The History of Firmount National School
The story of the school in Firmount begins in the early part of the 19th century. In the year 1831 the first Education Act was passed enabling each parish to create its own school. Under this new act each parish had to apply to the National Board of Education in order to set up a school. The parish had to provide the site and two thirds of the building cost.
The Government had responsibility for the first time in the training and payment of teachers. This new law was to have huge impact on the unfolding Social history of rural Ireland.
Fr. O Brien and the parishioners built Firmount National School in 1840. The school was originally a one storey building but improvements saw the school become a two storey building in the first decade of the twentieth century.
Johnny Murphy, who originally came from Gurrane North was one of the first teachers in the school. The teacher’s residence was across the road from the school. This school continued to serve the community until 1984.
Firmount was a two teacher school in those days – master upstairs and the mistress downstairs.
Subjects taught were Irish, English, Maths, History, Geography, Catechism and Algebra. All teaching was through Irish with the exception of English. The inspector from the Department called frequently to ensure high standards were being maintained as did the Religious Inspector.
Many children went to work from Primary School, only a minority went on to avail of further Education. Those who did had to go daily to Cork by Bus or perhaps Boarding School.
During lunchtime there was no question of organised games as there was no area big enough to accommodate all the children. They played a variety of games including hurling, football and hunt. Hurleys and footballs were not always available so children used pigs bladders tied with cloth as footballs and hurleys were created from every available piece of timber. Hunt is similar to the game cadres call ‘Chase’ today but had it own peculiar set of rules in Firmount. The game was played as follows :
Having got a volunteer to act as ‘fox’ he was given some odds- over the fence into McCarthy’s field; he was then followed by a baying pack as the ‘hunt’ moved into the Gurrane area or the surrounding town lands.
When the ‘fox’ got tired, all then returned to school; sometimes an hour or two later only to meet a stern master at the school door !!
School facilities were very basic and rustic in those early days. Each classroom had a fire which was fuelled by the timber and turf which the Clarence brought to school. Pupils milk bottles were often warmed round the fire before lunch or many a wet coat was dried by the open fire. Toilet facilities were very primitive. There was no running water just an open drain lined with lime separating the boys from the girls . During wet weather the rainfall was diverted by means of a man made drain from the road way to the aforementioned drain to wash out the toilets. Principals of Firmount Old National School .
- Johnny Murphy
- John Murphy
- John ‘O Hara
- Michael O’ Leary
- Ignatius Keating
In the late 70’s and early 80’s it was apparent to the teachers and Board of Management in Firmount that new modern facilities were necessary.
There was now four teachers in the school: Ignatius Keating (principal), Elizebeth Birminham, Anne O Connell and Siobhain Casey. The building was crowded, cold and damp. Fr. Tom Browne was Chairman of the Board at the time and played a central role in procuring funds and steering the project that became ‘the new school’ opened in 1984. The other Board members were: Andy Barrett, Sean Healy, Sheila Golden …. With pupil numbers continuing to grow the school expanded again in 2003 when 3 pre fabricated classrooms were added. Teacher numbers have also risen. The school currently has 6 mainstream classroom teachers, 2 Special Education Teachers and 2 Special Needs Assistants.
A new Curriculum was launched in 1999. The academic curriculum was broadened to include the Arts, Physical Education, Technology, Science, Drama etc., giving each child the opportunity to excel in their own particular chosen area.
The uniqueness and individuality of each child are central issues. The task of the modern Educator is to enable the child to realise their full potential as a child and to equip them for their unique place in the adult world. Such a task is the cornerstone of the daily routine at Firmount National School.
Principals of Firmount New School:
Christine O Shea.