19th Century Schools in Lurgan

Vol. 5 No. 1 - 1984

19th Century Schools in Lurgan

Part 2

by Ian Wilson

In the first part of this article, (Review Vol.4, No.3) I attempted to show how schooling developed in Lurgan during the last century. Of necessity this involved the Primary sector almost entirely. This article will deal largely with the Secondary, or Intermediate Schools that emerged in the town. If information was scarce on the early Primary schools, then that on Intermediate Schools is almost non-existent. At best, we can identify only very shadowy figures at the very limits of our ken. At worst there are simply gaps. As a result, I intend to look in general terms at the sort of developments that were taking place, and in specific terms only at those schools for which we have substantial records.

Why Secondary Education?

The need for secondary education in a developing industrial town should be self evident. It was certainly a need that was well recognised in Lurgan. The local newspaper, the Protestant Watchman and Lurgan Gazette, dealing with the issue in its editorial of December 7th, 1872, said:

"In Lurgan laudable attempts were made to maintain a respectable Classical School; but it merely maintained a fitful existence, and completely collapsed when the Model School was opened. For the past ten years, then, the youths of Lurgan have been in a state of destitution for want of a sound classical education, and but few were able to prosecute the studies necessary to qualify them for entering any of the learned professions." What was not clear, however, was what should be taught. On the one hand, Grammar Schools, the prestige institutions, were classically orientated - and to many people in a town like Lurgan, a Classical education was a waste of time. On the other hand, "Commercial Schools" were notoriously unpopular, in the business community. Clearly, the 'Evening Classes' conducted in the Model, and some of the other National Schools, were intended to meet this need. In Part One of this article, I suggested that these classes were a great success, but further investigation has shown this to be far from true.

Model School
Model School

The Evening School at the Model, probably the best organised of the Lurgan establishments, had become inoperative by 1875, and a report to the National Board in 1898, speaking of Evening Classes in Lurgan said, "Where such have been established, they have not received adequate encouragement or support, and have been closed." The only Evening School to survive for any length of time was that at the Convent in Edward Street, opened in 1866. It is clear that many parents in Lurgan had very set ideas of how education could benefit their children. Such education should be a preparation for the sort of employment available in the town, and would therefore contain significant elements of book-keeping, and practical subjects. It is obvious that schools of this nature were exceptionally vulnerable to fluctuations in employment, and it is not surprising that the only commercial Schools that we know of were very short-lived.

Preparation for university

Having said all this, it is also necessary to point out that there was a growing Middle Class element in Lurgan, for which a Classical education was an attractive proposition. Middle class families would be much more likely to want their children prepared for a University Education, or a Profession, and those in the 'Lower Middle' bracket would be unable to afford the cost of boarding in one of the established schools in Belfast or Dublin.

The old accusation that Lurgan was a town with no middle class cannot really be accepted - certainly it considered itself to have such a class - and the growth of secondary schooling in the town probably reflects the development of a Middle Class of professional people, factory owners and more prosperous tradesmen. It is probably not a coincidence that the first secure establishment for secondary education in Lurgan - Lurgan College - was founded by a member of this class - Samuel Watts.

It must not be assumed, however, that there was no provision for the education of the middle class in Lurgan at the start of the century. Although there is no direct evidence of this, there was probably a certain amount of 'tutoring' - that is, private education, carried on by educated men or women in their own homes, or in the homes of their pupils. An excellent idea of the sort of thing that was common in Victorian times will be gained from reading George Elliot's "Mill on the Floss," and we have no reason to doubt that the same sort of thing existed in Lurgan. Such arrangements, although suitable in the short term, were not really adequate for the growing late Victorian industrial town. As a result, we see a flickering of educational growth in the years from 1840 onwards.

The Earliest Years (1840-1870)

The earliest evidence that I can find for 'Secondary' education in Lurgan is Martin's Directory for 1841, which refers to "William Brennian, English and Classical Teacher, William Street." Brennian appears to have been a remarkable local character. He can be traced through the directories from 1841-1870, and when he died in 1874, an obituary was published in the Belfast Newsletter, in which he was described as "one of the best English and Classical scholars of his day," who had been responsible for "teaching very many of the gentlemen's sons in Lurgan." The Brennian (or Brennan) academy had a number of homes. In 1841 it was in William Street, but by 1854 it had moved to Castle Lane, and then on to North Street (1858-61). It is finally shown as being in Union Street (1861-70).

