Schools

The parish had a network of Catholic elementary schools during the Penal period.  The names of two mid 18th century schoolmasters are recorded in the Visitation Book of Dr James Butler I.  In 1754 Edmond Dwyer was schoolmaster in Loughmore while Loughlin McEvoy was teaching in Castleiney in 1752.

 

Towards the end of the 18th century William Meagher conducted a classical school at the Washpin (Kilcurkee).  It had between 80 and 90 pupils, one third of whom came from Connaught and Ulster.  These lodged in local houses.  The school had a deservedly high reputation for its classical education.

 

In 1824, on the eve of the advent of the national school system, the parish of Loughmore and Castleiney had six pay-schools with enrolments varying from twenty to sixty three pupils.  The buildings differed in quality and comfort from a “neat thatched cottage” to a “wretched cabin”.

 

The 1824 total of 239 pupils in schools in the parish is instructive.  At a time when baptisms averaged 160 per annum, it is clear that less than a quarter of all children were attending school.

 

It is no surprise that the 1841 census figures for literacy reveal that half of the males and two-thirds of the females in the parish were illiterate.  In this regard, the parish of Loughmore and Castleiney was no different to most other parishes.

 

When State funding for elementary education was first offered in 1830 the then parish priest, Fr James Mullally, signed up for it despite clerical reservations regarding the religious implications of the new system.  The death of Fr Mullally in 1832 delayed affiliation to the national system by existing pay-schools in the parish.  His successor, Fr David Dee, was implacably opposed to the national school system.  Thus the pay-schools continued in the parish for another generation.  Visitation reports for the years 1846, 1852 and 1854 record that none of the schools in the parish had yet affiliated to the National Board of Education.

 

The parish had a total of nine pay-schools in 1846, five in Loughmore and four in Castleiney.  Six years later, the effects of the Famine were apparent.  The number of schools had dropped to three, two in Loughmore and one in Castleiney.  By 1854 Loughmore had two schools with a total of 120 pupils while the two schools in Castleiney were vacant for want of teachers.

 

National Schools

The arrival of Fr John Cooney as parish priest (1855-61) heralded the acceptance of the national school system in the parish.  New national schools were provided in Loughmore (1857) and Castleiney (1858).

 

The national education system soon effected a dramatic improvement in literacy levels in the parish.  While enrolment was not universal and attendance was often sporadic yet within half a century of its arrival almost all the young to middle aged people had some schooling.

 

Nevertheless, illiteracy remained high among the elderly as the 1901 census forms reveal.  Fifty five of the three hundred and forty six heads of households could not write their names on the census forms.  Ten years later, in 1911, forty seven of the three hundred and twenty two householders had still to sign with a mark.

 

New school buildings were provided in Loughmore in 1933 and Castleiney in 1948.  These have been upgraded over the years.  Substantial extensions have been added in recent times to meet the changing demands of primary education today.  An extension doubling its size is currently (2006) under way in Loughmore school.  The estimated cost of the project is €600,000.00.

 

Loughmore and Castleiney have enrolments of 85 and 34, respectively, during the 2011 – 2012 school-year.

 

The old schoolhouses in Loughmore and Castleiney were both extended and converted into parish halls many years ago.  The two halls have also been upgraded over the years.