Taghmon Protestant School - A History


Seamus and Joseph Seery

Taghmon is mentioned in Lewis's Topographical Dictionary, around 1837, as having two public schools with about 40 students. This article, however, outlines the history of another Protestant School founded fifty years later in Joseph St.

Taghmon Protestant School opened its doors to its first pupils on September 15th 1890. The school was located on Joseph St. and twenty children were enrolled on opening day. (For a contemporary description of the school building see Appendix 1)

The aims of the schools' founders were clearly outlined in the first Annual Report of the school.

In these days no man can hope to get on, or advance himself in the world without education, and everyday education is advancing by leaps and bounds so, if our children, who will be men and women of the future are not to be left behind in the race, and out-distanced by those who have greater educational advantages, we must keep up our school and strive by every means in our power to improve it.
The Victorians were in many respects obsessed by education, and this extract sounds almost like one of the many utterances from Mr. Gradgrind, Dickens' famous comic character from 'Hard Times' who constantly emphasised the need for 'facts, facts, facts'.

The schoolhouse was two storeys high. The ground floor was divided into two apartments, one rented by the head constable of the R.I.C. in Taghmon and the other was occupied rent-free by the teacher. The upper level of the building contained the schoolroom which was described in a Church Education Board report of November 1890 as a very comfortable room, well boarded and roof first-rate slated.

The schoolhouse was the property of Taghmon parish. The rector headed the management board and the remaining members were the fathers of the children attending the school. As was the case with all Victorian women, the mothers of children in Taghmon School were denied any say in how their children were educated. Indeed, the management board appears to have been a male only reserve, no mention being made of any female board member in any of the records from 1890 until the school's closure in 1938.

Ms. Evelina Champion was the first teacher appointed to the new school in 1890. She stayed five years and was succeeded by Ms. McConnell who was described on the school report of 1898/99 as 'our esteemed teacher who has certainly not spared herself in any way, but has done everything in her utmost to further the interest of the school in every way she can; and by her unfailing courtesy to all, and kindness to her pupils has gained the respect of the parents and the affections of the children'.

Procuring and retaining teachers was to prove extremely problematic over the years. The school was forced to close on several occasions as no teacher could be acquired. In 1916 Martha Somerville and Elizabeth Tector, Candidates Training College Church of Ireland, failed the King's Scholarship Examination (see Appendix 11). It would appear that both had expressed interest in working in the Taghmon school and that Ms. Tector had actually begun teaching there. The three 'Rs' Reading, Writing and Arithmetic were the main subjects taught in the primary school at that time and Ms. Tector's results in these subjects were quite good. English literature seems to have been her downfall. Her services were dispensed with on July 27 1916 and this must have been a grave disappointment for both the teacher and the school management.

For whatever reason Taghmon did not seem to attract teachers. Many stayed for only short periods of time. Indeed, Ms. Mary Henderson resigned on the 12th of April 1917 after only four days in the job!

In an attempt to solve this problem, the Board of Management was forced to increase the teachers' salary and award a bonus. At a meeting of the board in June 1917, Arthur Ward proposed a salary increase and an annual bonus of 5.

Several improvements were also made to the teacher's accommodation over the years. The head constable of the R.I.C. left his lodgings shortly after the opening of the school and the entire ground floor of the schoolhouse was then given over to the teacher. New floors and a new stove were added to the teacher's quarters in 1900 and there were further improvements and another new stove installed in 1915.

Funding for the school came from several sources. Grants were provided by the National Commissioners for Education and the Select Vestry. There were also fund-raising events and several bequests to the school. The Hon. Jane Stuart O'Grady of Plattenstown, Arklow bequeathed 3000 to the Sustentation Fund of the school . A considerable proportion of the funding came from parents' subscriptions. However, it seems that they did not always prove satisfactory. The annual report for the year 1898/99 bemoans the fact that many parishioners 'have taken no interest and given no pecuniary help to the school' which was therefore 'sadly circumscribed for want of funds'.

Very few details of the day-to-day life of the school remain. We do know that school hours were 9am to 3pm with lunch from 12.30 to 1pm. Subjects taught were English, Arithmetic, History, Geography and Religious Instruction.

The children who attended the school were drawn from the village and surrounding countryside. Many of their descendants still live in Taghmon today - Hornick, Ward, Simmons and Whitney are just some of the familiar names mentioned in reports.

Very few of the school's pupils are still with us. Rich Whitney is one of those few. He lived several miles from the village at Rathsilla. Together with his brother, Willie, he remembers staying at their grandfather Ward's house at Main Street from Monday to Friday during school term. He also recalls a rather cross teacher, Ms. Martindale (who was later to marry Arthur Ward of Taghmon) and winning a bible for religious instruction. Annie Ward in a letter home to her family from Australia writes that she is distressed to hear that her sister Florence (a pupil in the school) dislikes it very much. She implores her to 'make haste and learn all you can and then you will be able to write a very nice and well-composed letter'.

