|Cookery Class 1930. Back row - Miss Maxwell, Margaret Marshall, Maureen Maxwell, Elsie Calvert, Jean Everard, Ellen Jane Dorman, Mary McKeown, Jean Porter. Front row - Nellie Wilgar, Evelyn Magowan, Beatrice Blab; Ethel Dorman, Shelia Caves.|
It gives me great pleasure to provide a brief foreword to what you, the reader, will discover, is an interesting and thoroughly researched account of the historical origins of Drumbo Primary School. Dr. Chris Reid, its author, has cast his research net widely and this particular example of the history of an individual school, which has had such a close connection with Drumbo as a community over the years, is firmly rooted in primary sources, notably the relevant source materials from the period of the `national schools' now held by the Public Record Office (Northern Ireland). Some of these documents are in fact reproduced to good effect. The book is also rich in evocative photographs of the teachers and pupils of yesteryear, thereby providing a valuable historical record of the Drumbo area, not to mention interesting evidence of the changes in clothing and fashion styles of both adults and children during the past century.
These faces, from a past now lost and gone forever, stare out at us, the readers, across the years, provoking the obvious question - whatever became of them all'? Were their lives happy and fulfilled or otherwise'? Some of the teachers look proud of their profession, as well they might be, in a part of the world where education has rightly been valued. I was naturally intrigued to discover a `Herbert McMinn' (no relation to my knowledge) amongst the members of the class of 1918! 1 also wondered whether the girls' cookery class of 1919 had the makings of some good Ulster soda bread in their mixing bowls.
The recent letter from President Bill Clinton to the pupils and the reference to the establishment of the school's own Internet web site bring us right up to the present and I was pleased to see the school's commitment to Education for Mutual Understanding, through its involvement in the cross-community contact scheme with Saint Patrick's Primary School, Castlewellan, given due recognition. The appointment of Mrs. Ruth Daly, as the first female Principal in 1997 is also an interesting example of how the role of women in the management of primary education has developed positively in recent years. Things have come a long way from the days of `The Master' and Me situation described by one national school pupil at the beginning-of the century: 'The master put fear into every scholar ... for he used his cane.'
I would want to wish both Drumbo Primary School and this book well. It is a fitting celebration of over two hundred years of educational endeavour in the Drumbo district. Drumbo is no longer `out in the sticks', and the postal address of its school does not accurately reflect its forward-looking approach to education.
Professor Richard McMinn Principal
The Presbyterian Church in Ireland, not unlike her parent church in Scotland has, from its earliest beginnings, stressed the importance of education and of presenting "the divine image of education encircled by her three children, Knowledge, Power and Virtue."
Interest in education was, to a large extent, the result of the religious characteristics of the Presbyterians. The Reformation opened the Bible and invited the people to read it for themselves. Consequently, the Bible was introduced into the family and with it other books, such as the Longer and Shorter Catechisms, to complement it. Thus it was felt that children must, at least, be taught to read these. This was the primary reason for the establishment of schools, which parents themselves for many years, a to maintain It has always been a Presbyterian principle that the responsibility for education is primarily the concern of parents and, the development of this principle has led as we shall see, to much controversy between Church and State.
The narrative that follows has been written in the hope that those who attended Drumbo National School, latterly to become Drumbo Primary School, might realise in a deeper way how much they owe to the opportunities afforded them in this unassuming rural school, in the heart of Co. Down.
History has been defined as "a past of more than common interest". It is
hoped that this edition of the history of education in Drumbo will prove
such to all who may read it, and that it will fall into the hands of all
lovers of Drumbo at home and abroad.
It is generally accepted that the notion of `popular education' came to Ireland with the advent of the Plantation during the early 1600s.
The two gentlemen who had responsibility for the Plantation
in this part of Co. Down, namely James Hamilton, subsequently Viscount
Claneboye, and Hugh Montgomery, later to be known as Sir Hugh Montgomery,
were themselves students in Glasgow, and as historians relate, were "not
unmindful of the cause of education." Viscount Claneboye, in his will dated
16th December, 1611 stated:
A survey carried
out in 1618-19 by Pynnar, recorded that:
Whether or not education had a foothold in Drumbo in these early days it is impossible to say, but there is ample evidence to suggest that the colonization of this area brought with it popular schools fashioned on the Scottish model. These would have been private pay schools and would not have received any encouragement or support from the civil authorities.
