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History of Manulla School
Compiled by Tom Armstrong
- first printed in School Reunion Booklet  2004

IThe First National School in Manulla, established under the Commissioners of Education, was opened on 01/03/1852. The girls were taught by Sarah Egan who had previously taught in Cloggernagh N.S. and the boys by Patrick Hughes. The girls section was a thatched room 16’ x 18’ x 8.5’ and furnished with 2 desks, 2 tables and 8 forms for 40 pupils. The boys room was a thatched building 40’ x 16’ x 7’ and the furniture consisted of 3 tables and 8 forms for 50 pupils.


Fees of one shilling per week were requested. Religious Education was provided for a half-hour on Saturdays. School hours were from 10.00 a.m. to 3.00 p.m. daily. The school manager was Martin Barrett, Land Agent and Farmer of Prizon. He was also manager of Prizon National School.


School Inspector Ed. Mac Creanor visited the school on 15/03/1852 and reported an attendance of 36 out of a total of 90. He reported that the condition of the building was tolerable. The school closed after a short period. The location of the school is unknown.


During the 1860’s a wandering teacher named Ellicott frequently visited Manulla. He stayed in local houses and taught in a building (now gone) situated on the south side entrance to Jimmy Staunton’s house. At this time there had been some local clamouring for education to be provided in the area on a full time basis. A deputation approached Canon Gibbons P.P. and he got the Commissioners of Education to agree to the establishment of a school, provided he procured both a suitable building and a teacher. The building was donated, free of charge by one Billy Armstrong. It was a long, low thatched building, and had been in use as a dwelling house.


Canon Gibbons persuaded James Kelly who was teaching in Balla National School to move to Manulla as Principal. The school opened in 1868. After some years, walking daily from Balla or travelling by train in inclement weather James Kelly bought a house close to the school, married Joanne O’ Malley, a teacher in the Mercy Convent N.S. in Castlebar and raised a family of 8.


The school population increased rapidly. Most of the pupils were between 10 and 20 years old. James Kelly who had taught on his own was joined by Mrs. Biddy Mc Hale (who lived opposite Hennelly’s Bar), and later by his wife Joanne.

When the thatched building could no longer accommodate the increasing number of pupils a site at the crossroads was procured from Michael Mc Ellin. A new building was erected and opened in 1894. The old thatched building was sold by Canon Gibbons P.P. for £5.00 and reverted back again as a dwelling. It has remained so to this day and is now the home of Mrs. Ann Rumley


Until well into the 20th century it was common for older pupils to attend school only during the winter, or during slack work periods at home, or in England. A local postman, one Thomas Gavin, attended school in 1910 after returning his postbag to the Post Office where he collected his school bag.


The new building of 1984 was built entirely with a state grant, the amount of which was never revealed, but it was generally thought to be £100.00.


Though joined as one building, there were separate Boys and Girls schools, each having two teachers.


The school manager was Lord Kilmaine, who was a frequent visitor to the school. He was renowned for giving generous prizes for all kinds of schoolwork. Each year he held a special sports and entertainment day – a cart arriving in the afternoon with “goodies”. On such days the school enrolment greatly increased as many new, but not so young pupils turned out to avail of Kilmaine’s hospitality. The boys especially looked forward to the sports day, as Kilmaine always presented the school with a leather football, an extremely rare object pre World War 1.


In September 1916, the Commission of National Schools agreed to the transfer of infant boys to the girls’ school as the boys’ school was overcrowded and the number of girls had fallen dramatically. This arrangement lasted until 1942 when both schools were amalgamated into one 3 Teacher school.


In 1940 the Irish Land Commission acquired the lands of Willie McCann (adjoining the school). Very Rev. T. Canon Reidy P.P. staked a claim to a play field and obtained 3.5 roods. The third school (1950) was erected on part of this site, and the rest is now the present playground.


The 1950 school cost £4,600, there being a state grant of £4,400. It opened its doors on 4/11/1950, and was built by Michael Gibbons, Contractor, Belcarra. Central Heating and new sanitary facilities were added in 1970, the Contractors being Vincent Jordan, Breaffy and Martin Murphy, Roslahan.


In 1981 a new General Purpose Room etc. was added at a cost of £45,000. (Local contribution £6,650). The contractor was Gerry McGrath, Ballinrobe. The present school was completed in September 2002 at a cost of £487,219. There was a local contribution of £25,000.

Permanent Staff up to 2004

James Kelly Balla and Manulla 1868-1917

Biddy Mc Hugh (Mc Hale) Manulla 1875-1916

Joe Kelly Manulla 1917-1929

Joanne O’Malley (Kelly) Manulla 1886-1928

Mary J. Kelly Manulla 1916-1922

Evelyn Sheehy (Galvin) Tuam and Belcarra. 1912-1916

Mary Barrett Lisnolan and Balla. 1910-1942

Ann Colgan Bohola 1890-1916

Mary O’Malley Carnacon. 1928-1933

Kathleen Kelly (Armstrong). Manulla 1922-1966

John Nestor Belcarra. 1929-1967

Margaret Mc Nicholas (Langan) Balla. 1933-1955

Phil Walsh (Farrell) Manulla and Castlerea. 1955-1959

Mary Reilly Belcarra. 1959-2002

Teresita Prendergast (Foley) Louisburgh & C'bar. 1966-1983

Tom Armstrong Manulla. 1967-2003

Angela Forde (Macken) Balla 1983-2002

Fionnuala Costello (Jordan) Knockmore 1993

Noel Lyons Balla 1998

Maisie Connolly Balla. 2002

Maura Higgins Carnahan. 2002

Helen Costello (Cunnane) Rathduff. 2003

Chairman's Note: (as taken from booklet for Reunion 2004)

On behalf of the organising committee of Manulla National School Reunion, it is my pleasure to welcome all pupils past and present and their friends to our reunion day on this the first Sunday in August 2004. I would like to thank everybody who made this day possible, particularly the hard working organising committee, Mr Tom Armstrong for his school history, Fr Francis Mc Myler for his celebration of the sacrament of the Eucharist, the present staff and Board of Management of Manulla National School, Manulla Community Centre Committee, all our kind sponsors, everybody who helped in any way, and last but not least yourselves the past pupils and friends for whom this reunion is all about.


Tá súil againn go banfaigh muid go léir an-taitneamh as an lá seo. Mollam díabh dian- smaoineamh a dhéanamh ar an saibhreas a d’fhag an toideachas ar an timpeallacht seo na bliainta anuas. Déantar cuimhnu freisin ar an taim nuair nach raibh oideachas ar fail do chách. Tá suil againne, an coiste, do dtabharfaidh an teacht le cheile seo deis dúinn go léir, mothucháin ardú meanma a athbheochaint, agus bród I scoil náisiúnta “Magh Fionbhalbha” a chothú. Míle Buíochas do chuile dhuine.


John McHale, Chairman, Organising Committee.

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