Redwood National School Celebrates 75 Years

First published in The Lamp, 2014 Edition, pp 14-19 (Lorrha & Dorrha Historical Society)


Redwood National School celebrated 75 years with a re-union of past pupils in the school on Saturday, June 7, 2014. It was an occasion to renew acquaintance with former classmates, to learn how life had been for them since they left and to consult the Roll Books in which their registrations featured.

This get-together was followed by Mass next door in the Church at 7 pm. A crowded church heard parish priest, Fr. Pat Mulcahy, speak about the significance of coming together and the need to forgive things that might have happened in the past. The choir of current pupils sang such popular hymns as Walk in the Light and Give Me Joy in My Heart with gusto. 

At the end of the ceremony past pupil, Seamus King (1942-1951) spoke about earlier schools in the parish and introduced some of the oldest past pupils who were present, Tom Lambe, who was registered in the first school at Redwood Castle on October 9, 1923. Also Kitty (Kennedy) Slevin, who started on June 5, 1925 and Maureen (Lambe) Moran, who started on September 14, 1925. As well, Kathleen (Guinan) Moran and Jimmy Sullivan who started in the school at Kilmurry on July 14, 1928 and January 30, 1929 respectively.

Another past pupil. Pat Hough (1943-1952), spoke of what he called the Golden Mile, the road that stretched from Redwood Church to Redwood Castle and the historical places and names and events associated with it.

One of the highlights of the occasion was the launch of a booklet containing a history of the schools in Redwood, a great collection of pictures of past pupils and teachers, the names of all the pupils who entered the school from Nan Kirke of Killycross, who started on May 25, 1923, to the last pupil to register, Chloe O'Sullivan of Carrig on April 28, 2014.

All the work in organisiing the events and compiling the booklet was done by school principal. Michelle Hogan, and assistant, Helena Darcy.


The First School in Redwood

The first school in Redwood was opened in Redwood House on September 8, 1879. The parish priest, Rev. James Meagher, reported the opening to the Education Office (the precursor of the Department of Education) and requested recognition. He added that he had appointed Miss Winifrid Carroll, former assistant in the female school in Lorrha, as teacher, that there was no school within four miles of the new foundation and that the attendance on the first day was over fifty. He looked for a 'free stock' (of books) and 'all the help in your power for the new school.'

In an earlier letter to the Education Office, dated June 18, 1879, Henry Trench, the local landlord, requested the setting up of a National School 'in a portion of my house in Redwood.' Henry Trench lived at Cangort Park, Roscrea and his connection with Redwood House commenced in 1836, when his namesake married Georgina Mary Amelia Bloomfield of Redwood. Sometime after 1864 Redwood House became a Trench home and it was valued at £18-15-00 in 1906. The Bloomfield family originated in Eyrecourt, Co. Galway and it appears they acquired the estate in Redwood during the eighteenth century. It is uncertain when the house was built but it would appear to have been constructed early in the nineteenth century.

The house was occupied by Major Bloomfield in 1837. In 1840 the Ordnance Survey Name Books mention that Redwood was 'a commodious house at present occupied by a party of the constabulary and also the residence of Mr. Ryan, under-agent to Major Bloomfield.' The house is marked as a police station on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey map. At the time of the Griffith Valuation (1847-1864), Philip Crawley held the property from Lord Bloomfield and the house was valued at £15.


Form A 121

Following the request for recognition, th Education Office despatched Mr. Dugan, District Inspector of National Schools, on October 8, 1879 to inspect the new school. The inspection involved the completion of Form A 121, a series of eighty-two questions to be answered.

The information contained in the form is of great interest. We are told that the school was situated in one of the 15 rooms of the two-storey Redwood House. It was a large room, 30'' x 18'' x 11'', and was 'fitted up as a schoolroom.' On the privy situation there was one for the girls but the boys' wasn't yet ready. There was a separate play area for the girls.