In the 1630s, owing to the influence of the Bishops, the control of the Established Church became much more rigorous and the co-operation which had existed between it and Presbyterians all but disappeared. By 1636 all ministers had to declare openly their conformity to the Established Church and by 1639, on the imposition of the Black Oath, all ministers were asked to report on the Presbyterians in their parishes. This was not an encouraging time for education or its development, as even after the 1641 rebellion and during the Twelve Years War, the period was described as a time when "all learning and convenient means for teaching the young had ceased."
mid-1640s an ordinance establishing Presbyterianism was ratified by
Parliament and during this period parish schools began to flourish again.
This development of education lasted until about 1661 when Charles II was
restored to the throne. At the time of Charles II restoration the
Established Church regained its former powerful position in the government
of the country. The Irish Parliament passed the Act of Uniformity in 1665
which indicated that "every schoolmaster keeping any public or private
school and every person instructing or teaching any youth in any house or
private family as a tutor or schoolmaster shall subscribe the declaration or
acknowledgement following." The penalty for non-subscribing was the loss of
The above is followed by another section of the Act which required every schoolmaster or tutor to take the oath of allegiance, and supremacy, before permission to teach would be given by the Bishop.
It is a matter of historical fact that at this time, Presbyterian ministers supplemented their income by starting, or continuing, a school in their parish. The Presbyterian minister, in Drumbo, at the time, was Henry Livingstone who was an avowed critic of the Established Church. He had been evicted from his church in Drumbo in 1661 for not submitting to ordination by a Bishop. There is no evidence which suggests that there was a school in Drumbo as early as this but, looking at the evidence from other areas it is more than likely that there was. If this were the case, the school would have been lost because Livingstone. or any Presbyterian teacher, would certainly not have subscribed to the Act.
Presbyterians have always clung to the necessity of maintaining an educated ministry and because of the persecution they were experiencing at this time classical schools or academies, sprang up throughout the country. The first of these schools was founded by the Rev. Thomas Gowan in 1670 in Antrim. Mr. Gowan was the father of the Rev. Thomas Gowan (Jnr.) who was minister in Drumbo Presbyterian Church from 1706 to 1717.
Two reasons can be given for suggesting that there could have been a school in Drumbo at this time. Firstly, Gowan would have had first hand knowledge of the benefits of education, seeing his father at work in the school at Antrim. Secondly, the ministerial profession in the 18th Century was more respectable than lucrative and payment of stipend often fell in arrears. It was little wonder that ministers had to supplement their living by farming or teaching. Most of the schools they operated were conducted in the Session room or in the minister's own house. These little schools, or academies as they were sometimes called, were necessarily fleeting, but valuable work was done in them.
Probably the earliest reference to education and to there being a `school' in Drumbo was made in 1785. The Rev. James Malcom who was minister in Drumbo Presbyterian Church had a son by the name of Andrew, and among the Malcom MSS there is a reference to Andrew Malcom and to the fact that "he was educated privately in the neighbourhood of Drumbo and Lisburn." Whether or not his father was the teacher is not recorded.
It is more than likely that any education that had been
available up to this time in Drumbo was conducted in the Session House
connected with the Presbyterian Church in the village. Certainly the
following advertisement for a teacher for Drumbo school, in July 1796, would
The 18th Century, witnessed rigorous enforcement of the laws against education and rendered teaching a dangerous calling. This would appear to be the reason why popular education, through Hedge Schools, became prominent. The Hedge School owes its origin to the laws against education and its name to the practice of keeping school under the sunny side of a hedge. These were pay schools and, in many cases, through their great love of learning, parents were prepared to pay for the education of their children more than their limited circumstances would permit.
Because the law forbade schoolteachers to
teach they were compelled to give instruction secretly. The law also
penalised householders who allowed teachers to use their premises, so the
teacher was forced into a remote spot out of doors, weather permitting.
