Tashinny School (Scoil Teach Sinnigh) was admitted to the National Board of Education on the 15th April 1869, with Roll (registration) Number 10223 and initially coming within District 28. However, the school had been established much earlier by the local Church of Ireland parish authorities, its exact foundation date remaining unclear.
The earliest reference to a school in Tashinny is from the ‘Second Report of the Commissioners of Irish Education Inquiry’ carried out in 1826/1827. This study was part of the general 19th century trend towards compiling lists and statistics on all aspects of society. It detailed a Protestant school (mis-named “Tashury School” in a transcription held at the National Archives) which was housed in a thatched structure which also served as the home of the school-teacher. The building had been constructed under Rev. Sir James Hutchinson, a rector of the parish who died in about 1812, suggesting that the school at the very least pre-dates that year. The teacher in 1826/1827 was John Gardiner, who may well be the same John Gardiner who was clerk of the Church of Ireland parish up until 1835.
One key result of such studies was a determination on the part of the British government to provide equal access to education for all Irish children, regardless of their family religion. Towards this end, a non-denominational National Board of Education was established in 1831 to pay for school buildings, school books, teachers’ salaries and district supervisory inspectors. The aim was to provide a secular core education for all, with schools under lay control and with religious instruction to be provided only as an extra-curricular option. Most Church of Ireland parishes – including Tashinny – declined to register as National Schools because they were reluctant to relinquish control of their schools to a government agency and wished to continue the religious education of the pupils. An 1835 report noted four schools in Tashinny parish (including one at Doory Hall and boys’ and girls’ Roman Catholic schools at Tenelick). The main school – presumably that at Tashinny – was funded by the ‘Society for Discountenancing Vice’ (£8 annually) and the ‘Ardagh Society’ (£4 annually), along with £8 per annum and a house and one acre of land (valued at £4) provided by Lady Rosse of Newcastle House.The teacher now was George Gardiner, and the school claimed to have 50 male and 40 female pupils on the books and an average daily attendance of 60. These seem like remarkably high numbers compared to later years, but it should be noted that the research of Rev. James Lyster suggests a sharp decline in the Protestant population of Tashinny during the 1840s.
A ‘Church Education Society’ was set up in direct competition to the National Board system in 1839 to help fund Church of Ireland schools, and Tashinny was one of the schools affiliated with the Society. In fact, the parish of Tashinny was irate enough to organise a petition which was presented to the UK House of Commons by Colonel Alexander Perceval (MP for County Sligo) on 3rd August 1840. The petition condemned the National Education system and sought state support for Church Education schools. Furthermore, in January 1845 a public declaration was signed by 44 Church of Ireland clergy from the Diocese of Ardagh, including Rev. Nicholas Gosselin, rector of Tashinny, plus Rev. T.W. Green, Rev. John H.J. Powell and Rev. Robert James Card, each of whom would succeed him in turn. They declared their opposition to the National Board of Education: “As Ministers of the National and Established Church, we hold ourselves bound, according to our irreversible ordination vows, to be ready always to instruct all to whom we can have access in the Word of God, contained in the Old and New Testament ; and we can never enter into a compromise with either the Government, or any body constituted by it, which should have the effect of restraining us, at any time or in any place, from the discharge of this our bounden duty both to God and man.” A register of school students was begun in 1864.