The school was to be kept in repair with the manager's and local funds. The schoolmistress occupied two rooms in the house, Mr. Trench's steward occupied three and the remaining nine were locked up.

There was no teacher's desk on the day of the inspection but it was being made by a carpenter.. The teacher was Winifrid Carroll. She was a Roman Catholic. and was aged 22 years. She was trained in 1874 and had been assistant in the female school in Lorrha.

The school was classed as being in the First Division of Third Class. Salary levels varied according to Class and Division. A male teacher in the First Division of Class 1 was paid £52 while the lowest Division in Class 3 was paid £18.

The document tells us, in answer to the question on what amount of Local Funds was paid to the teacher, that her free residence was worth the equivalent of £5 and that school fees amounted to £12.

In answer to another question it was stated that virtually all the children paid fees. Apparently the manager had the right to absolve some children from paying.

Religious Instruction was given for 3 to 31/2 hours per week in the summer and 21/2 to 3 hours in the winter. The school day commenced at 9.30 am and finished at 3.30 pm in the summer and 3 pm in the winter. Thirty-five children, 15 males and 20 females, were in attendance on the day of inspection but there were forty-two altogether on the rolls.

We are informed that only three of the children had been in another school before the opening of Redwood. There was big support for the school from among the neighbouring farmers.

In conclusion the inspector stated that the 'school is much required' with the nearest schools about four miles distant. However, he recommended a three-month trial period in order to ensure that 'the attendance keeps up'.

At the end of the report it is stated that Winifrid Carroll was granted a salary of £25 plus whatever would accrue to her from results. The salary would be paid on condition that an attendance of thirty pupils was maintained.


Early Pupils

The names of some of the first pupils in the school are as follows. The following boys were in infants: Larry Guinan, Redwood, Thomas Quinlan, Moatfield, John J. Loughmane, Killycross, Michael Lambe, Redwood, Willie Lambe, Redwood, John Sammon, Moatfield.

Tom Lambe recalls being told that Willie Lambe attended a hedge school in Hickey's field at the back of Tom Quinlan's old house, above Redwood Chapel before Redwood School was opened. Some information on that school is available in an accompanying piece on 'Old Schools' from the Folklore Collection. The master was BrianCarroll, who was related to the first two teachers in the school at Redwood Castle, Winifrid Carroll (1879-1889) and Ellen Carroll (1889-1923). According to the report English, Reading and Writing were taught. The school was held at night for the men and during the day for boys and girls.

The following girls are listed as attending the new school at Redwood: Bridget Crean, Fort Alice, Anne Loughmane, Killycross, Mary Sammon, Moatfield, Julia Sammon, Moatfield, Mary Elizabeth Donoghue, Moatfield, Bridget Carroll, Ballea..

The occupations of the parents are also given in the Roll Book and they include labourer, blacksmith, farmer, orphan, herd, gamekeeper, coachman, pensioned policeman.



The school in Redwood House continued in existence until 1926. The major source of information on its progress and development is the school inspection reports. These are to be found in the District Inspector's Observation Book in which he wrote a report after each visit.
The first such report follows a visit by a Mr. Dugan on October 10, 1881. In the report the teacher was informed that no books could be used in the school except those sanctioned by the Education Office. The inspector also advised that all pupils should be on the register, including infants. The information is also given that Miss Carroll had a monitor, Maria Somerville, in the school

There is another inspection a month later and the inspector reported that one girl had her examination cancelled because she was found copying her answers from a book under the desk!

A Mr. Purser replaces Mr. Dugan as inspector in 1882 and he visited the school on November 15, 1882. According to the report this visit was to examine for result fees. Sixty one were present and fifty-nine were examined.. No results are given but an observation at the end noted that some children were leaving the school as soon as the roll call was completed. The inspector stated that such pupils should be marked absent.


