19th Century Secondary Education in Co. Cork, The Case of Mr. Knight’s Academy for Civil, Military, Naval. and Collegiate Boarding and Day School and Others.

It is hard at this remove of universal 2nd and 3rd level even getting towards 4th level education to appreciate how difficult in Ireland (at least in the 26 counties) the education of children beyond primary level was, until the advent of free second level education, in the mid 1960s.

Given the sectarian nature of society, education generally broke into confessional provision.  For Catholics the educational religious orders slowly began to provide a level of second level education.   Girls were probably better provided for.  For Protestants there was in West Cork the Bandon Grammar School. The Classical School in Shannon Square in Clonaklity and St. Faughnan’s School, attached to the Cathedral in Rosscarbery.  There was a limited Catholic attendance at these schools. Even someone like Dealy/Daly of Bantry, a timber merchant and ship owner confessed to a nephew in Canada in the 1840s that but for the kindness of friends he would have had to take his boys from that school due to inability to pay fees.

An alternative for those who could afford it was schools like Mr. Knights, and others in Cork.  Apart from the fees the parents would have had to pay to have the son (mostly) provided for by way of staying with relations in Cork or as a boarder. Only those with some level of comfort could afford this.  These schools were often mixed religiously and Denny Lane the note d Cork, lawyer, businessman and character often looked back with affection ,at the cross religious friend he made at such an institution.

The alumini rolls of Trinity College Dublin and the Kings Inns give some information as to the schools attended including Dr. Hamblins and others.

In the 20th century a hodgepodge of provision was provided by schools such as Tom Hosford’s in Skibbereen, the Boy’s Club in Bantry from the 1950s and various others short lived as one in Dunmanway for a few years in the 1940s.  For better off Catholics there were additional places at schools such as the Diocesan Seminary at Farrenferris in Cork, Rochestown College or St. Colemans Fermoy, for a limited few with proficiency in Irish the preparatory college in Ballyvourney. There was also a slow roll out of technical schools.

A limited number of scholarships were available but funded from the rates on property.  The farmers did not want rates increased so there was a limit to that.

The State’s capital budget was not applied to augmenting human capital rather to Soviet style projects like mega arterial drainage schemes together with a vast engineering workshop in Inchicore, with little long term benefit, or the bankrolling State Companies, again along Soviet lines of producing industrial alcohol from potatoes or in the tariff protected cartels with the Danish  cement manufactures (Cement Ltd.) and others.

The overall effect was that until at least 1970, many  young adults left their home townland armed with little more the their Primary Certificate and cardboard suitcase to labour in the factories and sites of England. Hewers of wood and drawers of water.  They came from the same pool which nowadays  provide data scientists, engineers and business people. Since the 1960 the only country in the world to surpass Ireland in educational attainment is South Korea.




The inserts are from Guy’s Directory, 1875-6, Co. Cork, available online Cork past and Present


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