Little more is recorded about this period in the history of Tashinny School prior to 1869. That year saw the passing of an Irish Church Act which would drastically reduce the status and funding the Church of Ireland. Parishes were now confronted with the prospect of having to pay for the maintenance of local schools exclusively through the voluntary contributions of shrinking congregations, placing the viability of such schools in serious doubt. Tashinny parish was paying £21 towards the maintenance of the school house and the teacher’s salary of £18. The school was charging no fees as such, but the parents of three-quarters of the pupils paid an annual subscription, and Lady Rosse’s grandson Lawrence Harman King-Harman of Newcastle House contributed £10 per year. Attitudes had also changed since the 1830s and 1840s; the ambition of non-denominational education in Ireland had proved to be a dismal failure as almost all National Schools were now managed by a religious patron. Near Tashinny in 1869, for example, Tennalick had separate Boys’ and Girls’ National Schools (average 37 and 31 pupils respectively) managed by Roman Catholic priests, while the National School at Carrickboy (average 31 pupils) was managed by a Presbyterian minister. The newly-appointed rector of Tashinny, Rev. William Noble, recognised that applying for National School status was not only compatible with his religious duties, it was essential if the school at Tashinny was to survive. In his April 1869 application he wrote that “several of my parishioners” wished the school to be “taken into connection as soon as possible” with the National Board, for the teacher to be granted a National School salary, and for “all the other privileges and benefits”. He gave commitments that the school would be open to children of all religious denominations, that only secular education would be provided between the hours of 10 and 2.30 five days per week, with religious instruction offered between 2.30 and 3 every day except Saturday, and that “the inscription ‘National School’ will be put up conspicuously on the school-house”. The teacher at that time was Archibald Mahon, who was also the clerk of parish. He had only been appointed in March following the closure of the school for more than a month “owing to the illness and death of the last master”. Archibald was born in about 1836, the son of another schoolmaster and clerk named Arthur Mahon. He had trained at the Kildare Place college, and when he married Mary Jane Cody in Tashinny Church in 1861 he was already a schoolmaster and was living in Kilglass . Archibald was judged to be of good character and “fair” in his running of the school.
The application forms filled by Rev. Noble give an exhaustive description of the school and its circumstances in 1869. The schoolhouse measured 28 feet long x 20 feet broad x 11 feet high externally, with the interior of the schoolroom measuring 24 feet long x 16 feet broad x 10 ½ feet high. It had been built using local funds and was occasionally used to hold religious meetings in the evening. It was in good repair, with plastered walls and ceiling, a boarded floor, a fire place, and four sash windows (4 feet 9 x 4 feet 3 each). It could accommodate between 50 and 60 pupils and was furnished with five desks, a book-press with shelves and a lock, a desk and seat for the teacher, a clock and, of course, a blackboard (which measured 3 feet x 2 feet 5). There was a small playground but no outdoor offices (out-houses) on the site. There was also no teacher’s residence provided, although Rev. Noble offered a nearby home, rent-free. Out of 41 male and female pupils on the school roll book for 1868/1869 there had been an average daily attendance of 10 boys and 12 girls since October. This number was anticipated to increase if the Protestant children in the vicinity could be sent to a school with National Board status.
A Mr. Bradford inspected the parish school on 4th May 1869 on behalf of the National Board. He reported: “There were 17 males and 17 females present on the day of my visit. … The Protestants of this parish have caused the application to be made by the Rector. They want a better education for their children than they had hitherto while the school was under the Church Education Society.” The National Schools in the surrounding area were assessed for the impact another local National School would have on them, and a letter from the local Roman Catholic parish priest Fr. Michael O’Reilly raised no objections to Rev. Noble’s application. Once approval was granted, schoolbooks were supplied for 50 pupils and Archibald Mahon received a state salary of £15, later increased to £18 and to £24 over the following years. From this point on, the records of the school were kept meticulously by the National Board, and have provided the bulk of the information here. As Tashinny’s first National School principal, Mr. Mahon, continued until 1st July 1874, after which he emigrated to New Zealand and founded a string of new schools among the European settlers before his death in 1901. His descendants continued to be involved in education on New Zealand’s South Island for many years.