Poor Performances

The next report, dated July 6, 1883, which was probably the result of the examinations the previous November, is anything but favourable. Class 1 with 8 pupils was 'weak at tables'. Class 2 with 10 present, was weak at reading. Class 3 with 10 present was weak at grammar and geography. Class 4 with 8 present was middling at reading, poor at spelling and grammar, and defective at maths. Class 5 & 6 with 8 present were poor in 'deduction' and bad at grammar.

The inspector added the following note: 'The defects in arithmetic in these classes show that repetition is not enough attended to: only 1 in Class iv could multiply 8096 x 270 and all failed in dividing 175,488 by 297; in v & vi only one could reduce 10,001 square yards to square inches.'

He made further observations. He believed the pupils were prone to copy from one another and 'this would account for the low proficiency in arithmetic.' The girls worked without thimbles in needlework. On the positive side the house was in fair order, with just one window frame in poor repair.

From the information given above the total number of pupils at school on the day was 44.

There is better news following the inspection on November 19, 1883. Fifty-two pupils were examined and the inspector found that 'the answering of the juniors was very good with the exception of grammar.' The oral examination of the seniors was very creditable. However mental arithmetic needed attention. Discipline in the school was good.

A report in May 1884 stated that needlework was not good enough. 'More care should be given to this matter – the girls to be made bring suitable material for sewing unless strips of callico for practice are provided in school.'


New Teacher

It appears that Miss Winifrid Carroll married between inspections held in November 1885 and November 1886 as she appears as Mrs Winifrid Loughnane on November 19, 1886.

There was a change in inspector in 1887, with a Mr. S. Allman signing the inspection book in November of that year. In his report of a visit to the school in May 1889, the name of the principal is given as Miss Ellen Carroll. The inspector adds: 'Mrs Loughmane died on May 22, 1888. The school, since then up to 1 April 1889, had been in charge of an unrecognised teacher. Miss Ellen Carroll took charge on 1 April 1889.'

The report continues: 'Many children have been in the same class since November 1887 and it is only reasonable that they should be anxious for promotion. Miss Carroll should, however, be careful to ascertain the fitness of each pupil for promotion before making a change.'

The numbers attending appear to have dropped from a high of 59 in 1885 to under 40 in 1891. The reports given by S. Allman are much shorter than under the previous inspector and information is much less as a result. Numbers begin to climb again in the mid-nineties with 51 being examined in May 1897.

A new inspector, E. S. Cromie, was appointed in 1898 and his reports are much more detailed.. Following his May visit in 1899 he wrote: 'Throughout the school the pupils should be accustomed to speak much more clearly and distinctly than they do at present.' The teacher is advised to use the blackboard more when teaching arithmetic. Also: 'It would be well to use the inkwells. Time is lost in giving out ink bottles and these are liable to be overturned.'

There's a new inspector in 1901, Mr. D. Mangan, and for his annual inspection the following year there were 51 present. The report stated that the 'Reading is fluent, but it is not expressive or incisive.' Also: 'The children should be taught to express themselves freely and to speak distinctly and audibly.'

A Mr. A. J. McElwaine inspected the school in 1903 and found 44 out of 49 pupils present. Among his complaints was the state of spelling and grammar in the school.

The inspector's first report is interesting in that it tells us the subjects that were taught in the school in 1903: English Oral and Written, Arithmetic, Drawing, Object Lessons (sic), Needlework, Geography, Physical Drill.

In his report following a visit on July 6, 1904, Mr. McElwaine stated that the ventilation in the school was insufficient: 'One small window is not enough to ventilate the room.' We learn that there are 31 pupils on the Roll..

A Mr. J. D. Bradshaw did the inspection in September 1906 but Mr. McElwaine was back again in 1907. Further inspections inthat year and 1908 report the same old problems. Reading is generally indistinct. Writing leaves a lot to be desired and more thoroughness in teaching was required.