We can draw a number of conclusions from the meagre information that is available on Brennian. Firstly, it is clear that he was unable to keep himself on the income from the school alone. He is shown as being Librarian of the Town's Subscription Library (1846), and a Lawyer's Clerk (1863). He was also, incidentally, a leading figure in the local Orange Institution. Secondly, we can assume that he worked from domestic premises - that is, boys attended him in his own home for instruction. Thirdly, his instruction was 'English and Classical,' very much in the Grammar School tradition. Lastly, his pupils were sons of 'gentlemen.' This is a rather vague term, but can be taken to indicate that the clientele was mainly middle class.

Alongside the Brennian School, there was another establishment run by Joseph Hewitt, in Main Street, and described as a boarding school. This school was in existence in 1846, but seems to have become inoperative by 1855. 1 assume that Hewitt's school shared many of the characteristics of Brennian's, although nothing is known of the principal.

Where Brennian and Hewitt probably catered for boys only, there were also schools for girls in the town. The earliest that I can trace is Elizabeth Chrisholm's Day and Boarding School, in Main Street (Main Street seems to have been used collectively for Market Street and High Street). This is mentioned in Slater's Directory for 1846 in its lists of 'Academies and Schools.' The most significant of the Ladies' Academies, however, was that commenced in Hoophill House in or around 1855. It was known as Hoophill Academy for Young Ladies, and was run by Miss Julia Willey as a Boarding and Day School.

I assume that Miss Willey married in 1959-60, because the 1861 directory refers to the Hoophill School as being under the direction of Mrs Julia Green. By 1867, Mrs Green had moved from Hoophill House to 18 Market Street, and in the 1870s the school moved yet again, this time to North Street. Mrs Green is last mentioned in the Slater's Directory for 1881. If we assume a lifespan of 30 years for this school, then it clearly had an element of success. For a while, it ran in connection with a boys' school run by Robert Willey (Miss Willey's brother, I assume), but this had disappeared by 1860.

I imagine the idea of teenage boys and girls boarding under the same roof would have been too much for Victorian parents, and in any case, Mr. Willey may well have felt somewhat out of place following his sister's marriage. It is not clear exactly what form the education at Green's Academy took, but it is probably fair to assume a syllabus aimed at the girls' domestic rather than their intellectual capabilities. Given the locations of the school, it probably shared with the Brennian establishment the use of domestic premises for instruction. We can assume from this that enrolments were fairly small, and that the course of instruction was quite limited. It is probably fair to say that the Brennian and Green establishments were the main 'secondary' schools in the area in the first half of the century.

There were other schools of a similar nature, though shorter lived. For a period, Thomas Lutton ran a school in Castle Lane and Market Street (1856-65). Lutton described himself as "Teacher and Writing Clerk." At the same time there was an Academy for Young Ladies run by the Misses Lutton, in Union Street. I cannot establish any link between the two schools, and the name Lutton is common enough in the area to suggest that the two were not in fact related. The Girls' school seems to have been in existence from 1860-1875, and again seems to have been a 'domestic' establishment, run in an ordinary dwelling house. Another school was run by Mr. Sam Furphy in North Street.

This was opened in September 1858 to provide a "sound English and Mercantile education" for boys. A hint of the emphasis in this school is given in the information that "Mr. Furphy has had considerable experience as a teacher, having engaged for a number of years in one of the most extensive manufacturing establishments in the North of Ireland." This would seem to point to a largely business education, and this would be reinforced by the specific reference to 'Practical Book-keeping' in the prospectus. This new emphasis reflects the major changes that were taking place in Lurgan in the middle-years of the century, particularly the Town's rapid industrial and commercial expansion.

