Two Schools Two Communities -2

The troupe of Gillmor children on their way to Carrigeencor school were always turned out well; with shoes and boots, and clothes clean; numbers varying over the years, they met up their friends from the other school along the way; William, Herbie, Jack, Emma, Stewart, Hilda, Chrisie, with my Grandmother Annie, the eldest, setting an example, keeping order. Their parents felt themselves fortunate that a Church of Ireland school was so close.

OSI map showing Boihy Ho. and Kilcoosey and Carrigeencor schools.

At the school Múinteoir Annie Gillmor’s contribution to The Schools Collection (1937-38) is significant. As the collector of her school’s entries she notes herself as the source of thirty five of the seventy five listings. She records details of many bird species, which she had clearly studied, over 140 riddles and much more, and displays a good local knowledge, despite being a relatively recent arrival. Her prose is simple and clear, and her contribution is available at this link – Annie Gillmor.

Carrigeencor and Kilcoosey NS operated under 1831 legislation establishing a non-denominational school system that ensured separate religious education. This was to replace the hotchpotch of hedge schools (then legal), church schools and a few official Royal National Schools. However, its primary purpose was the assimilation of the Irish population and as such the curriculum and teaching materials excluded Irish references, a common strategy throughout the colonies of the British Empire. For a variety of reasons, by the late 1800’s and despite the legislation, national schools had become denominational; being managed almost entirely by either the Catholic Church or Church of Ireland.  While the system was tuned to their mission, it facilitated separation and division, and arguably, in 1921 presented the new Northern Ireland state with a template for its own educational system.

Annie Gillmor (centre) with Mrs and Rev Coursey

Both Kilcoosey and Carrigeencor NS collected material for the folklore project, The Schools Collection. The stories and lore recorded by the two neighbouring schools are, as you would expect similar; cures, marriage customs, unusual events and happenings, games played, and folk lore, songs and poems. But there are differences with each school tending to reference their communities and its experience. Carigeencor NS provides one short piece on cholera during the famine, while the Kilcoosey collection has eight stories describing local famine memories. Here is one from James McMorrow, in 1937 then aged 88.

“In the townland of Carrigeen-cor on Dromahair, Roberts Blayers farm there is an old famine house. In the place where the house stood there still remains as big heap of stones and bushes. The name of the people who lived in the house where Bradleys. Two of the girls who lived in the house died from the Cholera and the others were afraid to stay in the house and the went out begging.”

Since my Grandmother was born in 1889 the population of Leitrim has dropped by over 70%, through emigration and resulting low birth rate; for her and those Protestants who remained their schooling helped fostered their sense of difference and advantage; culturally Irish as they were, they remained apart.

Of the nine Gillmor children of this generation who survived at Boihy, William (1892 – 1929) and Bertie (Herbert 1893 – 1960) emigrated to Canada, Jack (John 1895 – 1967) and Alexander (1898 – 1971) to England, Steward (1901-1987) and Chrissie (1906 – 1991) settled in Northern Ireland, while Hilda (1905 – 1971) and Emma (1886 – 1940) married and settled in Co Sligo and Annie, my Grandmother married Richard Davis and lived at Boggaun, Larkfield, Co Leitrim.


1.  Jane Gertrude Gillmor (August 1984 – Jan 1900) was the fourth child born into this family; she died aged 5 ½ years old. Their parents were William Hunter (1861 – 1926) and Margaret Gillmor (1862 -1933).

2.  My grandmother hung a coronation picture of Queen Elizabeth II in her kitchen in 1953. This has been updated in the previous blog. Thanks to Padraig Fitzpatrick for the correction.

3.  Essays in the History of Irish Education, edited by Brendan Walsh, Palgrave Macmillan Limited, 2016. See Chapter 2, The National System of Education, 1831–2000, Tom Walsh.

4.  Mrs Annie Gillmor’s contribution to The Schools Collection, and a description of Bohey townland by Peggy Maxwell.

5. Carrigeencor NS contribution to The Schools Collection.

5.  Kilcoosey NS school contribution to The Schools Collection.

6.  See Gareth Byrne’s article on Carrigeencor and Kilcoosey national schools at Dromahair Heritage

7.  See Enda O’Flaherty’s entry on Carrigeencor NS, in Disused School Houses. Thanks to Enda for the use of his picture of Carrigeencor school.

Two Schools Two Communities -1

When my grandmother Annie Gillmor (1889-1978) and her siblings walked 10 minutes downhill to their Carrigeencor National  School in the early years of the 1900s they passed a new school at the crossroads that none of them would ever attend. They looked in over the wall, in at the big tall windows behind which sat friends and neighbours, the younger ones somewhat confused.

Annie Boyce at school near Killybegs in 1923

“Carrigeecor School was first built by the landlord George R. Lane Fox, Esq. D.L. in the year 1850 for the education of the children of his tenants.” Says teacher Annie (Nan) Gillmor, née Boyce (1898-1944), my Grandmother’s sister in law, in The Schools Collection. The school drew pupils from the surrounding area including the mountain townland of Boihy, where there was a surprising number of small Protestant farms at that time. Today the derelict one roomed Carrigeencor school bears the date of 1857; it closed as a school in 1955.

For a time, there was another smaller Protestant a school in nearby Cloonaquin on the roadside opposite Middleton’s farmhouse, or Tom and Ethel Siggin’s as it is today. Two sisters, the Misses Goldens taught there, with their salaries being paid by Mr Latouche, a landlord in Dromahair. They taught six to eight pupils up to third class.  Alec Davis of Boggaun went there, and most likely his siblings; pupils got a basic education before going to Carrigeencor NS and it was enough, he reported, for anyone wanting to apply to the Constabulary.

Carrigeencor National School, Enda O’Flaherty, Disused School Houses.

The old Kilcoosey school was about 2km from Carrigeencor, south west towards Dromahair, had been in existence for many years, probably starting as a hedge school.  In 1913, due to overcrowding and poor repair, a new school was built by Fr Peter Galligan at the Kilcoosey crossroads. The new school was about 600 yards from Carrigeencor NS and was the one the Gillmor children passed twice each day. After Carrigeencor NS closed a few local Protestant families went there. Like Carrigeencor school, Kilcoosey took part in the National Folklore Archive, The Schools Collection during 1937-38.

Kilcoosey National School,

Nan Boyce, taught at Carrigeencor NS from about 1925 and married Stuart Gillmor in August 1928; they lived at Boihy House, my Grandmother’s home. She was a competent and motivated teacher. After the birth of each of her three children Alfred (Freddie, 1930-1992), Edith (Edie, 1932 – 2012) and Margaret (Etta) she was very keen to get back to her pupils. Her youngest daughter Etta, arriving to school with her mother at the age three, recalls her first day when her small school case spilled empty polish tins – her toys – on to the hard school floor to the full laughter of the class.

Tragically, in the summer of 1944 Nan was carrying tea to the workers in a hayfield when she collapsed. She never recovered and died the following December. Nan’s death had severe repercussions for the family. Her husband, unable to cope sent the girls to in-laws in Scotland, and shortly afterwards auctioned the family farm, home and contents, to take up the job of land steward in Co Down. Earlier Freddie, studying at Mountjoy School in Dublin, failed to get a medical scholarship and fell out with his father. Against his father’s wishes he joined the British Navy; after 30 years’ service he resigned and took up the post of a Maths teacher. Brought up in Edinburgh, Edie and Etta struggled with the dislocation from their father and their Leitrim home.

To be concluded in the next blog, with notes following.