The first National School for the Parish of Loughgiel was opened during 1841, in Loughgiel Village, by the Rev Fr Henry Mc Laughlin, Parish Priest of Loughgiel, 1834 – 1869,. Built on the “Up Stairs – Down stairs” plan as was used in many Irish Schools at the time, with the Girls Upstairs & Boys Downstairs. Toilets would have been situated outside with water having to be carried from a nearby stream or well.
A basin and a bar of soap were provided for the washing of hands.There was no running water within the School or Toilets. Heating would have been from a stove in the centre of the room for which the Pupils would have to bring in turf or wood as the School would not have been the warmest of buildings. the Pupils would also have had to bring their own lunch. This School was also used by Parish groups which were in existence at this time, as a meeting place as also for Adults who wanted to further their Education with evening classes.. This former School House is now a listed Building of special Architectural and Historic intrest, with very few examples of this type of School building remaining, rendered with hipped roof and outer staircase, it is now a Shop and Post Office and is excellently maintained.
(An inscription on a memorial stone within the Cemetery adjoining St Patrick’s Church, Loughguile, reads - Erected by a few friends to the memory of Micheal Griffin, late Teacher of Loughgiel National School and a native of Kilcolman, Co Limerick, who Died on the 3rd of October 1892, aged 26yrs).
Rev Fr Burke (Parish Priest of Loughguile 1887 – 1916), replaced this School with a new School, situated in the Townland of Tully, (Lough Rd),erected 1896, This School was blessed and officially opened by Bishop Henry Henry, a native of Loughguile Parish, on March the 30th,1898, (the Bishop only visited a Parish every three years at this time to administer Confirmation and Parish visitation, not as in present times, every year). The only heat would have been from a stove, situated near centre of the room, for which Pupils would have to bring turf or wood to burn during the winter months, with coal being supplied for the fire during the later years.. Pupils would have taken turns standing at the stove to warm themselves, even during lesson’s. Water for this School had to be carried in buckets by two of the Senior Pupils from a tap at the nearby Parochial House until the “Drumkeel Water” was piped along the Lough Rd, during 1951, water was then piped into the kitchen area of the School. (“Drumkeel Water” had been piped to Loughgiel Village during April 1919). Because of overcrowding at the School, as Pupil intake had increased, two classes were moved to Marian House during the later years of the 1960’s, (purchased by Canon Clenaghan during 1967, formerly the Police Barracks). Rev Fr Burke was also responsible for the building of another School within the Parish, situated beside St Mac Nissi’s Church, Magherahoney which was opened during 1899. Water for this School was piped from a spring, which can be found in the lovely little wood known as “Juberlane”, which is convenient to the School and Hall, on the banks of the river Bush. Drinking water was carried by bucket from a “Cow Tail “ pump, situated in the garden of Cassie Young’s house, close to the School. (corner of Coolkeeran & Fivey Rds). Because of increased Pupil intake at this School, alternative accommodation was also provided in Magherahoney Hall. (Magherahoney Hall opened 1950).This School remained in use until 1975 when the School, situated on the Lough Rd, as also the School at Magherahoney were closed with Teachers and Pupils being transferred to the new School, situated in the Townland of Turnavidoc, (Shelton Rd) .
Canon George Clenaghan, Parish Priest of Loughguile, 1939 – 1979, was responsible for the building of the new School, situated on the Shelton Rd, which was blessed and dedicated to St Patrick by Bishop Philbin on the 26th of May 1975. The enclosed poem was composed by John Watt, Friary,(Singing Farmer), for the opening of St Patrick’s Primary School. The present St Patrick’s Primary School is a Seven Teacher School with over 240 Pupils in attendance, with the Pupils now having more room to explore their talents and skills, with mains water on tap throughout the Classroom’s and Toilets, hot dinners available for Teachers and Pupils with an Oil Burner and radiators supplying the heat throughout the School, it was one of the first Schools within the North Eastern Education & Library Board to have a Wind Turbine within the School grounds producing electricy. The Turbine was erected during October 2005.
Indeed a far cry from the days of walking to school, no buses or very few, if any,cars, bringing your own lunch, no electricty, computers, school trips, no water on tap within the school or toilets, also the teacher being able to use the strap or cane when homework was not completed or for misbehaviour.
During the lifetime of many parishioners, the education of our children has certainly changed, learning to write with the old slate pencil on slate’s, chalk for writing on the blackboard has now been replaced by pen on whiteboards, which has now being replaced by Inter-active White Boards, the use of calculators during class, the use of the cane or strap not being allowed. Cooked Lunches provided for Staff and pupils if they want them, also with hot and cold water piped into the classrooms and toilets which are now situated within the school building. No more walking to school, instead coming by bus or car. The environment for the education of our children has certainly changed down through the generations, with many past pupils of the school now being parents themselves, with their children now attending the School.
© Hugh Mc Lean.(Local Historian)