By Garreth Byrne
If you travel the back road from Drumlease to Manorhamilton and approach a sharp corner at Kilcoosey crossroads, you will pass the remains of two country primary schools that closed many years ago. They are just around the corner a short walk from each other and testify to the gradual disappearance, through emigration, of what used to be a heavily populated farming community in days gone by.
CORRIGEENCOR PRIMARY SCHOOL
Carrigeencor National School was in the Church of Ireland parish of Drumlease. It is located in the townland of Carrigeencor in Co. Leitrim about 7 kilometers from Dromahair. The surrounding landscape comprises rural blanket bog with a sparse population. There are some farms with well-drained soil in Corrigeencor and in the townland of Cloonlougher along the banks of the Bonet river. In nearby Bohey, under the shadow of Benbo mountain, is some good land and a lot more which is better suited for extensive grazing and forestry. Corrigeencor is one of two school buildings located in the area, the other being Kilcoosey National School just a short walk away. Leitrim has suffered from rural depopulation more than most counties and today it is difficult to imagine that this area once required two schools.
The Corrigeencor school house comprises a detached single-storey one room building with a lower projecting pitched-roof gable porch, and a rear extension with a lean-to roof. It has a pitched roof and the walls are rendered and scored to imitate cut-stone blocks. It was constructed in 1872. It closed in 1955 and some children transferred to the Church of Ireland school at Back Line in Dromahair – now a library – while others made the longer journey to Masterson N.S. in Manorhamilton.
In the early 20th century the countryside between Corrigeencor and Manorhamilton had a bigger population than today. There were several Church of Ireland farming families and a few Methodist families. The 1911 Census shows these names. In Corrigeencor were: William and Jane Armstrong, Charles and Mary Anne Clifford, and families named Hawksby, Duncan, Galbraith, Johnston and Blair. The Bohey-Cloonlougher townlands had: Armstrong, Johnston，Jameson, Potter, Duncan, Siberry, Allingham, Templeton, Gillmor, Blair and Maxwell. Children from these families were enrolled in Corrigeencor N.S. until the population shrank and the school closed in 1955. A hall to the rear of the old school functioned as a community recreation centre. John Gillmor of Dromahair has memories of visiting the hall to play table tennis and attend social events there well into the 1960s. Occasionally a Sunday service was held in the hall. But this hall closed as so many people had moved on. Descendants of vanished families could be found nowadays in Canada, USA and the UK.
In the 1937 Folklore survey an 11-year-old pupil Peggy Maxwell at Corrigeencor NS wrote that her area of Bohey had 28 families and a total of 128 people. She stated there were then 3 slated houses and 16 thatched cottages, but people were trying to modernise their dwellings. She mentioned that Mr. Tommy Siberry was a good storyteller and so was Mrs. R. Jameson. There was no radio or television then, so people made their own entertainment. People had a custom of ‘ceili-ing’ their neighbours and whiling the long winter evenings away reciting stories and possibly singing songs. People emigrated to America or Scotland. In summer there were visitors from Scotland. The school principal that year was Mrs. Annie Gillmor, related by marriage to the Gillmors of Dromahair.
A pingback link at the end of this piece gives a link to a new blog, thecurlewscall, which appeared in the summer of 2019. Part 2 of a memoir of the families in Bohey and nearby townlands who sent their children to Corrigeencor National School appears. Mrs. Annie Gillmor was born Boyce in the Killybegs area of Donegal, started teaching in Corrigeencor in 1923, married Stuart Gillmor of Dromahair in 1928 and died in 1944. She contributed several items to the 1937-38 Irish Schools Folklore project, which can be accessed. Annie Gillmor was remembered as an inspiring primary teacher.
About 5 years ago Enda O’Flaherty, an archaeologist based in Cork, photographed the derelict building of Carrigeencor N.S. Here is a photo from his site, which can be downloaded at his website: endaflaherty.com/about
[Permission from Enda O’Flaherty . The plaque gives the date 1872]
KILCOOSEY NATIONAL SCHOOL
Anne Devlin, who began her teaching career in 1957 at the nearby tall Kilcoosey N.S., remembers that a few of the Protestant farm families in the area found it convenient to enrol their children at her school. In the late 1950s, car ownership among country people was rare, and horses and traps were the normal mode of long distance transport. Otherwise it was shanks mare or push bicycles. Carts drawn by donkeys brought turf down from the hills and milk churns were taken by the same means to the Breffni Creamery Co-op at Cleen on the road to Drumkeeran.
A real estate advertisement a few years ago described the Kilcoosey building as follows: “Detached four-bay single-storey former national school, built c.1913, with gabled entrance porch to front elevation. Pitched slate roof with cast-iron rainwater goods and rendered chimney stacks. Roughcast-rendered walls with date plaque to porch. Timber sash windows with tooled limestone sills. Two timber battened doors to porch. Random coursed stone wall divides rear yard. Public conveniences to rear yard.”
Anne Devlin came to Dromahair aged 2 when her Garda father from Donegal was posted to the village. In 1957 she began working as an assistant teacher at Kilcoosey N.S. There were two classrooms and a storage room where coal, turf and wood blocks were kept. The windows were high and children couldn’t see out. Until her transfer to Drumlease N.S. in 1969 the enrolment varied between 20 and 30 boys and girls. In September parents, all from Corrigeencor, Bohy and Cloonquin, were expected to contribute 2/6 [about 10 euro in current buying power] towards the cost of winter fuel for the open fire in the classroom. Some farm families delivered small cartloads of turf or woodblocks, as payment in kind instead of cash. Before children arrived on foot for school the teacher lit the fire in order to get the room warm for first lessons. Once a year, a travelling person was paid to clean and disinfect the outdoor toilets.
The school was erected in 1913 by Fr. Peter Galligan, but didn’t open until 1915 due to the opposition of some parents who wished their children to continue in the old school (now the site of Eugene and Martina O’ Neills house). Enrolment in Kilcoosey old school in 1912 was fifty eight pupils. In 1915 the principal was Patrick Gordon with Miss Winifred Mc Dermott, Assistant. Paddy Downey replaced Mr Gordon as principal in 1930 and remained until 1941 when he left to become principal of Ballintogher National School. Mr. Downey’s relatives manage the Post Office in Dromahair today.
Anne Devlin has pleasant memories of teaching at Kilcoosey between 1957 and 1969 and says the children were ‘lovely’. In the beginning, she used to cycle out to Kilcoosey from Dromahair but eventually got a car. A grocer named Gilmartin from Ballintogher visited the area once a week in a van and sold sweets and groceries to the locals. His weekly commercial visits were always welcome at a time when car ownership was rare. The Ballintogher Gilmartins were parents of independent MEP, Marian Harkin. Kilcoosey N.S. closed in 1969 and was amalgamated with Drumlease N.S. in Dromahair. Anne spent the remainder of her teaching career in the village and is fondly remembered by many former pupils.
Kilcoosey N.S. (Built 1913)
In the year 2000 edition of the Leitrim Guardian is a charming photo of students of Kilcoosey NS, 1930. Teachers at that time were Master Downey (Paddy Downey, who moved to Ballintogher NS) and Mrs. Carney. Student names identified include well-known families like Clancy, Rooney, McGoldrick, Gilmartin, Bird, Feehily and Flynn among others.
Full list of Kilcoosey 1930 names here: on Ancestry.com