Therefore, the sunny side of a hedge or bank, which hid the school from the
eye of a passer-by, would have been chosen. Sometimes a pupil was put on the
look out for the approach of a stranger or of a person who might be judged
to be an informer. If such a person appeared, the school dispersed for the
day; but it would always meet in some place else the following day. In this
way the Hedge School became the recognised channel for surreptitious
education in country districts where:
During the winter months the schoolteacher moved from place to place living upon the hospitality of people, earning some money by turning his hand to farm work or, if he dared, by teaching the children of his host.
Later, when the laws against education were somewhat less strictly enforced, school was held in a cabin, a barn, the home of the schoolteacher, or any building that might be given or lent for the purpose, but the name "Hedge School" still remained until well into the 19th Century.
The first official reference to a Hedge School in Drumbo can be found in the Second Report of the Commissioners of Irish Education Inquiry. This census of schools was taken in 1824 and reported on in 1826-27, and gives the following information about the school in Drumbo.
We know, from church records, that the Session House was not very spacious.
It would only have been designed for about twenty men in which to hold
meetings. To have forty or more children in it all day would have been very
cramped, although, attendance was not compulsory and was very irregular.
Even though the census return gives an average attendance of forty children
it can be assumed that there could have been up to twice this number on the
register. However mean the school building, and however great the bodily
discomfort of both teacher and pupils, the atmosphere in the Hedge Schools
was very much work related. The people wanted education for their children
and they ensured that they got it.
The willingness of the people to make sacrifices for the education of their children, and their co-operation with the schoolteacher were undoubtedly factors which helped the Hedge Schools to flourish. The schoolteacher had to take what he could get; any shelter was better than none, and what was obtained was usually given freely.
There are no records to inform us where James McKee, the teacher at the time, came from, but the surname McKee is a name with a long history in this area. Whether he came from the area, or to the area, is unclear. The position of the hedge schoolteacher was very tenuous and he was liable, at any time, to be deposed by a younger and and more able teacher. When a pupil had learned all that his local teacher had to give, he issued a challenge to the teacher to meet him in a contest of knowledge before competent judges. If defeated, the pupil would remain under his old teacher, but if victorious, he would go on to another school where he would continue his studies. Again a contest would take place with his new teacher; and once again, if victorious he would move on to another school. In this way the pupil increased his stock of general information, acquired real knowledge, and became more subtle in the art of argument and debate. After a year or two the pupil would return home to his old school and again challenge his first teacher. If victorious, the pupil would then take over the school and the teacher was compelled to move on to another district. This may well have been how James McKee arrived in Drumbo! From all accounts McKee must have been held in fairly high esteem by the people, because records show that he was also the teacher in the school at Carr at the same time. Whether McKee had assistants to help him run the two schools or whether they were only open on certain days of the week cannot be said with any degree of accuracy. His social standing among the people whose children he taught would have been remarkably high. The people would have regarded him as one of themselves, but different in the respect that he was a man of some learning. They regarded him as a friend whose counsel was sought in difficult circumstances and whose decisions in important matters carried weight. No function of consequence, wedding, baptism or harvest home took place at which he was not a prominent figure. Although his social prestige was immense, his income from all sources was small. At this time, James McKee had an annual income of 20 pounds from the children in Drumbo. He would have been charging parents about 2 shillings per quarter for reading lessons, Is. 8d per quarter for spelling and between 4 shillings and 7 shillings for arithmetic for the same period. In the majority of Hedge Schools at that time reading, writing and arithmetic were the only subjects taught and, for the children who attended them that was about all they needed.
Very little is known of the system of teaching in
the Hedge Schools, although, a member of the Commissioners of the Board of
Education in 1825 complained of the "mechanical and laborious methods by
which the memory is exercised" adding that "the understanding and moral
powers of children" seem to have no claim upon the teacher's attention.