The demise of smaller schools

I can find no definite evidence of how long the school lasted, but the circumstantial evidence of the 'Protestant Watchman' editorial, already quoted, would suggest that the opening of the Model School in 1863 saw the demise of establishments like Furphy's. A similar school was opened in November 1861, by a Mr. Johnston. He appears to have come to Lurgan via the Weslyan Collegiate Institution, Taunton, and a private school in Caledon. Johnston offered classes in Classics, French and German, as well as private tuition. Again, the school seems to have been very short lived. It was based in a dwelling house owned by Mr. William Murray.

The only Secondary School to be housed in purpose built premises at this time would seem to have been Lurgan Academy. This was commenced c.1850, in schoolrooms 'in the rere of the Presbyterian Meetinghouse in High Street. The Principal of the school was Mr. Matthew Murphy. It is probably this school that is referred to as the 'Classical School' in the newspaper editorial quoted at the beginning of this article. The Academy seems to have had a lifespan of little more than 10 years. The Presbyterian Church was renovated in the autumn of 1859, and during that time the Church premises, including the Schoolrooms, were closed. When the renovated buildings were re-opened in January 1860, the School rooms housed the Lurgan National School. This may explain the move of the Lurgan Academy to the Mechanics' Institute. An advertisement dated 1861, refers to the school being housed in the Institute, under the Principalship of Mr. H. Larkin. It is probably appropriate to note that the Mechanics' Institute, as originally built, contained two large schoolrooms on the first floor. At the building's opening much was made of the opportunity this provided for the youth of Lurgan. If we are to accept the chronology of the Protestant Watchman, these premises were only in use for two or three years as schoolrooms, and I know of no other evidence that they were ever again so used. It is difficult to understand the failure of a school situated in new premises in such a central position in the town. The suggestion that the opening of the Model School destroyed the Academy seems much too simplistic since one would assume that the Model would deal with a totally different constituency. I imagine that the root of the problem was really financial instability, with the school unable to survive on pupils' fees alone, and no other financial backing being available.

This outline illustrates clearly what is meant by "fitful" existence in the 'Watchman' editorial. What is equally clear, however, is that anyone who really desired 'secondary' education for their children, and who could afford to pay for it, had ample choice in Lurgan in the mid-19th century.

Lurgan College

The first really significant development in Secondary Education in Lurgan was the establishment of Lurgan College in 1873. The school had its beginnings back in the 1840s, when intermediate education was only beginning to appear in the town. One of the town's most prominent citizens at the time was Samuel Watts, joint owner of Boyd and Watts Brewery. Watts was born in Lurgan in 1789, of humble parentage, and, if we are to believe the report of the School opening, attended a hedge school, in the town.

In the year 1800, he entered the local brewery, as an apprentice, and rose 'through the ranks' to be joint owner of the establishment. The Boyd family were not only brewers, but also had a substantial interest in the tobacco trade in Lurgan and Belfast, and in this business, Watts too had a share. As a result, Watts was a man of considerable wealth for a time, and of considerable wealth for his time, and given his humble beginnings. His estate at the time of his death amounted to £9,000, including a sizeable land holding at Tannaghmore.

The Foundation Charter of Lurgan College

Although he married twice, Samuel Watts had no children, so he clearly gave much thought to the question of where his money would go after his death. In 1847, shortly after the death of his only close relative, his brother William, Watts drew up the will that was to be the 'foundation charter' of Lurgan College. The will provided for Mrs Watts for her lifetime, with use of the house and furnishings, and an annuity of £300. The remainder of the estate, after all outstanding debts had been paid, was to be invested. When sufficient interest had accumulated, an "English, Classical and Agricultural School for the education of boys" was to be established, either on Watts' own land at Tannaghmore South, or failing that, on a site not more than half a mile from Lurgan.

One of the most interesting (and most controversial) provisions of the will was that "no person being in Holy Orders, or a minister of any religious denomination shall at any time interfere in the management of the said school, or be appointed to serve as master." In addition, no religious catechism, or indeed religious instruction of any kind, was to be taught during school hours. The administration of the will was in the hands of Five Trustees; namely John Hancock, who was Lord Lurgan's land agent, and later Chairman of the Town Commissioners; Henry Greer, a local solicitor; John Waite Greer, of Woodville, a prominent local gentleman; James Anderson, a yarn merchant of Lurgan; and Francis Fforde of Roughlan.

