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athgarvan

From School to 'Country Kitchen'

Looking over some old photographs at my brother's on Monday I was reminded of my old school days - not today or yesterday! 
The old National Schoolhouse that I remember was built c.1835. No aid was given except gratuitous contributions of the parishioners and neighbouring gentry. The building was 2-storeys, walls were of stone and it was slated with the best material to accommodate 288 pupils. In the present religious climate in Ireland it is interesting to read that the ground on which the school was built was to be "some distance from the Church and Chapel and have no connexion with any religious establishment. A clergyman came every Saturday and parents were informed of this and had liberty to decide whether or not to send their children". The teachers were educated in the Kildare Place Model School.  ‘A few of the parents pay a trifle; the greater number pay nothing’.
When I joined the school in 1939 Master Byrne was Principal. He was soon replaced by Mr. Gallagher who taught the senior boys, Mrs Doran taught the senior girls, Mrs Gallagher taught the infants, and Miss Mary Headon taught (!) the junior boys. 'Slaps' were meted out as required. Many champion handballers got their first taste of handball in the fine covered alley across the road. A highlight of the year was the Christmas party held by Captain Spencer Freeman of the local gentry. I left the school in 1946 to join the Christian Brothers' Congregation. I was 14! In 1956 a new school was built and the old school became a furniture factory called 'Country Kitchens' owned by the O'Rourke family and as can be seen in the photo has a few years in it yet!

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