Mr. Mahon’s initial replacement until just 11th September was W. Smyth, before Patrick William Bradley became principal in October 1874. Later events would testify that Mr. Bradley was popular and highly regarded locally, and his few years at Tashinny would see a steady growth in the number of children completing yearly examinations, but he also had personal problems and was dismissed from his post effective 30th June 1879. It seems that he was subject to regular National Education examinations on the subjects he taught, but at the Easter Examination in April of 1879 he was found to be under the influence of alcohol. The school inspector, William J. Browne, stated that on a Tuesday morning he administered the first of the teacher’s exams, consisting of papers on grammar and geometry. Breaking for lunch, the teacher returned after 2PM “in a very unsteady condition”. He “was unable even to write his name. After feigning to write for some time he laid down his head and fell asleep.” Mr. Browne advised Mr. Bradley not to bother returning for subsequent exams over the coming days, as his behaviour had ruled out any chance of passing. The dismissal caused considerable upset in the community, and the National Education file on the incident contains many follow-up documents; in July Rev. Noble as school manager asked for the dismissal to be reconsidered but was informed that Mr. Bradley had previously been dismissed from the Training Establishment for drunkeness in December 1877, and had therefore already been on thin ice. Rev. Noble again wrote to the Commissioners in August asking for some token payment to be permitted to Bradley, who was clearly falling on hard times; again, he was informed that their decision was final. Mr. Bradley himself wrote on 25th March 1880, stating that he had been considered a satisfactory teacher in Tashinny in the years before his dismissal. He said that at the time of the exam he had just spent six weeks at the sick bed of his mother and was very tired; he took one glass of spirits during his lunch break which had had “disorderly effects” on him, and for which he has “reason to regret during my life”. “I fervently promise that never again shall I fall into the like error.” He argues that his family are in a “starving condition” and pleads for his punishment to be rescinded. The letter is accompanied by numerous character references stating that he has “taken the pledge” and has been of good behaviour since his dismissal but is now living in much reduced circumstances. Patrick Bradley was not restored to his post in Tashinny School, and his ultimate fate is unknown to me, but the impression is given that he suffered the severest consequences of his grave error of judgement in April 1879.The school, meanwhile, struggled to recover from this set-back. James Moore was appointed principal in October 1879, but a report in December described the school as “unsatisfactory”, with reading and writing tolerable but other subjects at a very poor standard. Margaret Poynton became school principal in mid January 1880, but just four months later, at the end of May, she was dismissed for being incompetent. Her replacement was Jemima Poynton (relationship to Margaret unclear) who was appointed in mid July. Inspection reports from this time highlighted the unsatisfactory and dirty state of the school and the need for out-offices to be provided. Jemima Poynton resigned at the end of 1882 and went on to marry Bartley Glancey the following May. Miss Emily C. Hewitt became principal in January 1883 and remained in the post for almost six years, providing some measure of stability.
The teachers’ salary books note that the school was closed on 10th July 1882 for the Fair Day, and it closed again for an extended period between 18th May and 25th June 1883 due to an unspecified “epidemic”. The school was transferred to District 33 (centred at Mullingar) from May 1888, but otherwise the school was relatively uneventful until another unsettled year in 1889. Miss Hewitt resigned as principal at the end of December 1888 (she would go on to marry Thomas Whitford in April 1898). She was replaced provisionally by Mrs. Margaret Christie between January and July 1889, and then by Miss Kate Higgins from July to September. Rev. Noble’s daughter Eliza then wrote to the National Board on his behalf, explaining that “my father is not well”, and that the position of school principal was vacant following the departure of Miss Higgins. The official report from this time suggests that Mary Anne Merrick from Sligo was appointed in late October, but her time must have been very brief as Miss Letitia Boyde ultimately began a lengthy stint as school principal on 25th November 1889. Rev. Noble died early in 1890 and was succeeded as rector and school manager by his curate Rev. Franc Sadlier Stoney, who subsequently married Eliza Noble.
Miss Boyde – who was born in about 1868 and lived at nearby Kilglass – and Rev. Stoney would run the school together for almost 30 years, during which time some changes were made, but this also covered a very turbulent period in Irish history. In his early years at Tashinny Rev. Stoney involved himself in political organising against the second Home Rule Bill. He is known to have set up a parish branch of the Irish Unionist Association in 1893, and it seems that his use of the school building for political meetings earned him a reprimand from the National Board of Education. In correspondence in July of that year, Rev. Stoney argued that the National School in Ardagh hosted similar meetings, but he was told that this was not the case and that the rules of the Board expressly prohibited political meetings being held in National School buildings.
The lack of facilities continued to be a problem in the 1890s, and reports submitted in 1893 and 1894 again highlighted the need for out-offices at the school and the lack of funds to build them. Because of the status of the school, the Commissioners of National Education were unable to contribute a grant for the work, but it seems the out-offices were finally constructed by order of Rev. Noble in about 1895. In April 1898 the average attendance of pupils was recorded as 32.8, falling short of the 35 average required for a 1st class teacher’s salary for Miss Boyde. In January 1900 an application was made to the Board of Works for a loan to build a teacher’s residence. Later that year there seem to be vague references to the schoolhouse being damaged by fire, but an application for a grant for repairs was turned down in December. In 1901 a loan of £200 for building the teacher’s residence was approved, the application stating that Miss Boyde was willing to pay rent to off-set the debt. This, presumably, accounts for the hall door and two adjoining private rooms added on to the original schoolhouse (the kitchen and bathroom linking the two areas may have been added later).
