Quaker Education

Vol. 8 No. 2 - 2003

Quaker Education in the past

by Elizabeth Lutton

My maternal relatives were members of The Society of Friends/Quakers and consequently most of them attended Friends School, Lisburn. One of these, Edmund Allen, from Grange Cottage, Loughgall, was enrolled in the school in 1873, aged 10 years. In a letter written in later life he states, "So far as I can remember we had no Christmas holidays when I first went to school, I remember my father telling me that he was three years at the school and was allowed home only once. An elder sister of his was there for five years and during that time was never home. The Great Northern Railway was not built then and there were no buses, motor cars or bicycles and not even the modern horse or pony traps that we see on the roads today. The old Irish jaunting cars were very scarce."

Letters to my great-grandfather

I have in my possession two old letters written by my Great Grandfather, Ephraim Allen (1828 - 1916) to his daughter, my Grandmother, Lizzie Allen.

This letter was written when my Grandmother was a 13½ year old pupil at Friends School:

Grange Cottage
19th of 8th month 1878

Dear Lizzie,

1 got thy letter the other day requesting me to allow thee to learn French. I believe the time spent in the study of that language could be much better spent. I would much prefer thee spending the same time at the sewing machine or needlework, it would be more useful to thee in getting along through life.

Thee may remember trying to learn French some time ago and did not then care for the study it took to make proficiency in it and I think it more because so many other girls are learning it than any natural taste thee has for it thyself and perhaps does not like to appear odd from the rest of the class, as I have said I would prefer thee spending the time at drawing needlework and the sewing machine, however if thee is determined to make good use of the time and money spent in learning French I will consent for thee to try it for the shortest term they will admit thee into the French class and then if thee improves and finds thee can succeed properly perhaps I may allow thee to try it again but there are many other things in my opinion more useful to study than it.

Edmund is to be home to-morrow he has took a good stay at Cootehill, we have not heard when thy Aunt Emily is coming but as I promised I would like to ask for thee to get a day to see us when she would be here, but if I find Ruth Anna and thee are not paying all the attention thee can to your lessons I will not ask for thee to get. We are to begin the harvest in the morning, we have all the hay up in the yard and had a nice time for making it, the apples are near ripe, I will send you some soon. It is 8 o'c first day evening. Mama is just trying to put the child to sleep, he is growing quite big since thee saw him, we are all as well as usual. Mind and try to improve in order to get home. I have no more to say, so remain thy affec. Father

P.S. Tell Ruth Anna I will write the next time to her. Mama sends love to you.

Lizzie Allen – age 18
Lizzie Allen at age 18 years

This second letter was written by my Great grandfather to my Grandmother when he was staying with a cousin and attending a Quaker Yearly Meeting in Dublin.

2nd day morning 5th of 5th month 1879
7 Phillipsburgh Avenue,

Dear Lizzie,

Thou art aware I am now in Dublin attending the yearly meeting, it is very nice weather for it and a great many friends are here from Ulster, we expect it to be over on 4th day, which day I will probably go home. I have enjoyed myself very well and have attended every sitting but one or two, there are usually 3 sittings each day.

I see J. Radley [who was headmaster at Friends School then. E.L.] at each of them. Aunt Emily, Emily Bulla, Ellie Fitzpatrick and Mordie Johnson were here for tea yesterday. Emily Bulla is now in a situation a few doors down from Aunt Emily which is in the suburbs of the city and about 4 miles from here. Now as thy time at school is drawing to a close it is needful that thee should be a little concerned about the future and how thou art to make a respectable livelihood for thyself. I saw by one of thy letters to thy mother that thee would not wish to stop at home, it is well to know that now, so that we may think what is best for thee after leaving school. There are so few things that girls can succeed at, and if they are not at the kind of business they would like they are never so content or successful at it, so thee can think over the matter and if thy choice as to thy future employment is at all sensible we will try to encourage thee in it. I would have liked if thy choice had been to stop at home and do what thee could to be useful to thy mother in her domestic duties and thee would not be half so close kept to it as thee will be with the stranger and be quite as safe in a worldly point of view, but on the other hand if it was not thy choice and that thee would be content and felt that such a choice would be thy duty I would not encourage thee to it as we can manage until Ruth Anna has done her schooling and if her taste is to be from home we will of course expend a share of money (which thy mother and I have toiled hand to Procure for you) in paying strangers to do in your stead. Yet I would like to have one of you now in our declining years, until you would see something better turn up for you, but not unless it was your real taste and choice to be useful and agreeable at home. You don't know much about serving the stranger, your work must be done with them and that too in a very agreeable manner

Joseph can talk pretty well and is very engaging - he likes to be in the fields with me. I think great long to see him, it would be pleasant if you had your holidays in time to attend Grange Quarterly Meeting, it will be about 20th of 6th month. We want rain very badly in the country in order to make grass and other things grow. I had one letter from home since I came and wrote two. Tell Ruth Anna I had not time to write to her or I would have done so.

Thy affec. Father.
E. Allen.

Written across page - It is 2.5 miles from this to the meeting house. I have a great many acquaintances to call to see and am tired enough at night when I come out here about 10 o'clock.