However, the kind of text-book used in the schools is a fairly good
indication of the teaching methods employed. In some text-books which have
survived there are examples of lessons in `The Elements of Spelling' which
cite "the most common and general sounds of the letters, which children
should be habituated to, before they enter into the various changes of sound
which the same letters should have." The books also advance the theory that
"spelling came before reading. It is a fine thing to know how to read; but
we must know how to spell first! We cannot read until we can spell." After
the children had recited long lists of words and which they were expected to
master came the hope "now that 1 have learned to spell better; I hope I
shall be able and may read better now." Much of the work done was by oral
repetition, or rehearsing, and reading was done by what might be termed the
individual method for each child. This meant each child reading to the
teacher from whatever book was available; there was no such thing as an
individual reading book. Some of the books read were simple stories, fairy
tales and some were full blooded biographies of highwaymen and others that
were not at all suitable for children or young people to read. Children
brought from home whatever book they could find or was given them; and any
alleged harm these books did to the children was more than compensated by
their success in learning to read.
The teaching of arithmetic appears to have been more structured and systematic. Text-books of the time indicate - rules being clearly given, followed by two sets of examples; the first of which consisted of carefully graduated problems while the second contained more difficult questions. The books also showed correlation of arithmetic with other subjects such as Chronology, History and Mechanics. The author of the book had much faith in its application as he concluded: "I rely upon the event of any trials that may be made upon boys of the higher and lower classes in Ireland, in which I am certain it will be found that not only the common, but the higher parts of arithmetic are better understood and more expertly practised by boys without shoes and stockings, than by young gentlemen riding home on horseback, or in coaches, to enjoy their Christmas idleness."
Discipline was thought to be severe in the Hedge Schools. "The obligation to silence, though it may give the master more ease, imposes a new moral duty upon the child." James Nash who was an old hedge schoolmaster told his friend Thomas Meagher: "My school is below there, and 1 flog the boys every morning all round to teach them to be Spartans." The extent of the punishment which Nash administered is not known, but, like most other schoolmasters of his day, he would evidently take no excuses for the neglect of study.
The working of the Hedge Schools at that time is described in records kept by a teacher of his day's work: "Our school begins precisely at ten o'clock in the morning for we cannot begin earlier, as many of the children come from a distance. Every child must be in his seat by that time. I then open the school by reading a Psalm or Hymn. After that, they all repeat a task to me, of grammar or spelling, and then a lesson in classes, for I have them all classed together according to their several abilities. About twenty of the children write on paper with quills, twenty on slate and twenty on sand. After writing they all have a lesson, and a task of scripture verses which they commit to memory. The labour of the day is concluded by reading a Psalm and making a few remarks of a religious nature, suitable to the subject, and adapted to their capabilities, to which they listen with great attention."
This fairly unstructured form of education continued in Drumbo up until 1840; despite the introduction of a National Education Board throughout Ireland in 1831 and the building of a new schoolhouse, in 1836 in Drumbo, at a cost of 97 pounds paid by local subscription.
The Ordnance Survey Memoirs record the attendance of 63 pupils in Drumbo in 1836; 40 of whom were male and 23 female; and all Protestant. 23 of the pupils were under ten years of age, 1 was over fifteen and 1 over forty. The "master" was a Presbyterian.
It may be that this new school was a replacement of a previous one. Evidence for this comes from an Ordnance Survey Map of 1834, which clearly shows a National School in Drumbo on the site of the proposed school to be built in 1836.
The National Education Board, set up in 1831,
was an attempt to co-ordinate the education of young people and one "which
requires that all teachers henceforth to be employed be provided from some
model school, with a certificate of their competency, will aid us in a work
of great difficulty, to wit, that of suppressing Hedge Schools and placing
youth under the direction of competent teachers, and of those only." The
salaries of the teachers were to be paid by the Board who were also to be
responsible for the compiling and publication of school books. Grants were
also to be given for the building of school houses, and combined
denominational applications were to receive preference. There was to be no
reading of the Scriptures during the time set apart for secular instruction,
and the clergy were encouraged to instruct the children of their
denominations at suitable times.
The National Education Board was strongly opposed by members of the Established Church who regarded proselytism as a duty. They objected to "the exclusion of the Scriptures and the admission of a priest" into the schools to give religious instruction; and they accused the Board of "establishing Popery and promoting infidelity."
