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Scoil Naomh Molaise, Grange, Co. Sligo

Ballyconnell School


Ballyconnell school was built in 1901, it was made with limestone. My great great grandfather Hugh Conway who had a horse and cart helped carry the stone used in the building from ‘Foran’s Alt’ over at the sea. The school was split into two sections, one half for the boys and the other for the girls. My great grandmother Mary Ann Conway and her sisters and brother attended the school. The children had to bring a sod of turf with them to school every day. There were stories of children taking turf from the Conway family’s stack next door to the school.

There was a potbelly stove in each of the rooms.

It was a two teacher school. Probably the most famous of all the teachers who taught there was Master Holmes. He was said to have been a great teacher but was very fond of illegal poitín. The priest wanted him fired. One day an inspector came, Master Holmes was still in bed, the priest sent a boy across the fields to his house to get him. He arrived over with his trousers on back to front and was fired. Another teacher Mrs Fleming is pictured in the photograph below.

Mrs Fleming, her daughter Netta and children from the school pictured in the 1920’s

There is a poem called The Ballyconnell School which was often recited by local people. 

The Ballyconnell School


From the rockbound coast of Cloonagh,

To the green hills of Knocklane,

From the pebbly shores of Raughley

To the far off Munianane.

The farmer folk, the fisher folk,

The foreigner and the fool:

They headed West dressed in their best

For the Ballyconnell School.

The Griffens, they are beautiful:

Their faces are like the dawn.

They live down in a hollow

In a vale at Cloonghbawn.

Another beauty is Miss Meehan

(She comes from Attyduff).

Some say she’s fantastic,

I think she’s plain enough.

The Corcorans from Collooney

Were of a high degree,

But whether they are high or low,

It’s not to do with me.

Their father is a farmer,

He owns both sheep and cows:

His son is down in Holmes’ place

To instruct the Maugherows.

When his day’s work is over

He goes to meet his mark,

The beautiful Miss Doherty,

From the hills of Carr na gCearc.

Now I’ll quit about the teachers

And I’ll turn upon the guards:

I’m sure you will excuse me,

You know I can’t hit too hard.

There’s Sergeant McGinty

(He’s a man of high renown)

He has bent his whole endeavour

To keep the poitín down.

He’s on the tramp, both dry and damp

From morning until dawn.

And you’re sure to always meet him

On the road to Cloonaghbawn.

The fairhaired Sergeant Martin, I can’t say much to him,

He’s lazy and he’s easygoing and he’s always time enough

And you’re always sure to meet him

On the road to Attyduff.

Ballyconnell school closed in 1968. Canon Ward used to say mass in the old schoolhouse one evening a week until the late 1980’s when St Patrick’s church was struck by lightening. It was around this time that my grandfather the painter Seán McSweeney began to use the schoolhouse as his studio. He loved it as a studio and it was particularly special for him because his mother had gone to school there. I loved visiting the studio when my grandfather was working and liked when I got to paint there.

My grandfather at work in his studio

Last changed: Jun 26 2019 at 8:23 PM