CARNAHALLA NATIONAL SCHOOL
Carnahalla (Cahernahallia) National School opened on 22nd May 1933 and closed on 10th April 1968. When it closed it had 25 pupils on the Roll, 24 of which were present on the final day. For thirty five years it served the locality as a source of primary education, prior to the days of pre schools or crèches etc. Its catchment area stretched from Toomaline - upper and lower, Shanaclune, Foildearg, Leugh, Toom, Knockane, Kilbeg and Carnahalla. These were the days of large families, limited transport, so small school units like Carnahalla were ideal. During the forties and fifties the attendance reached up to 55 pupils. The subjects taught were Irish, English, Mathematics, History, Geography, Christian Doctrine, with lesser emphasis on Singing and Sewing for the girls.
The building itself consisted of two large classrooms, separated by a folding glass partition. Junior Infants (babies), Infants, 1st and 2nd were in one room with 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th class in the other. The greater numbers were in the junior classes, people often left the more senior classes to attend the convent or the monastery. The building had neither running water nor electricity. There was an open coal fire at either end of the building.
The construction of this stone building began in the early 1930’s on 1 rood and perches. Two thirds of the cost came from the Dept. of Finance and one third from the manager (parish). Denis O’Dwyer was the chief stonemason with the Danagher Brothers of Doon the builders. Much of the stone came from Leugh quarry, which was drawn by horse and cart. Many locals were involved in this process including Mick Hayes of Glengar.
This new school replaced an adjacent older school, dating from the late 19th century. I am grateful for the many interesting insights given to me by Sr. Oliver Maher, formerly of Toomaline, Doon, now in her eighties, who was a pupil of this school in the mid 1920’s. This was a single room school, with a small kitchen and a loft dwelling for the teacher. Mrs. Keogh of Toher Road, Doon was the teacher, who walked to her job each day. Fr. O’Connor was the then Parish Priest of Doon and it was he who celebrated Mass on the day of the official opening of the new school. Fr. Roger Maher who was then a ten year old served Mass on that special day.
In the old school slates and slate pencils were used, later progressed a little to chalk and blackboards and eventually to N-Pen and ink, the latter being made on the premises by the senior boys and girls. The key to the school was kept at Kearns (Kennedy’s) across the road and the first ‘scholars’ in collected it, cleaned the room and lit the fire in the masters end of it. Frequent visitors to the school were Fr. Rody Kennedy and Fr. O’Connor who came to examine the Confirmation class, driven in a horse and trap by Martin Ryan. Gárdai often came to the school to check on school attendance, a list had to be sent into the local barracks each Friday. Sr. Oliver Maher recalls that on the day her father died, June 9th 1930, a guard called to the house to check on her absence. The Maher’s of Toomaline came to school ‘through the fields’ and across the Carnahalla River and up the boreen at Foxes. The bigger girls prepared the teacher’s lunch each day, boiled the kettle and made the tea. The Inspector, a Miss Murphy, was also a frequent visitor at the school, on one visit the boys had gone gathering sticks for the fire, so they had to be rounded up. Carnahalla school has produced many nuns, priests and brothers: - Sisters Mary and Ellie Hickey, South Africa; the Maher sisters of Toomaline, Sr. Antonio (Skibbereen); Sr. Oliver and Sr. Alphonsus (Athy). Sr. Michael Buckley, London; Sr. Sadie Kilbride, New Guinea and Australia. Fr. Denis Ryan, Australia; Fr. Roger Kennedy, New South Wales. Denis O’Connell, Dan Quirke, Martin O’Meara were Christian Brothers. Fr. Roger Maher, to whom I owe this information served for many years in Nottingham. Fr. Joe Ryan, recently deceased, served in New Jersey (a very good friend to me when I went to the USA as a student in 1969-1970).
My sincere apologies to anybody I have left out or for any errors I have made with names etc.
John J. Fahey