Watts died on 1st February, 1850. By the end of the year, the estate had been invested in mortgages on property in Belfast. The total sum of the endowment was £8,207.11.8., and the interest was payable at 41/2% The fact that Mrs Watts survived until 1867 delayed developments on the school, since her annuity had to take preference, and it doesn't take a great mathematical brain to work out that there wasn't much interest left once £300 had been deducted. Thus, as the trust approached its 21st anniversary, there was still only £2,800 available for the school. Irish Law at the time required such trusts to have taken active steps to meet the requirements of their trust deeds within 21 years, or be wound up. As a result the surviving trustees decided to take the plunge, despite the relative shortage of cash, and on December 4, 1872 the following official announcement was made:

"Lurgan Civil Service and University School. On the Foundation of Samuel Watts, Esq.

John Hancock Esq. J. P.,
James Anderson,
John W. GreerEsq. J.P.

The Trustees under Mr. Watts' Will are about to establish a School in Lurgan, to be opened early next year.

It is intended that the course of instruction shall include Classics, English Literature and Science, so as to prepare pupils to enter and pursue their studies in the Arts, Engineering or Agricultural Department of any College, or to compete for examination in the Civil Service.

The School is to be a Day School, and in accordance with the trusts of the Will, the Headmaster and his Assistants must be laymen, and the system of education non-sectarian.

A fund has been accumulated for building a schoolhouse, and until it is erected the Trustees will make an allowance to the Master for the rent of suitable Schoolrooms.

The Salary of the Master will be £200 a year, beside pupils' fees, and an allowance of £75 a year for a good assistant, to be selected by the Master with the approval of the Trustees, the appointment of the Master to be for one year certain, and if confirmed by the Trustees at the end of the year, to continue during good behaviour and ability to discharge the duties to the reasonable satisfaction of the Trustees on condition of retirement at 63 years of age, when he will be entitled to a pension off 75 a year.

The scale of fees and course of instruction to be in all respects subject to the approval of the Trustees.

Application from Graduated of any university in the U.K. who have obtained their degrees, with honours, will be entertained if sent on or before 14th January, 1873."

School in Operation

Within three months, the school was in operation. It opened officially on 24th March 1873, at 20 Market Street, a temporary location until permanent buildings were erected. The first headmaster appointed was Mr. Edward Vaughan Boulger, of Dublin. Boulger had graduated from Trinity College in 1869 as First Senior Moderator in Classics, History, English Literature and Law, and had immediately taken an appointment as Head Classical Master at Rathmines School. In 1871, newly married, Boulger emigrated to Canada to take up an appointment as Professor of Classical Literature and History in the University of New Brunswick. The climate proving too severe for his new wife, Boulger returned to Dublin in 1872, where he was appointed Senior Classical Master at the Erasmus Smith High School in Harcourt Street. It was this position that he left in March 1873 to take up the Lurgan appointment. I have gone into so much detail to illustrate the academic standard required by the Trustees for their Headmaster - Boulger does appear to have been a ' genuine academic, rather than a traditional country schoolmaster.

The permanent College buildings, designed by the Belfast Architects, Young and MacKenzie (also responsible for some of Belfast's most notable buildings, such as Robinson & Cleavers, and the Scottish Provident Building in Donegall Square West) were completed in August 1874. The pupils actually took residence on August 15th, although the official opening didn't take place until October 27th. The siting of the new school caused considerable controversy. For some reason, Watt's own land was considered unsuitable, and instead a site was leased from Lord Lurgan, in the townland of Brownlowsderry. In fact, two separate leases were signed. The first, for a site of 2 acres 2 roods, fronting on the carriage drive bordering the Lough Neagh Road Villa sites (now College Walk), was for the school buildings themselves, and was for 1000

years at an annual rent of £20. The second, for a site of 7 acres 20 perches, and adjacent to the school site, was a 31 year agricultural lease, at a rent of £21.7.6. per year. This second site was obviously intended to provide land for agricultural instruction, but instead became the School playing fields. The College's situation was, and is, beautiful, but it must have contributed to the isolation of the school from the town, which has been one of its most persistent problems. Even today, the school stands on the very edge of the town, and the walk from the town centre is certainly the longest 'half mile' that I know. The only explanation for the choice of site that I can offer is that the Trustees considered an Agricultural site as paramount. However, this causes problems, because why did they then appoint as Headmaster a highly qualified Classical scholar, who probably didn't know one end of a cow from another?

