New Life for the Old School Building

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We were delighted to join in the celebrations at the official opening of the new Spearline premises in the former St Fachtna’s De La Salle School building today. Skibbereen Heritage Centre manager, Terri Kearney gave a brief history of this iconic Skibbereen building at the official opening where the keynote speaker was Irish ambassador to the US, Ambassador Dan Mulhall.

Speakers at today’s official opening of Spearline in the wonderfully restored old school building which has connections to the Great Famine

It is truly wonderful to see the revival of this building which could very well have ended in dereliction if Spearline had not chosen it as the site for its new headquarters in Ireland. We are very, very, very grateful to them for so doing.

We have written before about this iconic Skibbereen building but here is a brief timeline of its long history.

1831: Government set up a Board of Commissioners for National Education in Ireland.

March 1842: Rev. John Fitzpatrick applied on for a grant to build a new school in Skibbereen.

July 1845: Approval given to start building work. The then two-storey school took some 6,600 cartloads of stone to build at a cost of £1,400 .

1846-7: School opens with 4 large rooms – two measuring 45′ x 32′ and two slightly smaller at 40′ x 32′ – national boys’ and girls’ in larger rooms, infants in smaller rooms. Girls rooms upstairs, boys downstairs.

A sketch of the newly-built school in 1847

30 September 1846: Riot outside the school

October 1847: British Relief Association feeding 1,725 children a daily ration of bread and soup in this school.

A report from the ‘Cork Examiner’ newspaper in 1848

January 1848: 12,000 children in the Skibbereen Union (stretching from Rosscarbery to the Mizen) being fed by the British Relief Association in West Cork schools with a plan to increase it to 15,00 over the following months.

Report from 1848 showing 12,000 children being fed by the British Relief Association scheme in schools in the Skibbereen Union

1849: Half the number of infant girls in Skibbereen school compared to 1847.

1860: Convent girls’ national school opens and this building becomes all boys school.

1870s: Bishop establishes the University and Intermediate School in the downstairs room (boys national school moves upstairs). Among the subject taught were Greek, Latin, French, English and Arithmetic.

1909: School inspection of the University and Intermediate School reported that ‘while one boy in the Junior Grade worked neatly and intelligently, the others were extremely untidy and far from intelligent’.

‘Skibbereen National School, 1910’

1922: School used as barrack and prison by the Irish Free State Army during the early months of the Civil War. Irregular soldiers imprisoned here included Andrew McCarthy of Rerahanagh whose mother, Kate McCarthy was tragically killed in an accident on the 30th of September outside the prison when she was thrown from her donkey and cart when passing the prison. (This is her great-great-great-grandaughter Alannah Crowley’s account of that sad event submitted under our Stories of the Revolution project)

Two prisoners also escaped from the school during that time.

Yasmin Atalay’s description of her ancestors’ escape from the prison, also submitted under the Stories of the Revolution project

1930s: Bishop invites De La Salle Brothers to Skibbereen to open a Secondary School.

September 1937: St Fachtna’s De La Salle School opens for boys.

‘St Fachtna De La Salle School, 1940’

late 1970s: Interior of school renovated making it a 3 storey building.

The School in 1980

2001: De La Salle Brothers cease running the school.

2016: St Fachtna’s Secondary School closes.

The school building was in danger of falling into dereliction before being bought by Spearline in January 2018

January 2018: Spearline purchases the building and extensive refurbishments start.

August 9th 2019: Official opening of Spearline’s new headquarters!

The 1846 plaque being installed in the refurbished building
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