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A Tallaght Hedge School

These extracts are taken from a book called Malachi Horan Remembers, in which the author describes what it was like to attend a hedge school….Malachi Horan lived from 1847 until 1945. His book was first published in 1943.

Malachi Horan

 “...the first school ever I was at might have changed me. But it did not. It was the hedge school below there at Killenarden Four-Roads. A low thatched barn it was, and it belonging to the widow Loughlan, the midwife. There was a hearth in it, a plank form, some hay in the corner, and its walls were lime-dashed. Troth, but it was a cold spot….

Hughes was the name they had on the master. Be the holy nation, but he was a hard martyr! He was six foot tall and as thin as a harrow. He had black teeth like a boar, and they as long as your finger. He wore the tall-hat - the nailer’s chimney - and a long cotamore to his feet…

He lived and slept in the Widow Loughlan’s barn. Each scholar brought him a penny a week and a sod, or maybe two, of turf of a morning. But sometimes my hands were so cold that I could not carry the turf. He got his dinner from a different neighbour every day….you could tell the house he had been well fed at, for going back to the school he would have a child of the place on his back!
When we got in of a morning he would be lying in his blankets in the straw in the corner, for the divil a fire was in it till we brought in the turf. He would teach the first hour of school from his blankets in the hay...He kept a bone ruler over the door, and he kept us straighter with it than he ever kept a line. He used be telling us that there was no learning outside the Universal Reading Book, the Geography, and the “rule of three”.
The children hated and feared him. He had only to look at you to bring out the sweat on your brow and the tremble to your knees. He was cruel hard on two boys name of Doyle….He would catch hold of them by the hair of their heads and bang them together till you would have thought they would burst like eggs. We all got a touch, but they got the worse.”

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