Is it uncharitable to suggest that perhaps Mr. Hancock took a greater say in things than he should? It certainly seems an amazing coincidence that the rejection of Watts own land (which we can assume would have been rent free) resulted in an annual rental of over £40 for Lord Lurgan, whose land agent just happened to be the Senior Trustee. Even more of a coincidence is the appointment of a Trinity Graduate, who had studied Law, as Headmaster, when the Professor of Law at Trinity College happened to be the brother of that same Senior Trustee. The most obvious problem arising from the school's situation was the lack of amenities. There was no running water or gas until 1906, and electricity didn't arrive until the 1920s.

Struggling Institution

To start with, Lurgan College was a struggling institution. Under Boulger, who was headmaster from March 1873 until December 1875, the school had never had more than 25 pupils, and in 1875, when he left, there were only 15. There seems to have been little local interest, with most of the pupils coming from outside Lurgan. In this context, it should be noted that at some time between the publication of the original notice in December 1872, and the passing of the plans for the building in September 1873, the decision was taken to make the school a Day and Boarding School.

The provision of a dormitory may well have saved the school in its early days. Boulger never seems to have been happy with the situation, and he left Lurgan in December 1875 to take up the chair of Greek at University College Cork. His stay there was also short. He left in 1883, this time going to Australia, where he became Professor of Greek in the University of Adelaide.

The School's second Headmaster was W. T. Kirkpatrick, from Belfast. Kirkpatrick had graduated from Queen's College, Belfast in 1868, and had been teaching since then at R.B.A.I. He had been short-listed for the Lurgan position in 1873, and was the unanimous choice of the Trustees in 1875. Kirkpatrick was a real character, nicknamed The Great Knock in Lurgan, and under under him the school began to flourish. By 1880, the enrolment had risen to 70, and the school had gained an enviable reputation in the new Intermediate Examinations. In 1879, one of the pupils was Albert Lewis, from Belmont in Belfast. Kirkpatrick took a special interest in Lewis, preparing him for a legal career. 30 years later, Lewis was looking for a tutor to prepare his son for his University entrance examinations, and it was to Kirkpatrick, now in retirement, that he turned. That son was C. S. Lewis, later an Oxford Don, and prolific writer and Broadcaster. In his auto-biography, "Surprised by Joy," Lewis has left us a remarkable pen-picture of Kirkpatrick, as well as using him as the model for the Scotch-Irish intellectual MacPhee, in his novel "That Hideous Strength.'

Lurgan College
Lurgan College

Under Kirkpatrick, Lurgan College became well established, although there is considerable evidence that the school had, as yet, little real place in the community. In 1887, under the terms of the Educational Endowments Act, the old Trustees were replaced by a Board of Governors, some of whom were elected. The 1887 reorganisation also removed the embarrassment of the 'agricultural' requirements of the will. No agricultural instruction had ever been given, and this caused much heart searching among the Trustees, who feared legal consequences. In 1887, the requirements were modified so that the syllabus was such as was considered by the Governors to be necessary and suitable. One amazing omission from the syllabus was science, little, if any, of which was taught in the school before 1906.

Kirkpatrick retired from the Lurgan position in 1899, while still a relatively young man. He was replaced by James Cowan, another Queen's graduate, who was Senior Classical Master at Manchester Grammar School, before coming to Lurgan. The Cowan years (1899-1922) were unhappy ones for the College, with drastically depleted numbers, and much rancour and animosity It says much for the strength of the foundations laid by Kirkpatrick that the school survived those years iwact.