Detailed Report

There is a very detailed report of an inspection carried out by Mr. J. P. Dalton on May 26, 1911 The report begins: 'I consider the school accommodation here most unsatisfactory. The ventilation of the room is particularly defective: there are no means of sending a current of pure air through the schoolroom and the atmosphere is, therefore, quite oppressive.'

The report continues: 'Much more attention should be paid to order, arrangement, tidiness, etc. Copy books and papers are left lying about in loose heaps, official documents are scattered through the records, and no attempt seems to be made to keep things in their right places. Some school portfolios should be got and used for filing papers.'

'The organisation would admit of much improvement. The whole tone of the school needs bracing up. The pupils seem to be allowed to answer their lessons along in an aimless, unthinking way; the desks are not supervised and much of the work shows great carelessness. The teaching methods show some radical faults.'

A new inspector, J.A. McMahon, was appointed in 1912 and a report of his following a general inspection in March 1915, is much more positive, The report stated: 'The teacher here works honestly though with moderate success. The progress of the pupils is fair generally. There is need of increased attention to the development of intelligence at arithmetic and oral answering. Desk discipline might be easily improved. . . . A globe is needed.'

The most interesting part of the report is the statement that the school was very unsuitable and that it was hoped that the new one would be built with as little delay as possible.. It was to be twelve years before the school was replaced as World War 1, the Rising in 1916, the War of Independence and the Civil War, followed by the setting up of the Irish Free State, put paid to any plans in place in 1915.
Inspections were held in 1916, 1917, 1918 and 1919. There is no report for 1920. 

In the 1921 report it is stated that 'Efficiency of instruction is defective in various respects.' This is signed by J. O'Riordan, who gives his address as 46 Grosvenor Square, Dublin.. There is a second inspection in December the same year. J. C. Kyle is the inspector and his report includes the following: 'The accommodation is not ideal but at the same time the room might present a more tasteful appearance: mantelpiece and top of press should be clean and tidy and floor should be cleaner.'


The Free State

The takeover of the Education Office by the Free State Government is reflected in the inspector's report of November 16, 1922. The inspector, who now signs himself in Irish, S. C. Ó Cadhla, writes his report in Irish.

In the course of this report he informs the teacher of the new policy of the Department of Education that the school must provide 1 hour's instruction in Irish per day in every class. In the following years there is a big emphasis on the teaching of Irish, both oral and written. In his report on the 1926 visit the inspector is critical of the progress of Irish in the school. He states that the speaking of the language is awful and the handwriting is equally bad. According to him too many children are showing no signs of improvement.


The Second School 1926

In the same year the children moved from Redwood Castle to the new school at Kilmurry. There were occasional reports from the inspectors over the years about the condition of the school in Redwood House. 

There is a report on 25th September, 1900 that the house is only in middling repair. There's a further report on September 10, 1901 that 'the windows are bad, the floor boards are loose and the roof leaks.' On August 15th, 1904 it is reported that improvements have been carried out. There were other reports that the ventilation was very bad. The report in 1915 seemed to suggest that a new school was imminent. The commencement of World War 1 and the he political developments following the Rising of 1916 probably delayed any building plans and the replacement school wasn't opened until 1926.

In fact there is confirmation of this in the official report of the Department of Education covering the years 1925, 1926 and 1927. It included the statement that at least 350 new schools would be needed to make up for arrears of building that accumulated during the period from 1914 to 1924. As well more schools were required to replace unsanitary and unsuitable premises.

This report also states that during the year 1925-26 grants of £27,652 were sanctioned in respect of the erection of 13 new schoolhouses. The names of the schools aren't given but the new school in Kilmurry could well have been one of them. There is the additional information that grants for new schools were normally sanctioned on the basis of two-thirds of the cost, but in poor and congested districts a larger grant could be given or, in extreme cases, the whole cost of the building could be defrayed by the Department.

The site for the new school at Kilmurry appeared to be ideal. It was a piece of land owned by the parish and so would cost nothing. It was adjacent to the old school so there wouldn't be any great difficulty for the schoolchildren getting there. There was about an acre of land attached to the site which would provide a playground.