Presbyterian opposition was even greater. They held that the whole Bible, and not just extracts from it, should be the basis of National education; they objected to the Board's control over schools and teachers, and their restrictions as to school books; and they highly disapproved of allowing separate religious instruction to be given to Catholics. They even resorted to violence to close National Schools and they sought to make the education problem a political issue. As soon as the new system was announced by Lord Stanley, meetings were held in almost every town and village in Ulster. The people were led to believe that the Government were about to send round the police to take possession of their Bibles. Soon after these meetings gun clubs were established for the purpose of "furnishing the peasantry with the guns to defend their Bibles." The opposition in the North was particularly vigorous. Ministers who connected their schools with the Board were persecuted by their congregations and were nicknamed `New Board Ministers'. Schools were damaged both inside and outside. Crosses and `Ps' were painted on doors and windows and many ministers were exposed to violence.
The continued opposition to the National
Education Board on the part of Anglicans and Presbyterians soon obtained for
them a number of concessions, among which were that no clergyman of another
denomination could enter their schools and, that no child should be excluded
from religious instruction should that child wish to attend. In 1840, the
Presbyterians withdrew all opposition to the National Education Board
because by this time all their demands were conceded; they were then to
become the most ardent supporters of the Board. So on 9th April, 1840 the
following application was made by the Rev. Adam Montgomery, Patron of Drumbo
School, for readmission to the National Board of Education.
On 31st August, 1840, an inspector by the name of Mr. Patton visited
Drumbo school for the purpose of inspection as requested in April by the
Rev. Montgomery. He completed a report for the application of aid towards
payment of the teacher's salary and supply of books, and in so doing made
the following observations and noted that:
Consequently, Drumbo was connected to the National School
Board on 24th September, 1840, and they granted salary to
the teacher John Bailie and monies for text books for 75
pupils. The textbooks employed were issued by direction of
the Board. They were, for the period well illustrated and
bound; and were sold to pupils for a few pence and in
certain necessitous cases given gratis. Because they were in
continual use they were usually passed on from the older
members of a family to the younger, and even from parent to
Because Drumbo had been out of the National System of Education, John Bailie, the teacher, had been appointed by the manager of the school, Mr. Calwell and his salary would have been paid by the pupils for the instruction he provided. Following the granting of aid, by the Board, they paid John Bailie £3.0.0 on 3rd June, 1841, for five months instruction up to September 1840. The Board also paid Stewart Carse £2.13.4 for four months instruction during the same period. During this period the school was closed for one month "with the permission of the committee"; no reason for the closure was given. It would appear that Bailie and Carse taught in the school until Bailie left in October 1842 and, Carse in December of the same year. Carse had been paid £8.0.0 per annum, paid half yearly. Upon Bailie's departure, Samuel Graham was appointed to the school and was paid £4.0.0 on 28th April, 1843 for instruction since his appointment in October. Records don't show how long Graham stayed in Drumbo, but in 1848 William Dorman was appointed as teacher in the school and he remained until he resigned on 3rd March, 1849. The appointment of Graham's successor appears to have been a situation fraught with difficulties, as on 16th May, 1849 the National Education Board received a resolution from Mr. Calwell, the manager of the school, on behalf of the school committee, stating that they had:
... appointed him as Patron and manager in room of Rev. A. Montgomery who has resigned."
The resignation of the Rev.
A. Montgomery appears to have been prompted by the
appointment of George Brydon as teacher in Drumbo on 8th
May, 1849 for whatever reason.
". . . the school had been closed from 3rd March when William Dorman resigned and was re-opened on 8th May when George Brydon was appointed."
The National Education Board was requested by Mr. Calwell, the manager, to appoint Mr. James Robinson as temporary manager, from 29th September, 1851 "during my absence abroad for the winter."
In spite of the lack of other denominations in Drumbo, numbers were rising and an application from Mrs. Bessie Calwell to the Board for financial assistance for the salary of an assistant teacher on 29th June, 1861, indicated that the school "was being enlarged at present," from the initial 27 feet in length to 37 feet. The application goes on:
"There is only one room in the schoolhouse used by the three teachers employed namely - William Watson, Charles L. Horne and Hannabella Watson (alias Caughey). The application for financial aid is on behalf of Hannabella Watson, aged 18¼ who commenced teaching in Drumbo on 3rd June, 1861, having taught in Ballymacbrennan as an assistant and work mistress from May 1859 till 29th September, 1860. She was classed (I1I'-) by the Inspector. There are 78 males and 54 females on roll and the average attendance for the last six months has been 44.9 males and 25.2 females."