Lurgan High School

The College as originally constituted, was exclusively for boys. We have already noted a number of attempts to establish 'Ladies' schools in the town. After 1881, which is the last year in which Mrs Green's school is mentioned, there is never reference to more than one school at a time. This leads towards the conclusion that from 1881 to the end of the century there was probably only one school, run by a number of different ladies.

Slater's Directory for 1881 notes the existence of a Ladies' School, in High Street, run by Miss Annie Macklin. Three years later, the Portadown and Lurgan News noted two girls from Miss Macklin's School in the pass lists for the Intermediate examinations for 1884. By 1886 Lurgan Ladies' High School is noted, under the principalship of Mrs S. Graham, still in High Street. There is some confusion over this. Ellis' Education Directory for 1886 gives Mrs. Graham's address as 47 High Street, while a Lurgan Times advertisement (23/10/1886) shows it as 36 High Street - so it is difficult enough, even so late in the century, to be entirely certain of some things.

The next reference I can find to a Ladies' school comes in 1897. In the First Report of the Intermediate Education Board, the Lurgan Ladies' Collegiate School is shown, along with Lurgan College, as the only Intermediate School in the town. It was sited at Shankhill Buildings, under the Principalship of Miss E. B. Fraser. The number of pupils in 1897 was 14. This report is again a little confusing. Many Lurgan people will recall the Misses Fraser, who taught at the College until 1944. These two ladies - Miss Edith and Miss Roberta - ran Lurgan Girls' High School until its amalgamation with Lurgan College in 1925. However, Miss Edith's initials were E.M. - so I can only guess that either the 1897 Report was in error, or that there was another Miss Fraser.

It would seem, then, that there was an established Girls' school in Lurgan, providing intermediate education, from 1880 onwards. We know that the Girls' High School (the name adopted in 1900) was organised formally, with a Board of Governors, containing many of the town's leading citizens, and it is fair to see in it the foundations of the girls' department of Lurgan College (although the College had become co-ed before the amalgamation with the High School).

Catholic Education

In the first part of this article, I mentioned the establishment of the Dougher National School, mainly to serve the Catholic community in Lurgan. It would appear that the Dougher schools - there were separate schools for boys and girls - were the oldest National Schools in Lurgan, if we exclude the Tannaghmore School, which was some way out of the town. The earliest enrolment figures that I have for the schools date from 1854, when the boys' school had 114 on the rolls, and the girls' school 111. The girls' teacher, Mrs McKeon, seems to have been a very gifted teacher. She was one of the very few grade 1 teachers in the town, and appeared regularly in the table of awards for efficiency published by the National Board each year. By 1865, the girls' school had an enrolment in excess of 300, although the average daily attendance was less than 100.

The year 1866 saw the beginning of a major re-organisation of Catholic Education in Lurgan. In that year, the Sisters of Mercy opened their Convent School in Edward Street. The opening of the new school coincided with the closure of the Dougher Girls' school (it appears in the list of suspended schools in 1867). The boys' school remained in existence, becoming St. Peter's when it moved into new premises in the 1870s. The Convent School quickly established itself as the second largest school in the town (after the Model). The statistics for its first year show a total enrolment of 311 with an average daily attendance of 188. In addition, there was a thriving evening school, with 216 on the rolls, and 107 attending each evening. The continued success of the school is evidenced by the 1877 statistics, showing a total enrolment of 505, and an average daily attendance of 218. In 1898, a second school was opened, in Church Place, intended, I think, to take the pressure off the Edward Street School.

It is remarkable that such success followed the establishment of a Catholic Girls' School, and yet similar attempts to open a boys' school were markedly unsuccessful. In the 1880s there was a St. Vincent de Paul High School in Church Place. The Principal in 1888 was the Very Rev. E. Piche. There was an evening school associated with this School. I have established that the evening School became inoperative in 1889, but how long the day school survived I cannot say. Another boys' school was the William Street Monastery. The school there was in the hands of the Christian Brothers. It was taken into connexion with the National Board in 1903, and had an enrolment of about 128, with an average daily attendance of about 90. The school had become inoperative by 1905.

