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Shanballymore National School


Name StoneName StoneChildren in Ireland in the early 18oo’s were unable to attend  national schools paid for by the government as  they did not exist until the 1830’s. Large numbers of children still went to school however but in most cases they had to pay. It has been estimated that in 1824 there were 11,000 schools in Ireland with a total enrolment of over 500,000 children. Many of the rural schools which were still called “hedge” schools, a legacy from penal times had now moved into small buildings often rented from a local farmer.

In common with many places throughout rural Ireland hedge schools existed in the Shanballymore area of the parish in the 1800’s. Local tradition tells us that a hedge school existed close to Kielty’s gate between 1820-1830 where teacher, Mr. Danny McHugh ,among others, taught for the princely sum of one penny per pupil per week.


An extract in the Folklore Collected written by Patrick Melia of Shanballymore tells us about another school in Shanballymore.  

“About sixty years ago, that is about the time the old school at Shanballymore was built, there was an old school in the field adjoining Shanballymore and Mountdelvin. It was first built for use as a barn but after a while it was used as a barn school. There were no seats but the pupils used leave their copies on the flags and then write on them. There was a thatched roof on it. Mr. Larry McHugh was the teacher and the pupils used pay him three pence a week. The only subjects taught were reading writing and arithmetic and spellings. The ruins of the old school are still there and a thorn bush is growing through the stones”


In the mid 1800’s a vacant thatched residence situated in the clearing to the right of the “New” school in Shanballymore was rented from a local farmer. The oldest recorded teacher here was Pat Reilly in 1862. .


If a community wanted funding from The National Board of Education they had to apply to the Commissioners in Dublin Castle. Funding was only granted if the inspector deemed it worthy and on the undertaking that they obey the regulations of the Board. This was a big ask for some parishes as all subjects were taught through English and religion was excluded from the normal school day. In the diocese of Tuam such school were initially discouraged by the archbishop of the time. A fitting out and salary grant were then awarded.


Records state that in 1862 and application was made to the Commissioners of Education, in Dublin Castle for a grant towards the fitting out and payment of salary at Shanballymore School. The school was established in a building that was originally a private house but is now leased from a local farmer. The building was 40 foot long, 14 foot wide, thatched and walls constructed from lime and mortar. It is used exclusively for education but now has no funds available. 113 pupils were registered in the school with an average attendance of 80, 50 males and 30 females. An increase in attendance is expected “when the harvest is gathered and when we are able to get the school requisites at half price.” 

The application indicated that “regulations of the Board would be adhered to, especially with regard to religious instruction arrangements. Monday and Friday would be dedicated to Morals and Literary instruction. Saturday was available for religious instruction. Parents are at liberty to get their children instructed in religion if they please, or they may withdraw them if they wish. The school agrees to use the books prepared by the Board.” A sum of £16 was requested to pay the salary of the current teacher Pat Reilly. Two smaller schools existed within 1 and a half miles of Shanballymore but only have 10-15 pupils registered between them.. The application further stated that the school was chiefly directed by Rev Martin Loftus P.P. and that the local Protestant clergyman refused to aid the application. The application was signed by Henry O’Loughlin, John Kelly, Martin Loftus,  Patrick O’Loughlin.

Nature of Aid Requested

Towards payment of master annually                                   £16.00.00

2 double desks 12 foot long                                                   £2.12.00

4 forms, 12 foot long for said desks                                    £1.12.00

6 forms, 8 foot long for children who require no desks        £1.19.00

For board to paste Tablets, General lessons, regulations

and glue and nails to be furnished to carpenter                  £0.07.06

Total                                                                                               £23.00.06


 In March 1863 the district inspector, after assessing the application for payment of a teacher’s salary and supply of books issued the following report. 

“The school established in November 1882 which caters for 35 dwellings is in a good house measuring 24 foot  by 13 foot and 8 foot high. It consists of one room with the teacher living at one end. It has a clay floor, plastered walls and has no ceiling. There are 3 windows.

SchoolGateSchoolGateThe room is furnished with 2 writing desks, 6 forms, 1foot by 8 foot plank. No blackboard, clock or teacher’s table exist”. The inspector also stated that he had interviewed the patron’s nominee, Rev. P. Duffy. He had found the premises tolerable and that the original teacher had been dismissed. The new principal Miss Cawley, 28 years old is of good character and is rated grade 3. The workmistress is Maria Corcoran.



The fees paid locally are £ 2.10.00 and this is regulated by the teacher. The school has an annual income of £10, of which £3 is paid as rent to a local farmer. The recommended books 1-5 of the Boards Literary Works are being used. One hour at the end of each day 2.30pm to 3.00pm is devoted to literary instruction. “

The request for aid is approved as the school is much needed in this “poor remote district to save the people from ignorance”


In a report dated 18th May 1869 an application for payment of a salary to a workmistress was forwarded to the Board by Very Rev. P. Duffy P.P.  Margaret Tighe aged 18 ½ years had commenced teaching  on 1/11/1868. She was employed in teaching needlework and in giving literary instruction to junior pupils

In the opinion of the principal Mary Cawley, she was fairly competent to teach needlework and of good character. She was required to teach plain sewing, embroidery crochet and knitting to the 10 children who availed of the subject. The one roomed school opened five days a week for three hours daily. On rolls were 91 children, 52 males 39 females but the average attendance 30 males just totalled 55.

