When Ballyheerin N.S. opened in 1913, it replaced the existing school, Ballyhurke N.S. (Coshia). This school was opened in January 1866, on the estate of Burton Irwin, with Neil Mc Bride appointed teacher. Although the school transferred (beside John and Mary O’Doherty’s house) in 1879, it retained its original name. the walls of the original school can still be seen near Cashelmore.
James Mc Gonigle was appointed teacher in 1879, followed by Margaret Blaney in December 1888. Hugh O’Doherty from Glenvar (John O’Doherty’s grandfather) was appointed Principal in July 1903. The school was located upstairs and the teacher and his family lived downstairs.
Across the road in the same townland, Ballyheerin (2) school was in operation until grants were withdrawn in March 1916. Miss Rebecca peoples, Doocarrick, was the last teacher in the school. This building was originallythe home of the Wilson sisters, who had a Soup Kitchen during the Famine, handing out rations of meat and bowls of soup to the hungry and needy in the area.With the closure of Ballyheerin (2) school in 1916, the building operated as a kindergarten school called the Coast and Island School. Teachers here included Annie and Margaret Mc Kemey, Milltown and Beth Morrow for four years until its closure in 1944.
With the opening of Ballyheerin NS in 1913, Hugh O’ Doherty, son of the above Hugh, was appointed its first Principal.
Other members of the Teaching staff in Ballyheerin NS include:
• Mrs. Elizabeth McLaughlin
• Master Reilly from Co. Longford – lodged in McLaughlin’s upper house
• Master Crawley from Co. Cork – also lodged in McLaughlin’s
• Master Cunningham from South Donegal
• Miss. Bridget McLaughlin was employed as Works Mistress – teaching sewing, knitting and embroidery
• Master Gallagher
• Master Hugh Friel
• Mrs. Roisin O’Doherty
• Master Eddie McGee
• Mrs. Peggy McElwaine, 1960 – 1964
• Mrs. Mary McClafferty, 1962 – 1965 – lodged in Gallaghers, Tully
• Mrs. Maire Friel, 1965 – 1993
• Mrs. Maria McElwaine
• Mrs. Bridie Doherty
• Miss. Niamh Connolly
• Master Noel Rodden
• Miss. Mairead McLaughlin
• Mrs. Ann Marie Duffy
• Miss. Sheila Galway
• Mrs. Brighidin Hawke
• Miss. Grainne Doherty
• Miss. Aoife McElwaine
The school was an important meeting place in the community, with bazaars and dances being held in the winter months. During Lent, Master Eddie McGee had ‘pictures’ in the school. All that was required was a white sheet on the wall to act as a screen, while Phonsie McElwee, Milford, provided the Projector.
Before the Church of the Immaculate Conception opened in August 1955, the parishioners Between the Waters had to make the journey ‘Over the Boat’ to attend Mass and other religious services in St. Columba’s Church, Massmount. It was a great relief therefore when Bishop McNeely granted permission for Mass to be celebrated in the school in Ballyheerin from December 1950. Fr. McDaid was driven round to the school by Hugh O’Donnell, Ballykinard.
John Griffin, Seamount, was the contractor for the building of Ballyheerin NS. The cost was £560-16-6, and materials for this project would have been shipped from Scotland to Leatbeg Pier on the Ganiamore. John also built schools in Leatbeg, Doaghbeg, Drumhalla and on Arranmore Island. His grandson, John, wife Evelyn and family Michael, Lorraine, John Thomas and Emma, live in the family home in Seamount, where John, who has inherited the talent and skills of his grandfather, is a willing contributor to his community when expertise is required.
The Good Old Days written by Mary O’Donnell
In the year 1913 Ballyheerin National School was opened. It was built on land donated by my late father, Michael O’ Doherty. Prior to that the schoolchildren attended upstairs in the house of my father’s parents, and were taught by my Grandad while the family lived downstairs.
Hugh O’ Doherty, my uncle, was the first teacher in Ballyheerin NS. He died quite young. Other teachers included Mrs. Elizabeth Mc Laughlin, Róisín O’ Doherty (Ned), Master Hugh Friel, Mary Mc Clafferty, now Mrs. Mc Gettigan, Peggy Mc Elwaine, Maria Mc Elwaine, Máire Friel, Bridie O’ Doherty, Sheila Galway and Master Eddie Mc Gee. Róisín O’Doherty taught the junior pupils and also taught sewing and knitting to the girls.
We had Medical Examinations once a year, eyes tested, throats – open your mouth and say 99! We also had Religious Examinations which we dreaded. Fr. Boyle left no stone unturned. I remember Master Friel having charts on the wall relating to the Commandments.
We had open fires for heat. ‘’Sally’’ rods acted as canes and they were to be had in Dad’s garden. The boys who cut them put a ‘’wee nick’’ with the pen-knife, and when the hands had to be held out the cane would break. Some would even disappear up the chimney – then it was off to the garden again! I was sent out to Kate’s (the shop) every day for the daily newspaper for Master Friel.
For a few years, Mass was said in the school until the new Church of the Immaculate Conception was completed in August 1955. Bazaars were held in the school in the winter, sand bags, wheel of fortune, ping pong etc., articles for the sale and 7 raffles. After the bazaar there would be a dance and some of the dancers were expert at Shoe the Donkey, and the old wooden floor got some tramping! There were also concerts staged with a stage erected at the fireplace in the Master’s side and the partition pulled over. The school would be packed. Everyone enjoyed the concerts immensely. Master Friel made a poster advertising the concert – this one comes to mind –
On Easter Sunday full of eggs
See and get upon your legs
Come and see us in the school
Otherwise you’d be a fool.