Until 1899 the Edward Street Convent served an an Industrial School, as well as providing Primary, and a certain amount of Intermediate education. The industrial schools were, in effect, reformatories. In 1889, the decision was taken to build a separate Industrial School in Lurgan, at Cornakinegar, under the control of the Mother Superior of the Edward Street Convent.

The Workhouse School

Another school, the existence of which I only became aware this year, was the Workhouse School. This may well predate most of the other establishments in the town, because it was in operation in the 1830s. I assume that it catered only for the children of those unfortunate enough to be consigned to the Workhouse, along with poor orphans. It is certainly a sobering exercise to look at the statistics for the last years of the century. The report of the Poor Law Commissioners for 1861 notes a total enrolment of 85 in the Workhouse School, with two teachers. In 1868, there was exactly the same enrolment, the two teachers being Thomas Brennan and Mrs Boyle.

The Workhouse school was taken into connexion with the National Board in 1877, and the statistics of that Board for the year 1877-8 show a total enrolment of 118, with an average daily attendance of 50. During the last years of the century, the numbers on the roll gradually fell, until, in 1899, the average daily attendance at the school was only 19. The National Board Report for 1904 notes that there were no pupils in the Lurgan Poor Law Union School, although the school was again operational in 1905. 1 have heard it reported that some of the older folk in Lurgan can remember the daily walk of the Workhouse schoolchildren, part of their routine for most of the last century. The size of the school in the middle years of the century probably reflects the economic plight of the poorer people in the town, just as the gradual decline in numbers must illustrate, amongst other things, the improvement in the conditions of the poor, and, perhaps, the more humane attitude to their treatment that came with the new century.


In Part One of this study, I said, "As the new century dawned, Lurgan had little by way of formal education." Looking at the situation 100 years later, one can only marvel at the transformation. Not only was there generous provision in the Primary sector but there was also a thriving Grammar School. Many of these schools were, in 1900, housed in virtually new buildings. The new Hill Street School, in George Street opened in 1889, while the new Lurgan National School premises were actually being built in 1900. St. Peter's National School, Queen's Street National School and Lurgan College were all housed in purpose built premises less than 30 years old. We can, thus, conclude that the 19th Century was 'the era of the School' in Lurgan.

As I finish I would like to make some corrections to the first part of this study, published in 1982.

(i) I stated that there were 42 Elementary Schools under the Erasmus Smith Charity. Actually there were 156 of these schools when the trust was at its peak in the 1850s. The last Erasmus Smith Schools disappeared in the 1930s - in 1930 there were 10 surviving schools. (See M. V. Ronan 'The Erasmus Smith Foundation,' Talbot Press, Dublin 1937)

(ii) My comments on the teacher training aspects of Lurgan Model were irrelevant, since the Lurgan School was a 'Minor' Model. This meant that it was not the County Model School, and thus did not have facilities for teacher training that were present in the District Model Schools.

Finally, I must express my thanks to the Committee, and the Hon. Editor for their support, and forbearance, and for the ready assistance that I have received. I would welcome comments or reminiscences on the material dealt with in these articles, and I trust that perhaps they will encourage someone to do a detailed survey of one of the Lurgan Schools.

Appendix One

Principals of Lurgan Schools in 19th Century.

Erasmus Smith, or Free School, North Street -

  1. Thomas Warren (1812 - ?)
  2. Patrick Carroll (c.1840 - c 1850)
  3. Henry Clarke (c. 1850 - c 1870)
  4. Richard Howell (c1870 - 1898)
  5.      ?      Hill (1898 -?)

