Straide National School – A Brief History
This article is an updated version written by former Principal, T.J. Smyth, for a Parish Magazine in 1993.
In 1880 there was a mixed school in Straide. It consisted of 120 boys and 130 girls. The children paid school fees. The teaching staff, at that time, was Michael O’Grady, Principal; Mrs Honora Langley, Assistant and Mrs Sarah Mullagh, Monitress.
Michael O’Grady came from Ballinculla and was the father of Mrs.McCann and Mrs.Lydon who taught in the girls’ school for many years until they both retired.
Mrs.Honora Langley came from Ballinisland Ummoon, and travelled to Straide school each morning by pony and trap. She was a grand aunt of Mr.Bertie Towey former Principal of St. Joseph’s Secondary school in Foxford.
The Principal was paid a Capitation Grant by the Board of Education (as in keeping with the English system of the time). He paid the teachers and kept records. The salary per quarter was a Principal £8.13 3; assistant £6.11 2; monitor £2.0 0
By 1891 the number of teachers increased to five. The staff consisted of Mr.O’Grady, Principal; Mrs Honora Langley, Assistant; Miss Maggie Costello Temporary Assistant; Miss Mary J. O’Grady, Monitress and Miss Rose Mullagh, Monitress.
Before 1880 Jimmy Foy, a hedge schoolmaster, taught in the parish. He was known as Jimín an Máistir. He was made welcome in the homes of the parish and taught the children 3Rs (reading, writing, arithmetic). In summer he taught out of doors, usually on the sunny side of a hedge. For his labours he received some produce from the land. He died at the turn of the twentieth century.
In 1894 two new schools were built to replace the old school – one for the boys and one for the girls. Actually, there were two rooms with two teachers in each room. One fireplace in each room supplied the heat. The children brought two sods of turf each to fuel the fire for the day.
There were 100 boys and 100 girls on the rolls. The official opening was on the 15th July, 1896. Michael O’Grady and his daughter, Annie, taught in the boy’s school and Mrs. M.J McLoughlin and Mrs.Langley taught in the girls’ school. She was married to an RIC man and raised a large family. She was principal of the girls’ school until her retirement in 1933.
Mrs. Langley retired in 1922 and was succeeded by Mrs. Lydon. Mrs McCann was appointed assistant in the girls’ school in 1933 with Mrs.Lydon taking over Mrs. McLoughlin’s vacated position. Incidentally, the O’Grady Family of Ballinaculla taught in Straide for nearly 100 years.
In the boys’ school, Mr. O’Grady retired in 1917 and was succeeded by another Mr. O’Grady (no relation) from Co.Sligo. He was the father of Dr. Brigid Heyns. Mrs. McCann taught in the boys’ school with Mr. O’Grady until 1933. She then transferred to the girls’ school and the vacancy was filled by Miss Florrie Thompson from Foxford. She later married Tommy Walsh, Principal of Swinford Boys’ school.
In 1923 the new Free State government took over from the British and set up the Departmet of Education. Immediately there was a great drive to promote the Irish language. Irish courses were organised for teachers in July 1923 and, again, in 1924.
There was no running water in the old school and a well in Sheerin’s field served the needs of teachers and pupils. A boy was dispatched each morning with a bucket of water. The first boy in the morning put out the ashes and lit the fire. Two dry toilets were located at the back of the school, just outside the boundary wall, and these were cleaned a few times a year. A high stone wall separated the boys’ playground from the girls’. It reminded one of the Berlin Wall. You were not allowed to see what happened on the other side.
In 1950 the boys’ and girls’ schools amalgamated Mrs. Forrie Walsh (nee Thompson) took a teaching position in Swinford Boys’ school. The teachers in Straide N.S then were Mr.O’Grady Principal; Mrs.Lydon Assistant and Mrs McCan, Assistant. In the late 1950’s, Mrs. Lydon and Mrs. McCrann retired and were replaced by Miss Margorie Leonard of Foxford. In 1962, Mr. O’Grady retired and T.J.Smyth, succeeded him as Principal. Miss B.A. Gallagher replaced Miss Leonard. A year later, Miss Gallagher left and Miss Ana Mae Kenny was appointed.
In 1964 a new school was built. It consisted of three classrooms which could accommodate up to 100 children and cost £11,000 was blessed and opened at Straide on Monday the 14thof September 1964. After the blessing ceremony, Mass was celebrated in one of the classrooms by the school’s Manager, Very Rev. T. Loftus, P.P. Straide. The school replaces a two roomed building erected in 1890’s and is a sign of progress in an area where Michael Davitt founded the Land League. A P.E room was added in 1980 and central hating was installed. The teaching staff in 1964 were T.J Smyth, Principal; Anna Mae Kenny, Assistant and Pauline Kirrane, Miss Kirane was replaced by Mrs Mary Sheehan, Balina.
Knocksaxon N.S closed in 1973 and the children transferred to Straide. Mrs Dunleavy, Bohola, was appointed to the staff in Straide. When Mrs.Dunleavy retired, Mrs. Maisie Walsh was appointed in her place.
In 1980, Straide N.S. became a four teacher school with Mrs.Mary Kyne, Castlebar, being added to the staff. However this arrangement didn’t last long and Mrs.Kyne subsequently got a position in Foxford N.S.
In more recent times, the school has been staffed by Mrs. Caithríona Murrihy, Mrs. Maura Kelly, Mrs. Rosaleen Veale, Ms. Breege Staunton, Ms.Orla Walsh, Ms.Laura Finnerty and Ms.Geraldine Jennings (for three years) with Mrs. Mary Byrne as Special Needs Assistant and Secretary.