Educational facilities for Catholics were almost non-existent in Ireland during the 17th century, as the schools at that time were established by the Protestant Church, and Catholics were barred from attending.
The Penal Laws made it an offence punishable by transportation or death for a Roman Catholic to act as schoolmaster, or even as a tutor in a Catholic family, while heavy penalties awaited those who sent their children to schools and universities abroad.
There was no alternative left to the Irish but the hedge schools. These were conducted secretly, and were often forced to move from place to place.
The Commission of Public Instruction, 1835, mentions two hedge schools in Bohola at the time, one kept by James McManns (who is still referred to locally as James McManus, but the record of 1835 spells his name differently) and the other kept by Dennis McDonnell. It was customary that at least one boy in the family would receive a hedge school education.
The McManns school in that year had 181 pupils (134 boys and 47 girls), the numbers were increasing, and the subjects taught daily were reading, writing arithmetic and Roman Catholic catechism. The children paid 15 10s. per year for the running of the school, and the average daily attendance was 120 pupils.
The school was situates in the townland of Toocananagh, and is believed to have been located between Keary's (now The Village Inn) and the late Pat Lavin's house.
The Valuation of Tenements (1848-1865) records that a Mary Tiernan leased a dwelling place from Bernard McManns and it consisted of a house and a national schoolhouse. The valuation of the school for the purposes of rates was 10 shillings at the time.
The McDonnel school in 1835 had 90 pupils (60 boys and 30 girls), the numbers were increasing, and the subjects taught daily were reading, writing, arithmetic, English grammar, geography and Roman Catholic catechism. The contributions of the children ranged from 1s. to 4s. per quarter each, and the average daily attendance was 80. The location of this school is a matter of speculation.
There were several other hedge schools in the parish, including ones in Tooromeen, Lismirrane, Lisgorman and Shannaghy, but many of these moved frequently so it is difficult to pin down exactly where they were located.
The site for Tooromeen School was donated by landlord Charles Burke Jordan, who owned all the land in that townland, totalling 509. This school was listed in the Primary Valuation of Tenements (1848-1865) and was valued at 10 shillings annually for rate purposes.
From 1885 to 1889 it seems that the school catered for girls only as the District Inspectors' Observation Book for those years specifies that 90 girls were examined in 1885, 104 in 1888 and 57 in 1889. In 1890 the 'girls only' reference changed to 79 'pupils' examined.
As well as the annual visits from the Inspector, the Diocesan Examiners also called every year to check the children's knowledge of religion.
Both Tooromeen and Shraheens schools were parish schools in that they were paid for the people of the parish. The school opened in 1884 and closed in 1971.
The old national school in Shraheens, a one roomed building officially opened its doors in 1882, to 120 pupils. Over fifty pupils attended school there in 1881, having enrolled between November and Christmas of that year but it was March of the following year when official classes commenced in Shraheens School.
The opening of the school was a great relief to the parents and children in the area, as the children had previously had to travel long distances for their education. The first manager of the school was Rev Canon John O'Grady, PP of Bohola. By 1900 there were approximately 100 pupils in attendance, and twenty years later there were 78 pupils in the school.
A new school was built and opened in 1937 at a cost of £1,800. By this stage the original number of pupils attending the old school was halved, and the new school opened its doors to 60 children. The numbers in attendance continued to decline with 55 pupils registered in 1954.
By the time Shraheens school closed its doors in 1972 only 20 pupils watched as the keys was turned in the lock for the last time. Those children completed their primary education in the new pre-fab school in Bohola.
There was another school in Carragolda many years ago, and it was held in a barn where the late Julie Higgins' house is now. The schoolhouse was a two storey building, and the teachers lived in the upper loft while they taught there.
The seats and equipment in the school were later moved to Carragowan School when it opened.
There were three schools in Carragowan down through the years. The first of these was thatched, and very little is known about when it existed or how many pupils attended. The second school, a small one roomed building was built in the late 1870s. In 1893 a four roomed school was erected with two rooms being used by the girls and the other two by the boys.
In 1940, the two schools amalgamated and boys and girls were taught together in the four rooms. Due to declining numbers of pupils the school closed in 1971 and the children began to travel to the new pre-fab school in Bohola.
One famous past pupil of Carragowan School was Martin Sheridan, the Olympic athlete while others included Bill Keary, a President of the Empire State Building and Andrew Sheridan, brother of Martin, a prominent lawyer and Controller of the Appelate Division of the US Supreme Court.
Lismirrane is another townland which has had a number of schools down through the years.
The first school, a thatched one was burned down in the 1870s by some tenants in the townland of Treenabontry. It appears that the principal of the school was an agent for the landlord in Treenabontry, and some of the tenants had been threatened with eviction.
After the burning of the school, it seems the landlord became fearful for his own safety, and the threatened eviction never took place.
The second school was built by Canon Judge, who was Parish Priest in Bohola at the time.
The third school was built by Canon O'Grady, PP, in the late 1890s. The four roomed school was believed at the time to be haunted, and over forty years later, lights were still seen moving from room to room in the building during the night.
Apparently when the school was being built, a haunted house near the High Fort in Killedan was pulled down, and the stones were used in the construction of the school. H
ence the fairies were believed to have a claim on Lismirrane School.
Lismirrane was the official name of the school, but a stone tablet at the front of the building had the name "Lismerraun" on it. In 1937, Dudley Solan, then the principal wrote: "The name probably comes from lios and meadhran, or the lios (fort) in which people were put astray."
The pre-fab school behind the church in the village was opened in 1971, and children from Shraheens, Tooromeen, and Carragowan Schools made the journey every morning for sixteen years until 1987 when the school closed.
October 22nd, 1987 was a very special day for both the parents and children of Bohola as they witnessed the opening of a brand new school. What had once been a dream had now become a reality.
The fight for this school had been going on for twenty tears. The pre-fab school had served the children well for sixteen years, but it was only ever intended as a temporary measure, and the wooden structure was not designed to survive the Irish weather indefinitely.
The Parish Priest of Bohola at the time, an t-Athair Padraig O Fionnain, decided to build a new school on the bishop's property in Treenduff. The Board of Management of the school began fundraising, and over twenty thousand pounds was collected. Work on the new school commenced in November, 1985, and the school was opened for classes in 1987.
The commitment to education in Bohola is as strong today as it was in the days of the hedge schools, when people refused to give in to British domination, and educated their children in spite of threats.
Fortunately the children of today don't have such barriers in their way, and they are free to learn without having to look over their shoulders.
Extract from Bohola: Its history and its people. Reproduced by kind permission of its publishers, Sheridan Memorial Community Centre Committee. Bohola: Its history and its people was published in 1992 under the auspices of Bohola Community Centre Committee which was established in 1988.