We open up at eight o’ clock
And through the doors all to us flock.
The schoolyard was divided in two by a high wall. The half nearest the Chapel was the boys side, and the other half was the girls. The boys played football and the girls played rounders in a much bigger space then than now. Sometimes the boys would not give the girls back their ball and vice versa.
Water from the well was fetched daily for drinking, no water on tap. Toilets were at the top of the yard. Trees were growing inside the wall on the ‘’Old Lane’’ side. I well remember jumping from the wall and aiming for a branch in order to swing from it.
Sadly, the population of Between the Waters is dwindling and there are now just nineteen pupils. I remember up to 90 – 100 pupils when I was there. Some had to walk from Glinsk, Umricam etc. (four miles to school and four home), some in the bare feet, and with no cars to take them to school and home again. They had to walk should it be raining, snowing or stormy.
Today we have a beautiful bright and remodelled school. Many years ago it was just a two roomed structure with a folding partition, and entrance to both senior and junior side via a porch. To graduate from the Primary school we had to do the sixth class exam, which is now done away with. Anyone going to Secondary school was given grinds in algebra and maths by Master Friel.
Memories of Ballyheerin NS written by Gertrude McGee
Ballyheerin school – as you sat on your spacious, grassy playground, surrounded by leafy trees – that is how I will remember you. Your tall, square paned windows, gave ample light to our classrooms. In summer, we filled your two large coal-burning grates with fresh fern and in winter these same grates provided us with a glowing fire.
To help supplement the heating grant, a céilí was a frequent event during the winter months. On Friday evening, the desks were lined up neatly against the walls, and the partition was folded back. A chair was placed on one of the tables as a suitable seat for the musician, and of course all books and copies were tidied away. The senior pupils were given a free pass for their services, so everything was now in readiness.
As darkness fell, the oil lamps were alight and the young men and women began to arrive. Every man wore a suit with a crisp, freshly-ironed shirt – there were no sloppy t-shirts or baggy jeans in those days. The girls’ pretty dresses of course added lustre to the scene. The boards soon echoed to the Waves of Tory, the Siege of Ennis and one or two old-time waltzes, thrown in for good measure. We, the pupils rendered a little chorus while the dancers rested, or a local singer sometimes entertained. If those old walls could speak, they would surely tell of romance that began at a céilí in Ballyheerin NS and ended in happy marriage.
However, the time arrived to pack my case for boarding school, so it was some years before I sat in one of the old familiar desks again. In later years, as a member of the committee to raise funds for the erection of our church, I found myself back in Ballyheerin NS at our weekly meetings. This was just a few years before our school was modernised.
I hope that you enjoyed my little reminiscences, and that all pupils will leave Ballyheerin NS with many golden memories.
Early Days at Ballyheerin NS written by Eunan Kerr
I was taught by Mrs. Elizabeth Mc Laughlin, and I was often sent to Lowertown to get the teacher’s lunch. I had a tin flask with a handle, and Katie and Maggie Mc Laughlin would have the tea ready in the Upper House. I always got something for taking up the tea. Other jobs at school included gathering sticks for lighting the fire, and going to John Den’s well for water.
We played football in Mc Gee’s field behind the school, and a few other fields. We would happily kick a ball till it got dark.
When my elder sisters were going away, I would accompany them to the Moross Ferry and leave them at the bus in Ballina. Cattle too were brought across the Mulroy on the way to the Fair in Kerrykeel. They had a mark on them and were left in a field overnight. The following morning they were walked to the Fair in Kerrykeel – and if, unfortunately, they were not sold, they had to be walked home again!
They sing of Fanad’s bonny hills
It’s fields and valleys green,
It’s lovely vales and misty dales
It’s lakes and winding streams.
There’s one spot there none can compare
By the lovely Mulroy shore,
It stands so blessed in Fanad west
The hill called Cashelmore.
From that hill so steep,600 feet
Above Mulroys sparkling tide,
The angler finds with hook and line
The fish that gently glide.
On its craggy crest the wild birds nest,
The lark above doth soar.
Search Ireland round, none can be found
To equal Cashelmore.
Then westwood gaze through the morning haze
At lovely Tory Isle,
Where the last long look was often took
By many a poor exile,
When forced to roam across the foam
To far Columbia shore,
They gazed with pride on the green hillside
Of lovely Cashelmore.
Then rising high against the sky
Lough Salt and dark Glenveagh,
Doe Castle grand by Sheephaven strand
Where Mc Sweeney once held sway.
Tall Muckish blue and Errigal too,
The Forelands and Gweedore.
Search Ireland round none can be found
To equal Cashelmore.
On the eastern side over Mulroy tide
Knockalla hill you’ll see,
The lovely peaks of Inishowen,
The fort at old Dunree.
Portsalon grand by Stocker strand,
Along Lough Swilly shore.
Those sights so gay on a summers day
You will see from Cashelmore.
Now to conclude and finish
I now lay down my pen.
But one request I humbly ask
Of many a faithful friend,
If ‘ere your wandering footsteps trot
The lovely Mulroy shore,
Then make your way on a summers day
To the top of Cashelmore.
No sight’s so grand throughout the land
Like lovely Cashelmore.