Little Information

However, the new school was built on the site of an ancient graveyard and Tom Lambe recalls seeing bones being thrown up when the foundations were being dug. In fact there is little information on the actual building. One theory is that the site was chosen because the landlord, Major Trench, refused to give land for the building. There may be some truth in this. The local papers carried reports in 1922 of agitation in favour of dividing up the Trench Estate. Cattle were driven on to the estate lands and the new Irish Army was called out on two occasions. It may have been the case of the owner taking offence and refusing as a result of the agitation.

From information from pupils like Tom Lambe and Paddy Guinan, the building appears to have been poorly finished. From markings scratched with a nail on one of the rafters, we learn that William Sharkey, Slater, Birrdid the roof.

Paddy Guinan remembers that the school was just one room with a teacher at each end. There was no divider in it, and the two sets of classes sat with their backs to one another. There was a fireplace at Miss McCormack's end, which was totally inadequate to heat the place. The room was so cold in the winter that the children were sent out side to warm up, run around, jump around, wave their arms to get the blood circulating. On the other hand in the summer time, if the weather was good, the junior classes went out to the yard for their lessons. There were fewer distractions outside than inside where all the classes were in the same space.

Paddy remembers the playground, which had a hill in it, a pond in the corner and big trees around. The children played there but there were no organised games, and no hurling. There was plenty of punishment dished out by the teachers. In fact the children had to bring their own hazel rods for the punishment.  Each family brought a load of turf for the fire. There was one privy with one seat in it and it was used by the boys and the girls.

Paddy Guinan started school in Kilmurry in 1934 and continued there until 1939 when he moved to the new school beside Redwood Chapel. In the same class were Joe King, Carrigeen, Tessie O'Sullivan, Redwood Castle, Davy O'Sullivan, Lordspark, Molly Kirwan, Lordspark. His teacher was Miss Nora Moran, a sister of Bill Moran, and she lived with her brother in Bonachum.  She got married about 1936 and became Mrs. Kelleher. The principal teacher was Miss McCormack. During his time in school he remembers two substitute teachers, Miss Heagney and Miss Dalton.

He remembers only one inspector during his years there. Fr. Cleary, who was the C.C., used to visit regularly.  He recalls getting his First Communion in Redwood Chapel and each of the recipients got a bottle of lemonade after it. He was confirmed in Lorrha in 1942 by Canon Fogarty, who did the catechism examination in the sacristy the day before



Miss Ellen Carroll was succeeded in Redwood House by Miss Mary Guinane (later Mrs. Grogan) in 1923. Mrs. Grogan died in January 1930 following the birth of a child and she was succeeded by Miss Mary Clune. Miss Clune was appointed initially as a substitute for Mrs. Grogan and later as principal on February 10. However, she resigned during the summer holidays, having married in Scotland and Miss Margaret McCormack was appointed principal on October 1, 1930. She transferred to the third school in 1939 and remained as principal until she retired in 1952.. Miss Mary Kelly had been appointed as a junior assistant mistress in Redwood House in 1923, moved to the new school in Kilmurry in 1926 and was succeeded by Nora Moran in 1931. She became Mrs. Kelleher in 1936 and was succeeded by Mrs Annie King in 1941.


The Third School beside Redwood Chapel

It is difficult to understand why a third school was built in Redwood in 1939. The existing school was only thirteen years old. It is also difficult to get information on why the change took place. According to Sally Gardiner (83) the school at Kilmurry had gone to 'wrack and ruin'. Does this suggest it was very badly built? She also recalls that it was infested with bats! According to her they nested behind the big maps that covered the walls. She recalls that girls were assigned every evening to tidy up the school and occasionally some boys came in, disturned the bats and caused them to fly around. On such occasions the girls fled to the cloakroom! She also recalls the tins of sweets the teachers kept to give the children a treat on the days of holidays. They usually got two or three sweets each

Her sister, Mary (87) recalls the move up the road to the new school beside the Chapel. Asses and carts were used to carry the furniture and the whole operation was organised by Miss McCormack and Mrs. Kelleher. Sally remembers the children had to carry the books up the road under their arms and how they loved it to sitting in the classroom. She believes that the last of the stuff was transported in the boot of Miss McCormack's blue car, one of the few vehicles in the area at the time..

