A path through the trees in winter 2024

My day in Pres

After Covid, one of the initiatives to get our young people back out and about, mingling and learning was the creation of Schools Creative Cluster.

My latest involvement with the hub happened on Thursday February 1 2024.

These lovely 6th class girls and their teacher, Miss Galvin greeted me at the front door, treated me to a snack as we waited for my interviewers.

These two lovely young men interviewed me.

All the information they gleaned from me and all the other participants will be distilled, collated and curated and it will form part of their arts presentation in April.

Education in the workhouse

Research by Kay Caball

December 1847 – Captain Sparks, temporary Inspector to the Listowel Union stated ‘it is proposed to place therein [Leonard’s Mill] about 400 children under the schoolmaster and mistress and thus make room in the poor-house to that extent, for the able-bodied’.

January 1848, Denis Phelan, M.D., Medical Inspector made a brief report to the Commissioners regarding Listowel Workhouse school. ‘The discipline of the house is very imperfect; the Master is very young and has not been long in office’. 

11 September 1848 It was noted, regarding the Earl Grey girls who were sent from Listowel workhouse to the Australian colonies, ‘The master begs to report that the education of the female children appears to be very much neglected at the workhouse school … when the Emigration Officer examined the girls , many of whom had been two years at the school, very few could even read very imperfectly, and only one or two make any attempt at writing.  The school mistress resigned as a consequence’.  

19 May 1849, ‘the Medical Officer ordered that Mr. McCann, the schoolmaster, whose head was a perfect living mass of vermin, and which evidently showed a want of attention on McCann’s part, should in future pay the strictest attention to the cleanliness of the children’.  John McCann is listed as schoolmaster with a salary of £30.   Mary Nolan, the schoolmistress has a salary of £15 and Ellen Kelly a schoolmistress in Stokes’s auxiliary house, also £15.

15 Sept 1849 a total of 429 boys & 526 girls were registered in the workhouse that week. This number included the boys and girls in the auxiliary workhouses – O’Connor’s, Stokes’s, Bedford.

26 Sept 1849   Following letters from the Poor Law Commissioners,  the Schoolmistress should be called on to resign.

14 March 1850  Visiting Committee found that men unconnected with the Workhouse were found in the Schoolmistress’s Room, the Board having duly considered all the circumstances, reprimanded the Schoolmistress and Porter and cautioned them under pain of dismissal from their offices to avoid such irregularities in future.

22 March 1851 (Week ending)  66 people died, including  5 boys and 12 girls under 15 yrs.

4 Sept 1851 Patrick Stack was appointed Assistant Schoolmaster at a salary of £15 per annum and rations. Later that month, Dr. Enright the Medical Officer, was reporting an outbreak of ‘Opthalmia’ in Bedford [auxiliary workhouse]  and it was ordered that the Schoolmaster ‘do not keep the boys more than two hours at a time at school in consequence of the tendency to Opthalmia’.  ‘The acute cases – 83 in number are still at Bedford Infirmary because the sheds could not accommodate the number’.

Reading these truly awful accounts from the Famine years in Listowel, it is clear that education was low down in the list of priorities in the workhouses.

From Pres. Yearbook 1986

The teaching staff

Sive in The Gaiety

The latest iteration of John B. Keane’s classic, Sive, is currently running in The Gaiety. By all accounts it is a powerful show. If you can at all do go to see it. Sive is one of my favourite plays.

“Hurt people hurt” sums up this tragedy. Every character in Sive is hurt and hurting. The most innocent person in the drama is the one who suffers most.

What a proud night for the playwright’s family, pictured at the premier.

Photos; Listowel.ie

A Fact

The blue ringed octopus is one of the world’s most venomous marine animals. It can kill with one bite.