Nationalisation of the Schools, about 1840 I think, was strongly opposed by Archbishop McHale of Tuam, who did not allow the implementation of the Act in the Archdiocese for many years. He believed it would kill the Irish Language. Cardinal Cullen on the other hand thoroughly approved of nationalisation. He was a man with great perception of the future and saw emigration as the only solution to Ireland’s population explosion of the time. He realized that English was the world’s most important language.
Less than a decade later, after the Famine, one and a half million of our people were driven through starvation from their home-land. It was Ireland’s greatest tragedy, but imagine their plight, if they entered the new world with a language barrier. Cardinal Cullen proved to be man of sound judgement, having great qualities of leadership and in my mind stands out as the guiding light of his time.
The unbreakable resistance of Bishop McHale left Athenry without a National School, until nearly 1860, when the four-roomed school, boys and girls, was built near the Old Ball Alley. The site was unsuitable – then waste ground. The school was built close to the Abbey wall, with no space, no sewerage and no playground. The girls left about 1910, when the Presentation Sisters opened the new convent National School. It was not until the early l940s that the boys moved to their new school at Swangate.
The late Father Concannon (our curate) worked very hard for this goal. He was the only priest I ever saw with coat of shovelling concrete. God rest his soul. He must get all the credit for the boys’ town-school. This was a great achievement in years when money was scarce. This much-admired school is a monument to the memory of a great priest, who served the people well.
From the book – “Athenry, History from 1780, Folklore and Recollections” by Aggie Qualter, March 1989
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Written by Aggie Qualter
Published here 11 May 2022 and originally published March 1989
Page 47 of Athenry History
The Down Survey: Change of Ownership
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