The new school was officially opened with a Mass said by Canon Moloney. It was said in Miss McCormack's room and many of the mothers attended. The children stook around the room during the Mass.

Sally recalls one little incident in the new school. After moving up to the school she used to clear the wall beside the girls' shed at lunchtime to run down the road to her house for a cup of tea and bread or soup. Afterwards she would rush back to be in time for the end of break. Somebody spilled the beans on her and she was informed, in a nice way, she remembers, by her teacher that she couldn't leave the school during school hours but that if her mother wanted to bring her something during the day, she was free to do so. Another thing she recalls was learning long division sums from Mrs. King. She couldn't get the knack of them before and is very thankful to Mrs. King for the explanation, which helped her.


Building the School

The school was built by Billy Martin, Builder, Portumna. According to Mary Gardiner George Connell and Jack Mulcahy, two carpenters, she thinks, worked on the building. It cost £1,400 and the parish had to contribute one-sixth of the cost. This was known as the local contribution. Obviously th sum of approximately £235 was not easily raised in the late thirties.

At the time,the Parish Priest, Canon Moloney was trustee of a fund, the residue of the money collected in 1916 as a testimonial to Martin O'Meara on the occasion of him receiving a Victoria Cross for his bravery on the field of battle in France in the same year, and bequeathed by O'Meara for the restoration of Lorrha Abbey. Canon Moloney applied to the High Court to have the bequest changed and a decision was made by the court on January 16, 1939 to set this clause aside 'as it is not valid either as a charitable trust or as a non-charitable trust.'

In an affidavit to the court, the Canon stated that because of the state of the Abbey, its restoration 'would now be impossible and it would be merely a waste of money to spend the bequest herein on any sort of restoration.' Also, the Abbey was 'in the custody of the Office of Public Works for preservation.'

The affidavit concluded: 'I respectfully pray this Honourable Court to declare the said bequest a charitable one and impossible to implement and that the moneys be applied cy-pres (as near as possible): £60 being applied to the purchase of two Confessionals, be way of memorial to the Testator, and the balance to the erection of the school at Redwood.'

Earlier in the affidavit the Canon stated: 'I am at present erecting a new school at Redwood in the Parish of Lorrha. The estimate for said purpose prepared by the Board of Works is £1,400. Of this sum I have to provide one-sixth viz: £233-6-8. This sum will have to be raised by public subscription of the parishioners.'

And so, the Martin O'Meara bequest provided the local funds for the building of Redwood School, probably much to the relief of Canon Moloney, who was saved from having to collect £233-6-8 from his parishioners at a difficult economic time for all Irish people.


Teachers: 1879-2014

Miss Winifrid Carroll 1879-1888
Miss Ellen Carroll 1889-1923
Miss Mary Guinane (later Mrs. Grogan) 1923-1930
Miss Mary Clune Jan-Aug 1930
Miss Mary Kelly 1923-31
Miss Margaret McCormack 1930-1952
[Miss Nora Moran 1931-
Mrs. Nora Kelleher1941]
Mrs. Annie King 1941-1974
Mr. Jim Keane 1952-1977
Mrs. Joe Needham 1974-2000
Ms O'Reilly 1977-1979
Ms Kay Heveran 1979-1985
Mrs. Maura Kennedy 1999-2012
Mrs. Mary Coen 2000-2010
Ms Helena Darcy 2010-
Ms Michelle Hogan 2012-