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'.
he won for religious studies.
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.
|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 Marks||Marks Obtained||Marks Obtained|
|Spelling & Punctuation||40||24||40|
|Arithmetic & Mensuration||100||84||42|
|Needlework Cutting- Out||30||10||13|
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