The District Inspector recommended that Margaret be recognised as a workmistress on an annual salary of £8 and on condition that a worktable and suitable press be provided

       In February 1870 Thomas Larkin, aged 45 joined Mary Cawley aged 45  and Margaret Tighe, aged 36 on the teaching staff. Mr. Larkin had originally taught in Swinford from 1848 to 1855 and most recently in nearby Kilvine. He was granted an annual salary of £15. 102 children were on roll but the average attendance was only 41, 23 male and 18 female.

          In 1877 Luke Mannion who had previously taught in Garrafrauns was listed as the teacher and an application for salary was made for the assistant Bridget Donlon nee (Morris) aged 24. She had formerly worked as monitor in Dunmore School. 154 pupils were now on rolls but the average attendance was still only 58.  A request was made that she only be appointed provisionally as the house and furniturWandering SchoolmasterWandering Schoolmastere was in great need of repair. She was granted an annual salary of £25.

        The attendance at rural schools was erratic and teachers were hired and dismissed accordingly. During the busy farming seasons of spring and summer many pupils were required to help with the manual work on the farm and in the bog. An increase in attendance was evident during the winter months and it was often necessary to hire temporary teachers for a number of months.

In 1880 Rev. James Stephens again applied for salary for Bridget Donlon who was employed provisionally for the winter months. Another application was forwarded for a temporary assistant, Thomas Fitzmaurice aged 28 on 19/12/87. He was unclassed as hadn’t taught before. His services were required for the months of November, December, January, February, August and September. The highest monthly attendance was 134 in February and the lowest was 59 in April. During these time the school was open all the year round with no summer holidays.

Shanballymore NS 2012Shanballymore NS 2012When Shanballymore National School opened in 1904 as a 2-teacher mixed school children from the villages of Cloonkeen, Gornalea, Knockatee, Cloondalgin Quinaltagh and Shanballymore attended. Luke Mannion became Principal of the new school. However after a short while, Canon Lynskey, the school manager had him replaced by Sarah Cunniffe of Carranthomas. Sarah Cunniffe taught in the school until her retirement in 1938. In 1906 Mr. Peter Casby of Kilooney, Dunmore became principal with James Fox as substitute. James Fox was the father of Frank Fox the celebrated athlete and footballer after whom the County Football Championship cup is called. With the numbers on roll increasing to 122 in 1916 the staff increased to 3, Mr. Casby, Mr. Willie Kelly, and Ms. Cunniffe.  Mr. Kelly later taught in Carrowkeel on the other side of the parish. Sean Finnegan who later taught in Garrafrauns for many years became principal of the school of 150 pupils in 1918.  One wonders how the school could cope with such huge numbers. The area of the “big” room only measured 840 square feet with the size of the “small” room only 238 square feet.

        Mr. Patrick O’Donovan a native of Cork became principal in 1923 and he taught there with his wife Ms. Delia Heneghan of Dumacreena, Irishtown. Mr. O’Donovan a keen huntsman was born in the same village as the great patriot Michael Collins and is reputed to have taken part in the ambush in Kilmichael Co. Cork in 1920. Local folklore tells us that on one occasion Mr. O’Donovan while waiting for some wild duck to land passed the time working on the school roll books. 2 local lads foolishly decided to play a prank on him. He didn’t take too kindly to the disturbance and the marks of lead pellets were on their bodies for the rest of their days. Many of the contributions made to the Folklore Commission in the 1930’s were written by Mr. O’Donovan and his wife.


Mr. O’Donovan who resided in Castle Street, Dunmore passed away in 1968. An obituary in the Tuam Herald stated that,

Mr. O’Donovan ex-NT was one of seven brothers, who took an active role in the War of Independence in his native West Cork and was imprisoned twice for his activities there. He was a near relation of O’Donovan – Rossa and a close friend and associate of Michael Collins. His brother was Collin’s secretary up to the time of the truce.  Mr. O Donovan came to teach in Shanballymore in 1922 where he taught until his retirement in 1954. Needless to say, on his arrival in Dunmore he joined the local I.R.A. company. In the 1940’s he was a prominent leader in the LDF and was Intelligence Officer for North Galway. He took an active part in politics and was for many years chairman of the Dunmore Fianna Fail Cumann and of the Comhairle Ceantair. An avid Irish reader, Mr. O’Donovan did tremendous work for the revival of the language and took a keen interest in local folklore. A kind and gentle teacher he was held in high regard by all his pupils.”


The school reverted to a 2-teacher school in 1931.

Some permanent and substitute teachers who taught in Shanballymore over the years were

Luke Mannion            (1901)

Peter Casby (Principal)

Sarah Cunniffe         (1904-1938)

James Fox (Substitute)

Willie Kelly

Sean Finnegan (Principal)                  (1918-22)

Padraig O’Donovan (Principal)


Maureen Gleeson (sub)

Ned Donnellan (Principal)

Noreen Nic An Aistir (Hestor)

Jimmy Halliday (Principal)


Mrs Nora Leydon (1943-45)

Mrs. Maureen Lyons (Principal) 1971)

Mrs. Regan

Mary Teresa Kelly (Sub)

Brid Ni Mhaoilearca (sub 1953)


Mary Coleman




1964 John Donnellan with Sam Maguire cup1964 John Donnellan with Sam Maguire cup 


 The enrolment of the school in 1964 was 90 pupils but this declined dramatically to 21 in 1975. The school amalgamated with Garrafrauns NS in the newly constructed Garrafrauns Central School with Mrs. Maureen Lyons joining the teaching staff there.