From July 1909 Tashinny had the benefit of a Junior Assistant Mistress (J.A.M.) working alongside the principal. J.A.M.s were first introduced to the National School system in about 1904, and a school required an average daily attendance of between 35 and 50 pupils to qualify. Average daily attendance at Tashinny for 1908-1909 was officially recorded at 36 to 38 pupils. The mistress (there was no male equivalent role) needed only a ‘good primary school education’, although they were subject to examination and approval by National Board inspectors. The first J.A.M. at Tashinny was Miss Emily Maud Moxham, and the report of her appointment was accompanied by copies of her birth and baptism certificates as proof that she had reached the requisite age of 18 (which she had in May). Like her many siblings, Emily had received her ‘good primary school education’ at the Presbyterian-managed National School at Carrickboy, even though Tashinny was the family’s parish school; her sisters Margaret and Edie recalled in the 1980s that Tashinny had a poor academic reputation at the turn of the century. An initial J.A.M. report found Miss Moxham “good” at reading, writing, needlework, vocal music and general fitness for the position, “fair” at object lessons and arithmetic, and “middling” at hand & eye training and kindergarten. She was more formally examined in October 1909 and adjudged “bodily and mentally sound” for the role. Miss Boyde was now in receipt of a salary of £68 per annum (or £16 per quarter), and Miss Moxham £24 per annum.
Miss Moxham resigned as J.A.M. on 31st March 1910 and was replaced within a week by Miss Maria Eveleen Plant. At the end of September 1911 Miss Plant failed her examination and was dismissed, with Miss Moxham returning the following month. Upon the death of the teacher at Carrickboy National School, Miss Mary Allen, in February 1912, an investigation was carried out as to whether the pupils of that school could be accommodated in other Protestant-run schools in the area. The investigation found that Tashinny School had at that time a total roll call of 47 children, including 41 Established Church (Church of Ireland), 3 Methodist, 1 Presbyterian, 1 Roman Catholic and 1 other. The average daily attendance was 38 pupils – its full capacity – ruling out any intake of pupils from Carrickboy. Despite this report, Emily’s younger sister Edie remembered being among Carrickboy pupils temporarily transferred to Tashinny on a number of prolonged occasions around Miss Allen’s illness and death. Edie also recalled that Miss Boyde was keen for Emily to qualify as a teacher, and to this end Mr. Thompson – the principal of Lenamore School – tutored Emily for some time. Mr. Thompson (who also offered to tutor Emily’s sister Margaret in teaching) was the first to teach the Irish language in a number of local schools, offering half-hour classes after regular lessons were completed at 3 PM. Emily Moxham attended J.A.M. Kindergarten Instruction classes at Longford Mercy Convent National School during 1913, but left Tashinny School again at the end of December. Miss Sarah J. Plant (born in 1896; relationship to Maria Eveleen unclear) became J.A.M. on 1st January 1914, but Miss Moxham returned briefly as substitute J.A.M. during the illness of Miss Plant (January to March 1916) and as substitute principal during the illness of Miss Boyde (September 1916). In November 1920 Emily Moxham emigrated to New York where she was employed as a bookkeeper and died in 1951.
