Catholic School Heritage

Ballywilly, Ballyhegan, St Oliver Plunkett’s

St Oliver Plunkett’s School Ballyhegan is the twenty first century continuation of local commitment to formal education for St Oliver Plunkett’s School Ballyhegan is the twenty first century continuation of local commitment to formal education for Catholic children in Ballyhegan and neighbouring townlands, which began around 1830. While there is a long history of scholarship and learning in Ireland, formal schooling was available only to the better off. The penal Laws made things even more difficult but it is clear that there was a desire among the population to have their children educated. This gave rise to a practice of people, usually men, with some education, setting up as teachers and taking pupils often in their (the teachers’) homes. At the height of the enforcement of the penal laws the school was sometimes conducted out of doors or in farm buildings, giving rise to the to the name “Hedge School”.

Early Nineteenth Century

The map is dated 1830 and indices Ballywilly National school
The map is dated 1830 and indices Ballywilly National school

Authentic documentation of state interest in education provision exists in the Second Report of the Commission of Irish Education. The report gives returns from a nationwide survey conducted in 1824 and published in 1826. It appears to have been very thorough and provided for the first time the names (and religion) of all the teachers and all the schools in the country. Three schools with Catholic Teachers were located within a short distance of each other:

  • Tullymore; George Halligan;
  • Ballyhagan: Patrick Kelly;
  • Ballywilly : Paul O’Neill.

It should be stated that most of these early nineteenth century schools and the National Schools, which came into being from 1831 onwards, seemed to draw children from their immediate locality regardless of religious affiliation. The National School system attempted to reflect this provision as will be seen in the following section.