In 2004, Antonia McManus published a book entitled "The Irish Hedge Schools and its books 1695-1831". In it she details the educational and social context of these schools and gives a fascinating insight into the primers used and the unique education provided. This is in succession to a work by P J Dowling on Hedge Schools, in 1932.
Ballydaly. Bill Desmond until 1863. William O'Brien in Gortavehy. Dan Buckley in Toorbona. Thade Cronin in Coolinarne.
The name Hedge Schools was used in official Government documents for the first time in 1835 though they were long aware of their existence. Frequent references are made to them by travelers in the 18th Century e.g. Arthur Young. Hedge Schools were well established in Kerry when Dr Smith wrote his history in 1756 (p.67). He mentions that classical learning (e.g. Latin and Greek) were extended to the lower and poorer -classes. Many students of such schools subsequently became masters themselves e.g. Edward Walsh of Cullen and Eoghan Rua O'Suilleabhain in Knocknagree. The following verse conveys that these schools were perceived as channels of surreptitious education during Penal times:
Aubane: Dan Linehan from Nadd, in Dan Barrett's yard, until 1880. John Shine, at "Mary the weaver's" on the Aubane side of the Kerryman's Table, up to 1875. John Ryan, at Eileen O'Riordan's (then Cooper's) farmyard in Tullig. There is a reputed Hedge School site close to the entrance to Millstreet Country Park.
These details have been compiled from existing publications on Millsteet, listed at the outset.
Text books and Curricula of Hedge Schools.
"Crouched beneath the sheltering hedge or stretched on mountain fern, The teacher and his pupils met, feloniously to learn"
Location of Various Hedge Schools in the Parish. Millstreet: Most famous was Garibaldi O'Sullivan, who taught in Dromsicane, Kilmeedy, Cloghoola and Ballydaly. He is buried in Drishane old cemeteiy. Paddy Collins, Claramore in J. Cronin's farm. Edward Walsh (poet) in Mill Lane.
Cullen: Mr. Berry, (not a local person) taught in a farmhouse of O'Keeffe. Daniel Sullivan, taught in Glauntane and Mullaghroe until the 1850's. Thade Cronin, taught in a small house in the village belonging to Norry Roche. Edward Walsh (poet 1805-50). Although most biographical accounts state that he was born in Deny, Fr J J O'Riordan, in his biography of the poet, suggests Derragh, a town-land near Cullen as his place of birth (Tragic Troubadour p.24). He began his hedge school teaching near Rathcormac and Knockbrack. Nearer home, according to tradition, he taught in David King's haggard in Cullen and also at Lislehane and in Millstreet.
The gradual relaxation of the Penal Laws and the slow growth of Catholic education.
The Penal Laws, amongst other, things, restricted access to education for Catholics. The first provision of 1695 prohibited Catholics from having their children sent abroad for education. They were also forbidden to teach and run schools in Ireland. The restrictions of the Penal Laws were gradually repealed by a series of Relief Acts between 1778 and 1793. The 2nd Relief Act in 1782 permitted Catholic Bishops and Priests to live in Ireland. A Catholic could now run a school, or teach in one, provided he kept only Catholic pupils and took the Oath of Allegiance. Further easement came in the 3rd Relief Act 1792, which allowed Catholics access to professions (e.g. solicitors) from which they were hitherto barred. Catholics might now send their children abroad to be educated. The 4th Act in 1793 gave Catholics a right to vote if they were 40 shilling freeholders.
Prior to this, Nano Nagle, born at Ballygriffin in Mallow in 1718, was smuggled to France, as a teenager, for an education forbidden by the Penal Laws, She was talented and well educated when she returned to Ireland and began teaching children in Cork prior to the Relief Bills. In 1754, she secretly opened two mud cabins in Cove Lane, At the age of 57 she founded the Presentation Order and started a new venture in Cove Lane, Cork, by opening their first school in 1777 and so became pioneers of girls education. Later the Order opened schools in many towns, including Millstreet in 1841.