The historian James Hardiman, in describing the Claddagh, said: “It is said that they considered it a kind of reproach either to speak English or to send their children to school, and that a schoolmaster among them would be considered a phenomenon; but of late there are some exceptions to this rule. How far education would make these people happier in themselves, or more useful members of society, is a matter of doubt, but it is certain that the trial has never been made, although a most respectable convent lies at the head of their village, to which they are liberal benefactors.”
So in the early part of the 19th century, there was some softening in the opposition of Claddagh folk to education. The first school there opened in 1827 and was situated roughly where the Fr Tom Burke statue is today. It housed both a boys’ and a girls’ school.
In 1846, the Dominicans started work on the Piscatorial School to give the youth of the village a good nautical education. In 1848 they had an average daily attendance of about 400 pupils. By 1887 it was functioning as an ordinary elementary school and its management handed over to the parish. It was known for a while as Daddy Quoile’s school after the headmaster.
The present national school was built as part of the destruction and re-erection of the Claddagh. It opened 80 years ago in 1933, and we have for you today a photograph of the confirmation class of 1954. They are, back row, left to right: Joe Conneely, Seán Devaney, Mícheál Fahy, Kieran Ryan, Leo Gannon, Paddy Lawless, Pádraic Toole, Michael Geary, ------------- , Martin Forde, Tommy Folan, and George Conboy, the teacher. Middle row: Anthony Connell, Paddy Higgins, Frank Sullivan, Pete O’Neill, Anthony Kelly, and Peter Potter. In front are Michael Kerrigan, Paschal Gardiner, Josie Carr, Colie McDonagh, Martin Barrett, Patrick Flaherty, Paddy Barrett, Patrick Canavan, Mike Jennings, and John Carr.
The school looks deceptively small from the outside but it caters for 350 pupils. To celebrate its notable anniversary, the school is organising a ‘Back to School Gathering’ on June 21 and 22. It is inviting past pupils, young and old, from far and near to come back to the Claddagh and visit the school for those two open days, where it will feature exhibitions on all aspects of the school itself and of the Claddagh area, past and present. These exhibitions will be created and hosted by current pupils.
The school is looking for submissions of school memories and/or photographs from past pupils. Your memories can be of any length and can be posted or emailed into the school. They are also hoping to do some audio recordings so if you live near the school you might give them a call. If you know any ex-pupils abroad, you might pass on this invitation to them. The telephone number is 091 586 173 and the email is [email protected]. Seán Leonard or Michael Gallagher are the people to contact.
Our thanks to John Carr for today’s photograph.