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Cormeen Old National School

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by Catherine McCormack

For more information on Cormeen NS reunion check out

In 1835 a Board of Education was established by the government to standardise education in Ireland. In 1840, Mr Algar gave a site for a new Board of Education National School in the townland of Cormeen.  This was to replace Carrigagh and Feagh Hedge Schools and Newcastle Hall School. The school was built in 1840 with funds raised though a collection in Newcastle and grants received from the Board of Education. 

A two storied school was built on a site, which is now the entrance lane to Roger’s old house. During renovations on Rogers old house by the current owner a few years back, part of the name plate for this old school was unearthed. The school opened on 2nd February 1841. It was a vested school under the patronage of the Roman Catholic Church.  A fire destroyed the old school building and school moved to Newcastle chapel.

cormeen plaque ns

 A new school was built in 1912 on a site a few hundred yards towards Newcastle. The stone masons on this building were Wards of Bailieboro. It was a 2 room building with no running water and dry toilets.  Under the amalgamation of small schools in the 1960s government program, Cormeen School closed its doors for the last time in June 1968.  27 pupils transferred on 1st July 1968, to St Anne’s National School, Maio, in Golashane townland.  The school was auctioned off by Fr Tully, CC Moynalty into private ownership. It changed hands again, and was lovingly restored.

cormeen ns

The first principle of the boys school appointed was Master Patrick Rogers, a native of Co Clare. Previously, he taught in the village school, Moynalty.  He took digs in Widow Nancy Monaghan’s house in Tullyattin. Master Patrick Rogers retired in 1882 and his son Master Hugh Rogers took over from 1882 to 1913. Master Rynne held the post from 1913 to 1927. Master Bernard Dolan, a native of Co Wexford took over in 1927 until the school’s closure in 1968. He retired from teaching then.

Elizabeth Lynch, Skearke, after completing her teacher training in college, started in Cormeen School in the 1880s, in the girls school. In 1888 Elizabeth Lynch and Hugh Rogers married in Newcastle chapel.  Mrs Mary Dolan started teaching in Cormeen in 1927 with her husband.  Prior to the school closing, she obtained a teaching post at Edengora National School in Moybologue parish for a number of years until her retirement. Miss Jane Clarke took over till the school closed. Among other teachers who taught at the school were a Mrs O’Brien in the old school and Mrs Nan O’Brien nee O’Reilly  Due to numbers, the school became a three teacher school for a time in the 1940s. Miss Nan O’Reilly and her pupils held their lessons in Newcastle Hall. There is no memory of who the girls teacher(s) were before Mrs Elizabeth Rogers.

Subjects taught included the 3Rs, religion, music, the classics, geography, science, and sewing.  The school took part in the UCD Folklore collection program in 1937/38. Students submitted local history and folklore in short essays format. They make for interesting reading on microfilm in Navan Library.

 Among its past pupils were Bishop Thomas Mulvany, Skearke, Bishop of Meath from 1929 to 1943. He built the Cathedral of Christ the King, Mullingar in the 1930s during the height of a world depression.  Master and Mrs Dolan represented Cormeen School at the consecration in Mullingar old cathedral on 30th June 1929.  Master Hugh Rogers died a few weeks later on 26th July 1929. Terry Reilly, Skearke, obtained stone mason contracts on Mullingar and Kilmore roman catholic cathedrals during their construction. More of the Reilly tradesmen went to Drogheda and worked on big contracts there.

Monsignor Claude Smith, Newcastle served in the Diocese of Dallas, USA from 1953 to 1997. On the 22nd Nov 1963, Monsignor Smith stood on the corner of Oakdrive and Harwood Street, near Dealey Plaza, the scene of JFK assassination.  He saw the presidential motorcade pass.  Monsignor Smith did not hear the shots, and only learn of the assassination on his car radio 25 minutes later on his way back to his residence.  A front page article of an interview with Monsignor Smith by the Sunday Independent was reprinted in the chronicle edition of 30th Nov 1963. Monsignor Smith had previously met JFK in Dallas in 1960, when he was canvassing for the presidential election. 

Miss Maggie Doyle of Leitrim Upper was the mother-in-law of the late Taoiseach Jack Lynch. Senator Patrick J Lynch, Skearke, received his national school education from Cormeen and Killeeter National Schools, higher education at the Model School, Bailieboro and further education in Australia where he qualified as an engineer. He was a prominent politician in Western Australia from 1901 to 1938. Amongst the post he held, were president of the Senate of Western Australia from Aug 1932 to June 1938. 

 Dan Lynch, Leitrim Lower, was a fluent Irish speaker, gifted Irish musician and dancer, and church sacristan. John Mulvany, Dyrallagh, was a great Irish American painter. He emigrated in 1851 to America at the age of 12 as a stowaway.  After a number of years working, he obtained a place in art school in New York. He covered the American Civil War from the battlefields and had access to the most senior generals - Custer, Sheridan and others.  Painters then where the forerunners of today’s modern war correspondents. After the civil war, he received further training in Munich, Germany with many other talented artist of his time. Amongst his famous paintings are Custer’s last Rally, 1881 and The Battle of Aughrim, 1885. John Mulvany’s biographer, Thomas P Tuite, in a paper presented in 1909, three years after Mulvany,s death in New York, cites Master [Patrick] Rogers as a great influence on the young Mulvany.

The Dolan children were extremely clever and six of them were conferred with degrees in the arts, engineering and medical fields.  James Daly, Cormeen had a “forge” for many years on the main Newcastle road.  If James couldn’t mend it, no-one could. Animals were shod, agricultural machinery and household pots and utensils were made or mended.  All the news of the day was discussed.

There are plenty of past pupils of the school of the 90 plus mark.   Mary “Maude” Smith, Carrigagh, Eileen, Mollie and Aine Smith, Drumaneber, Mary Reilly, Cooks Cross, and Charlie Halton, Carnaville, all appear in the 1929 Cormeen class photos. Others pupils are John Rathborne, Skearke, Dick and Anna Smith, Newcastle. It was with great sadness Newcastle lost it oldest resident and school past pupil, Brigid Gargan nee Halton, during the past year. She was reared and lived all her married life not too far from the school and was a font of local knowledge.

This article was submitted by email dated August 12, 2013 by Catherine McCormack, originally from Druminiskin, Moynalty. A few years ago, Catherine started doing family history and is now looking at her own native area of Maio and Newcastle in the northern end of Moynalty parish. The area shares a long borders with Tierworker parish. Its families have closer links with Tierworker and Relaghbeg than Moynalty. Cormeen NS (National School) in Newcastle held a reunion on 16th Aug 2013.

The Eyes That Shone - from Ireland to Canada in the 1950s

But a word of warning! The Eyes That Shone is not a saga filled with horrible tragedy and dysfunctional relationships, but rather a celebration of family lives in Ireland and Canada, in other words, a happy story featuring:

  • Memories of life on small farms in Ireland before 1950 and before tractors and electrification, when growing food depended largely on human sweat and muscle
  • Recollections about people and events in the Department of Public Works of Canada where the author worked during the period 1957 to 1991
  • Intimate perspectives on living and dying, politics and religion, home and family