it’s not often that a student gets the opportunity to publicly honour his former teacher, but that was the case last Friday night in Ferbane when NUJ General Secretary Seamus Dooley launched a new book A History of Primary Education in West Offaly 1800 - 2010 which was written by his former teacher Brendan Ryan.
The new publication, which was printed by Jetprint in Tullamore, is the first definitive work on primary education in West Offaly. Published in conjunction with Offaly Historical and Archaeological Society Brendan’s book starts with the university of Clonmacnois, its scholars, its craftsmen and its effects on the people of the surrounding district.
The Bardic schools and the courts of poetry are dealt with and, of course, the legacy which they left in the form of the phenomenon of the hedge schools which are dealt with in some detail.
Brendan managed to locate two hedge schoolmaster’s books from the area dating back to 1811 and 1845 and the book includes photographs of pages from these rare copies.
Some of those schools in time became connected with the Board of National Education, while others continued into the late 1870s. Archival records of all 34 national schools in west Offaly are detailed fromtheir formation. ONly tenof those schools have survived and their progress is chronicled up to 2010.
The early formation of the teachers’ societies in the area is recorded and the minutes of the first meeting of the Banagher/Cloghan branch of the INTO in 1868 are included. The work consists of over 400 pages including 50 photographs, old and new.