By 1917 the number of children attending the school had fallen below 10. The National Commission of Education reduced the grant paid to the school and its contribution to the teacher's salary. At a Management Board meeting in December 1913, the treasurer Mr. Rhynehart was 'empowered to pay Ms. Gregory (the teacher) the sum of 4-14s-5d out of school funds, the amount having been deducted by the Commissioners of National Education as the average school attendance had fallen below 10 pupils'.

Richard Whitney holding a bible which
he won for religious studies.
Willie Whitney (past pupil)

In 1917 the school was struck off the register of national schools because the attendance figures were so low and a teacher could not be procured. The school was then placed under the control of the Church Education Society.

The school continued to function (albeit intermittently) until 1938 when it was decided to close the school and transport the remaining seven children to a school in Wexford, at a cost of 70 per annum. This was funded by 25 from Taghmon, 10 from Wexford, 25 from the Ministry and a further 10 from the Wexford Board of Education .

However, the history of the school does not end there. In 1985 the schoolhouse was leased by the Church of Ireland to Wexford County Council, for use as a pre-school, firstly for the children of the Travelling Community and later for other children also. The pre-school is now part of Taghmon Primary School. However, it must be remembered, that for over a century this small Protestant School played its part as a valuable local centre of education for the Parish of Taghmon.

Accordingly, Taghmon Protestant School is still open today - 110 years after its founding in 1890.

Pre-school pupils. Back row: Paddy Connors. Second row: Nancy Murphy, Michael Larkin, Kevin Cardiff, Frank Kavanagh, Ivan Purcell. Front row: Suzanne Sinnott, Ellen Sinnott, Luke Maye, Deborah Doyle, Nan Berry, Bridget Berry, Aidan Codd, Biddy Berry, Kitty Berry.

Appendix 1

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
  1. House, two story; under part Residence; divided into 3 rooms and kitchen; (2 of these rooms & the use of Kitchen, at present sub let to Head constable (R.I.C.) the other room retained for Mistress; The rooms have wooden partitions, & concrete floors. The whole upper part of House is the Schoolroom; very comfortable, & well boarded; the roof first rate - slated. There is a small yard behind house containing Privy & ashpit, also Coal Cellar.
  2. The rooms will be used as bed or sitting.
  3. The schoolhouse is the property of the Parish; no rent charged teacher.
  4. Evelina Champion; age 20 years, Oct. 1890.
  5. Local aid at present promised 20 a year from Parish, & 10 yearly private tuition.
  6. School only opened on Sept. 15th 1890.
  7. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. - except Saturday.
  8. Daily, from 12-30 p.m. to 1 p.m.
  9. Clergyman of Parish - at present Revd. Peter Wilson
  10. Revd. Peter Wilson, Rectory, Taghmon, Co. Wexford

Appendix 11

KING'S SCHOLARSHIP EXAMINATION, 1916
County: Wexford Examination No. 2107
Roll No. 14130 "C" women Candidates
School: Taghmon (2) Training College: C of I
Name of Candidates Elizabeth Tector Martha Somerville
Subjects Maximum MarksMarks Obtained Marks Obtained
Reading 80 58 46
Penmanship 40 25 (16)
Composition 100 49 55
Spelling & Punctuation 40 24 40
Arithmetic & Mensuration 100 84 42
English Literature 80 (14) (21)
Geography 60 19 24
Grammar 50 19 25
Nature Knowledge 80 (19) 30
Drawing 60 23 18
Music Written 35 24 33
Music Oral 35 14 15
Needlework Sewing 40 32 19
Needlework Knitting 30 18 28
Needlework Cutting- Out 30 10 13
History 40 13 11
Hygiene 60 20 18
Latin 50 20 21
Total 1010 452 438
Practice of Teaching 40%

Result of Examination Both Candidates Failed

Mgr has not been advised, up to the present, that Miss Tector's services are to be dispensed with 27. 7.'16

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS & FOOTNOTES

Sam Deacon
Marcia Gaul
R.C.B. Library
Brian Thorpe
Willie Whitney
Rich Whitney
The National Archives
Heather Smith
Dr. R. Refausse
Vestry Minute Book R.C.B. Library
School Account Book R.C.B. Library
Dr. Austin O'Sullivan, Johnstown Castle
Church Education Board.
  1. The People Newspaper 2 Feb. 1918. Also see The Hon Jane Stuart O'Grady by Rita Curtis in this journal
  2. Minute Book of the Ferns Diocesan Board of Education