The inspector for the Board Mr. William Molloy, who replied to the application, came to Drumbo on 22nd August, 1861 and included in his report that:
"The principal is William Watson II2 and the other teachers are Thomas Entwistle a probationary assistant, and Hannabella Watson who is of good character. There are now 94 males and 65 females on roll; the average for the last four months was 46 males and 30 females and there are 89 children present today - 57 males and 38 females."
The report concludes that:
"Owing to the number of girls in attendance a female assistant is much required. As the average attendance (76) warrants a second assistant being recognised I beg to recommend that this application be formally entertained."
In 1863, the estate owned by Mrs. Calwell on which Drumbo National School stood, was sold, and the new owner was Robert Batt of Purdysburn. Anticipating a continuation of the cordiality extended to them by the Calwells, the Church Committee did not formally lodge any claim to the school or its grounds. In so doing they put themselves at the mercy of the new landlord and his successors for all time.
the Church Committee was not interfered with in the
management of the school until 1874 when, during a General
Election campaign the manager of the school, Mr. W. J.
Watson, accompanied by the Bailiff, arrived and demanded the
use of the school for the purpose of holding a political
meeting. A member of the Church Committee, who was present
at the time, referred Mr. Watson to a rule of the National
Education Board which prohibited the holding of such
meetings in any school receiving financial aid from the
Commissioners. Thus commenced a protracted and unfortunate
period of time in the life of the school. Mr. Watson did not
take too kindly to such an attitude and promptly served the
principal Mr. Robert Entwistle, with a notice of dismissal.
The Church Committee refused to part with his services,
which he had given since his appointment on 1 st August,
1870, and where forced to the necessity of dismissing Mr.
Watson, as manager, and appointing another one in his place.
The Church Committee were then served, by Mr. Batt, with a
notice to give up possession of the school. They refused and
were finally ejected from the premises. The Morning News of
18th February, 1876, gave the following account of their
Following this eventful day Mr. Watson was left in undisputed authority as manager of the school. But because he was not a resident of the district and, consequently unable to be in a position to discharge his duties, of manager, appropriately, the Commissioners for National Education decided to appoint a local manager and suggested the Rev. W. J. Warnock as being particularly well suited for the position. However, the new owner of the estate, Mrs. Way, being an Episcopalian herself, was determined to have an Episcopalian appointed, despite the wishes of the Board and the fact that of' the 70 children on roll in the school, 65 were Presbyterian. Subsequently, the Commissioners for National Education decided to withdraw financial aid from the school and it closed down, albeit temporarily, in August 1876. With the permission of the Commissioners the school was transferred to Rokeby Hall, where accommodation was kindly given by Mr. .1. D. Dunlop, for a period of about two weeks.
What happened during those two weeks to heal the
rift between the two parties hasn't been recorded but, the
school was reopened by Mr. Batt on I Ith September. The
following is the report that Mr. Watson, the manager,
submitted to the National Education Board when he made
application for financial support to be given by the
During this period Mr. Thomas Allen was appointed
Principal in 1883 at the age of 28. He inherited much of
the unpleasantness which had gone before, and which was to
continue until 1896 when:
Two members of Church Committee were delegated to visit in each townland to -solicit the members of the congregation for subscriptions towards the building of the new schoolroom and lecture hall."
Plans for the new schoolroom and lecture hall were completed by the end of May 1896 and tenders were sought immediately.
A Committee meeting on
9th July, f896 considered four tenders f-or the erection
of the new school. After careful deliberations it was
proposed and passed that the estimate of- Mr. Robert
George of York Lane, Belfast, for the amount of-£520 be
accepted. However, at a meeting of Committee on 20th
August, 1896 the question was posed "How and when are we
going to get money for the new school?" Mr. Thomas
Crawford, a Committee member, offered to lend the money at
the same rate of interest charged by the bank. This offer
following entries commencing with a date, are quotations
gleaned from Drumbo Presbyterian Church Committee minutes
pertaining to the school: