William Street in February 2024

A New Business

In Mill Lane where Nan o Seconds used to be

St Bridget’s Cross

This is another variation on the traditional cross made by Nellie Fortune

Education in the Workhouse

Kay Caball shared some research she did on education, or lack of it, in Listowel workhouse.



‘It is impossible for one person to pay proper attention to 466 children (all boys) in one class’

On the evidence available from the Listowel Board of Guardian Minute books 1848 – 1852, very little schooling took place; education was not a priority in the workhouse structure.  While the Guardians endeavoured to provide education, the chaotic conditions of admissions, discharges, and daily deaths took precedence.

Primary education came to Ireland in 1831. In the case of north Kerry most of the new national schools were not built or did not open until 1843.  Listowel Workhouse got its first admissions in 1845.  The Commissioners of National Education in Ireland [CNEI] took over responsibility for running the workhouse schools in the town in 1846-1847. The CNEI’s main contribution to the workhouse schools was to supply books and other school requisites.  The schoolmaster and the schoolmistress were among the designated staff to be appointed by and paid by the Board of Guardians.  There were to be separate male and female schools. On their inspection visits the Inspectors were to note the progress the children were making in reading, writing and arithmetic.  The Inspectors were also to check whether the girls were taught knitting or sewing and whether ‘cleanliness seems to be required and order observed’.  The Inspectors were not concerned with reporting on the effects of the Great Famine. In Listowel workhouse alone, 1869 children under the age of 15 had died between November 1848 and June 1852. 

While the Irish language was in decline by 1845, Irish as the everyday language of the poor and rural, was still spoken in north Kerry.   Most of the children in the workhouse would have been illiterate; a few may have previously attended hedge schools. The books supplied to the National Schools by the Commissioners were in English only.  James Kavanagh, the Inspector assigned to National Schools in Munster, in his Report in 1850 stated ‘in most of the rural schools in the South and West of Ireland, the teachers are obliged to translate the English names into Irish, in order to convey any instruction to the children. They think in Irish and pray in Irish’. While Kavanagh was referring to the local National schools, this language situation would have been even more problematic in the workhouses.

The weekly Minute Book returns on the State of the Workhouse, lists precisely what was regarded as ‘schoolchildren’.  Initially this meant ‘Boys and Girls above 9 and under 15 years of age’. By 1852 it was Boys and Girls between 9 and 18 years of age. There were new children admitted each week also children discharged or died. 


Chris Nolan R.I.P.

Remember our friend, Tony Cairns from New Zealand who was looking for a collector of Bob Boland’s verses? Mystery solved. The lady in question was the late Chris Nolan of Lisselton.

Here is a sample of Bob’s poetry. In this poem he is pleading with the Dept. to give him a voucher for fuel so that he could carry out his work as an agricultural contractor and work for the local farmers in the vital task f saving the harvest. fuel was rationed during World War 2.

A St. Brigid Fact

I know this one is true because I heard it on Radio Kerry from Tom Dillon, historian and folklorist.

On January 31st. St. Brigid and her cow travel the length and breadth of Ireland blessing man and beast, field and town as she goes.