In July 1918 a visit by an inspector found that 6 pupils marked on the daily roll were not, in fact, present. Miss Boyde was fined £5 for the “falsification of school records” and threatened with dismissal if she was found repeating the offence. Within the year, however, Miss Boyde was indeed caught breaking the same rule again, and was summarily dismissed effective the last day of March 1919. The National Board ordered that her current salary of £109 per annum should be withdrawn “in view of her gross & deliberate falsification of the school records”, that she should be “declared ineligible for recognition in any capacity as a National Teacher during 6 months” and that any school manager offering her work in the future should be made aware of her transgressions. Miss Plant remained as J.A.M., but a new principal was not appointed for over three months, so it is not clear if the school remained open during this period. The recorded average daily attendance across 1919 hovered around 26, but during the first three months of that year the average was driven down to 18 “due to influenza” – presumably the ‘Spanish Flu’ pandemic that was sweeping the world and killing millions at that time. A cursory glance at the death records of the Ballymahon Registrar’s District suggests that the general region was hit by the Spanish Flu between about November 1918 and March 1919, with up to one third of all deaths during that time attributed to influenza or chronic bronchitis, affecting people of all ages and becoming fatal after an illness of anywhere between 5 and 20 days. (The relatively recent availability of these death records online makes this a subject very worthy of further investigation.)
Miss Florence Magahy, previously employed by a National School in County Cavan, was appointed principal of Tashinny on 8th July 1919. Miss Magahy was only given a provisional appointment, as she had failed her final exam of teacher training, but she was due to re-take the exam at the end of the 1920 academic year, and her final status would depend on that result. The unfortunate Miss Magahy would ultimately never receive her full accreditation. She was absent from her duties at Tashinny due to illness for the last week of July 1920 and could not re-take the exam that month, but was allowed to continue as provisional principal. From July until September Miss Magahy and Miss Plant were officially on vacation but just three days after the school resumed Miss Magahy was again marked absent due to illness, and it’s evident that her condition was now quite serious. Miss Plant stepped up and was commended by the National Board for keeping the school functioning during Miss Magahy’s absence, being awarded an additional salary in recognition. The task may have been too great, as Miss Plant soon submitted her resignation as J.A.M. to take effect at the end of September 1920, yet she continued to keep the school running single-handedly into October until a replacement could be found. That replacement, surprisingly, turned out to be the disgraced Miss Boyde, who returned to Tashinny as ‘Principal Locum Tenens’ substitute for Miss Magahy, but with the National Board of Education placing a strict condition that she could only stay for a maximum period of three months. Miss Magahy died on 23rd October and two days later the school closed for the day as a mark of respect. (I haven’t been able to find the civil record or cause of her death.) Any outstanding salary and war bonus payments were forwarded to her father, Robert Magahy. The war bonus was an extra payment to civil servants to off-set rising prices during the Great War, though teachers were not initially included in the scheme and when they were they had to struggle to get equal payments for women and men. This is particularly galling when one considers the example of Tashinny, where for over thirty years the education of the young had been carried out exclusively by women teachers.
Miss Boyde’s three-month term as temporary principal of Tashinny expired in January 1921. Miss Plant took up a position as J.A.M. in a National School in County Cork in the same month. No new J.A.M. was appointed for Tashinny, presumably because the more accurate pupil numbers now disqualified the school, and it would remain a single-teacher school until the late 1970s. Politically, Ireland was now being convulsed by unrest, with nationalist actions and government reactions dominating the headlines. For most Irish people, of course, life went on in as normal a manner as possible, and even these unsettled few years in the school did not interrupt the education of the children in the locality. The National Board of Education, though a product of 19th century British government policy, steered its way through revolution and independence with only minimal changes to its structure and ethos, providing continuity in the lives of these young people at a time of great uncertainty about the future direction of Ireland. National Board records after the end of December 1918 are slightly less accessible due to data protection regulations and storage location, and from here on the book Primary Schools in County Longford, 1800-2000 fills in some of the gaps in the story of the school; it tells us, for example, that district inspector J.J. Headen was reprimanded by the National Board in June 1915 for his failure to inspect Tashinny since January 1914.Mrs Florence de Vine became principal of Tashinny in early February 1921, after previous National School positions in Counties Westmeath and Mayo. Formerly Florence Clarke, she had married Lieutenant Henry de Vine of the Royal Irish Regiment in 1917, but appears to have been widowed within a short time. The Primary Schools book suggests that Mrs Devine was forced to leave the school by armed men during her tenure, which finished in late May (she married Bertram Wells in July 1921). The school remained closed from May to August 1921, when Miss Harriet Scanlon became principal. She was a former principal in Counties Louth and Longford and in England, and she remained at Tashinny until April 1922. The next principal was Miss Elizabeth May Hughes, from June 1922. Miss Hughes was born in 1894, trained as a teacher 1912-1914, and had been a principal in County Wexford. Under Miss Hughes’ guidance, the National School in Tashinny adapted to the new curriculum introduced by the Irish Free State, with a new emphasis on Gaelic language and culture. At the end of April 1927 Miss Hughes, by now in receipt of an annual salary of £255 per annum, married Thomas Glynne and left Tashinny (it wasn’t until 1933 the government of the Irish Free State formally introduced the law requiring women teachers to retire upon marriage). Miss Elizabeth Johnston took up the position of school principal the day after Miss Hughes’ departure. Miss Johnston was born in 1869, trained as a teacher 1888-1890, and was a former principal in County Wicklow. She stayed at Tashinny only until the end of January 1928.