Dougher National School, later St. Peter's -

  1. John Morgan (c 1840 - c 1860)
  2. William Cullen (c 1860 - c 1875)
  3. F. McCarthy (c 1875 - c 1885)
  4. J. McConville (c 1885 -

Lurgan National School

  1. Thomas Donaldson (1860 - 1865)
  2. Samuel Wallace (1865 - c 1870)
  3. William English (c 1870- 1875)
  4. William Gibson (1875 - 1884)
  5. Robert Shields (1884 - ? )

Hill Street National School (in George Street) -

  1. Andrew Morrison (c 1862 - c 1885)
  2. William Shields (c 1885 -
  3. Lurgan Model School -
  4. Alexander Greer (1863 - 1885)
  5. Solomon Speers (1886 - 1896)
  6. F. B. Lavelle (1896 - 97)
  7. Joseph Harrison (1898 - ? )

South St. Infants' School, later Ragged School, later Queen's St. National School

  1. Fanny Morrow (c 1846 - c 1861)
  2. Miss Logan (c 1861 - c 1880)
  3. Maria Hull (1880 - c1888)
  4. Mary Marshall (1888 - 1896)
  5. Mrs Herbert (1897 - ? )

Lurgan College -

  1. E. V. Boulger (1873 - 1875)
  2. W. T. Kirkpatrick (1875 - 1899)
  3. J. Cowan (1899 - ? )

Source: Directories. Dates can only be considered as approximate. List may not be complete.

Appendix Two

Enrolments of Lurgan Schools in 19th Century

Free School:

  • 1826-180
  • 1835-266
  • 1885-447

Lurgan Model

  • 1863-384
  • 1864-598
  • 1865-668
  • 1866-710
  • 1867-607
  • 1872-622
  • 1873-632
  • 1877-498
  • 1880-549
  • 1889-509

Lurgan National

  • 1862-407
  • 1863-334
  • 1864-295
  • 1865-247
  • 1866-243
  • 1867-259
  • 1872-319
  • 1873-319
  • 1877-266
  • 1880-289
  • 1889-260

Dougher National

  • 1851-139 (Male & Female)
  • 1854-225
  • 1862-508
  • 1863-615 (Male only)
  • 1866-247
  • 1867-306
  • 1872-297
  • 1873-300 (St. Peter's)
  • 1877-296
  • 1880-228
  • 1889-213

Hill Street National

  • 1862-105
  • 1863-225
  • 1864-171
  • 1865-144
  • 1866-135
  • 1867-157
  • 1872-136
  • 1873-147
  • 1877-210
  • 1880-172 (George St.)
  • 1889-215

Edward Street Convent

  • 1866-311
  • 1867-433
  • 1872-434
  • 1873-442
  • 1877-505
  • 1880-484
  • 1889-492
  • 1900-482

Workhouse School

  • 1877-118
  • 1880-130
  • 1885-68
  • 1889-42
  • 1894-13
  • 1900-38
  • 1903-8
  • 1904- No pupils

Source: Reports of National Board. These are the total enrolments, the actual attendances are on average between 33% and 50% of total enrolments.

  • Belfast Newsletter
  • Belfast Evening Telegraph Protestant Watchman and Lurgan Gazette
  • Lurgan Gazette
  • Lurgan Times and Portadown News
  • Report of Irish Education Inquiry 1825-6
  • Reports of Commissioners of National Education 1831-1905
  • Reports of Poor Law Commissioners Intermediate Education (Ireland) Commission 1st Report 1898
  • Lewis' Topographical Dictionary 1836 Bradshaw's Directory 1819
  • Martin's Directory 1841
  • Slater's Directories 1846, 1856, 1870, 1881
  • Belfast and Provincial Directories 1863-1900
  • Bassett's Book of Armagh 1888
  • Ellis' Education Directory for Ireland 1886
  • Ordnance Survey Memoir 1830.

(i) General Histories.

  • F.S.L. Lyons, Ireland Since the Famine
  • J.C. Beckett, Making of Modern Ireland

(ii) Books on Irish Education

  • D.H. Akenson The Irish Education Experiment: The National System of Education in the 19th Century.
  • J.H. Auchmuty Irish Education, A Historical Survey.
  • T.J. MacElligott, Education in Ireland.

(iii) Other Books.

  • B. Keily Poor Scholar
  • B. Ellis To Hell or Connaught
  • M.V. Ronan The Erasmus Smith Endowment.

For those interested in Lurgan College, a series of articles on the history of the school since its inception appeared in the School Magazine 'Ulula' for the years 1976-81.