the lives of our ancestors may have been like. Being you are at the townland level, you may see familiar names; both people who first looked at this at the IGSI Library did. Some schools appear to have been rather prosperous and others were held in hovels. The records do mention some of the "Hedge Schools" which were still in existence.
The report also summarizes the activities of the several Societies which were in existence at the time to provide education to the Irish, the largest of which was the Society for the Education of the Poor in Ireland; and also the Kildare Place Society, the Trustees of Erasmus Smith, the Association for Discountenancing Vice (!), the Christian Brotherhood, the London Hibernian Society, and others.
Some of the comments relating to particular schools include such items as "read in Greek"; "held in R.C. chapel during summer, and in the master's house in winter"; "mud cabin, thatched"; "an upper room in a wretched home"; "R.C. clergyman says he removed all the bibles and testaments from the school"; "school held in a barn"; "wretched mud cabin, thatched"; "a hut built of sods, under a ditch"; "a good house, four stories high" (Dublin), "spacious dwelling house"; "wood and stone"; etc.
The summary of the report which has been made contains a few interesting general observations.
Depending upon the County, the numbers of students surveyed in the report appear to be only 20% to 41% of the estimated school-aged population aged 5-15; females constituted 27% to 42% of the student body; and school size, and generally also the size of the classroom, varied from as low as 23 to as high as 60. One would image that with 60 in a school, there would be enough income to provide for more than one teacher.
Submitted by Ray Marshall
27 1 Summary of the Schools and scholars in Ireland
35 2 Classes of Schools and scholars
48 3 Schools and Religion of Teachers and Whether or Not the Scriptures are Read
50 4 Schools of the Association For the Discontinuance of Vice
58 5 Schools of the Board of Erasmus Smith Trustees
64 6 Schools of the Society of the Promotion of the Education of the Poor in Ireland
74 7 Schools of the London Hibernain Society
82 8 Schools of the Baptist Society
86 9 Schools of the Christian Brotherhood
90 10 Female Schools Attached to Nunneries
94 10 Female Schools Attached to Nunneries
96 11 Roman Catholic Day Schools (Subscription)
136 12 Society for the Promotion of the Education of the Poor in Ireland
166 13A Schools not open in the Fall of 1824, but they were previously
171 13B Same, but with no Student count
173 14 Abstract of Appendix 12 and 13
173 15 Schools Under Construction
180 16 Testimony of Joseph D. Jackson, Secretary to the Society
196 17 Examination of Joseph D. Jackson
205 18 Schools which have ceased to be associated with the Society
210 19 Roman Catholic Schools which have applied to the Society for aid
215 20 List of Society Schools, as found in the Religious Returns
223 21 Society Schools Found in their Returns, but not in the Religious Returns
229 22 Abstract of Parochial Returns
532 City of Dublin
572 County of Dublin
584 County of Dublin
898 County of Cork
974 County of Cork
1000 City of Cork
|1824 Pop. (est.)||Population Age 5-15||No. of Schools||Male Students||Female Students||Total Students||Student % of pop.||Females % of Students||Students per School|
Thanks to Ray Marshall for submitting this information for County Kerry, Ireland at www.rootsweb.com/~irlker/
This page created January, 2000.