Having seen nine different principals and J.A.M.s pass through the school over the preceding eighteen years, Tashinny next entered another of its occasional phases of stability. Miss Annie Trimble was born in December 1907 and had herself been a pupil of Tashinny during its upheavals. She trained as a teacher 1925-1927 and had completed a stint as a substitute principal in County Westmeath. Miss Trimble was appointed principal on 1st February 1928 and remained the face of Tashinny National School for almost half a century, seeing it through many educational and social changes along the way. The average daily attendance in her early years was between 10 and 14 pupils, with the school closed for a fortnight due to an outbreak of whooping cough just three months into her tenure. These pupil numbers are low compared to previous decades, though how reliable those earlier attendance figures were is, of course, highly questionable. Miss Trimble’s era included involvement in the National Folklore Collection which was recorded in Tashinny School during 1937-1938, one of the young participants being Sarah Jane Cody, a great-niece of the first National School principal Archibald Mahon. 1940 saw the death of Canon Franc S. Stoney, ending a remarkable and eventful 50-year run as manager of Tashinny School. Canon Cyril C. Ellison became just the third manager in the 71-year history of the National School, followed by Canon Alfred Birch in 1945, Canon John Montgomery in 1967, Rev. James Pickering in 1980, and Canon A.W. Kingston in 1982. A new cloakroom and winter playroom was added to the school in 1953. During this period the school’s standards increased significantly and, as a result, pupil numbers also grew. In the early 1970s Miss Trimble retired to Drogheda, where she died in 1988.
Miss Trimble was succeeded as principal of Tashinny by Alicia Whyte until 1978. The school was the subject of a photo-feature in The Longford News in January 1975. Next were Elspeth Hall as principal and Celine O’Meara as a second teacher. In 1988 an entirely new school-house was constructed on land next to the old one, and Tashinny National School continues today under principal Yvonne McHugh (nee Farrar), herself a former pupil of the school. The old school-house and grounds were sold and extensively renovated for use as a private home, though the building was abandoned after a short time and is again in need of repair (as of 2018). The history of Tashinny National School over the last century deserves a more in-depth examination to match that of it’s first 50 years, but this will have to suffice until those records become more accessible.
The class photos here date to the era of my father’s and uncle’s times at Tashinny, and any corrections, updates or extra photos would be extremely welcome. I have many more class photos from the 1970s and 1980s, which are not shown for fear of causing embarrassment.
- Schoolmasters & Schoolmistresses in County Longford (extracted from the Second Report from the Commissioners of Irish Education Inquiry, 1826/1827)
- National Archives of Ireland: ED/1/56/18; ED/2/116 (folio 38); ED/2/135 (folio 140); ED/4/752; ED/4/753; ED/4/754; ED/4/755; ED/4/756; ED/4/757; ED/4/758; ED/4/759; ED/4/760; ED/4/761; ED/4/856; ED/4/857; ED/4/858; ED/4/859; ED/4/860; ED/4/861; ED/4/862; ED/4/1393; ED/4/1394; ED/4/1395; ED/4/1615; ED/4/1616; ED/4/1617; ED/4/1618; ED/4/1619; ED/4/1620; ED/4/1621; ED/4/1622; ED/4/2576; ED/4/2577; ED/4/2581; ED/9/1007; ED/9/5775; ED/9/14026; ED/9/20446; ED/9/22507; ED/9/23195.
- Primary Schools in County Longford, 1800-2000 – Sean Cahill, Jimmy Casey & John Carthy (2000)