« ZurückWeiter »
of the Primate of Ireland, the Royal School seems to have always flourished, and maintained a high character; neglect and more direct abuses had crept into many of the others. Let us see what state the Royal Schools are now in, and whether they have received benefits from the general improvement of the spirit of the age. The Commissioners of 1791 say of Armagh School, “Of this school we cannot speak too favourably.” In 1807, the Commissioners stated that no school in Ireland maintained a higher reputation than that of Armagh ; and the present condition of the school is reported, by the Commissioners of 1858, to be most satisfactory. Much of its efficiency has resulted from the liberality of successive Primates, who have been its visitors, patrons, and benefactors; and this has been candidly admitted by the Commissioners. The schoolhouse and offices, built between the years 1771 and 1791, cost more than £5,000, of which the sum of £3,000 was contributed by the then Primate. The master's residence was built at the same period, by the liberality of Dr. Gruber, then master. A similar act of liberality the part of the present Lord Primate is thus noticed, Report, p. 54:
“In 1850, shortly after the appointment of the present master, the Archbishop of Armagh advanced, interest free, a sum of £3,296 for putting the buildings, especially the dormitories, in a satisfactory state, adapted to the modern system of the most improved schools. This act of liberality of the Primate at once contributed, in a remarkable degree, to the efficiency of the school, and rendered it a model for imitation, as regards its internal arrangements. It is almost unneceseary to say, that it is now in a most flourishing and efficient state."
Of Dungannon School, the Commissioners report that “They consider the state of instruction to be satisfactory. The arrangements made by the master to place a sound English and mercantile education within the reach of such pupils as are not intended for a university course, are creditable to him, and highly useful to the inhabitants of the town." The Royal Schools of Enniskillen (which is the most richly endowed of all) and Raphoe, are stated to be flourishing and well conducted. The others — Cavan, Banagher, and Carysfort-are in the same wretched condition in which former Commissioners found and left them.
Next in importance are the Endowed Schools founded by Erasmus Smith. Smith was an alderman of the city of London, who acquired considerable estates in Ireland during the troubles consequent on the Rebellion of 1641. In the year 1657 he conveyed his estates to trustees, to found five Grammar Schools, which may be characterised as Protestant institutions; and by an Act of the Irish Parliament, in the year 1723, power was given to the governors to devote some of their funds to establish exhibitions and fellowships in Trinity College, and to found English Schools. The estates are considerable, the rental exceeding £7,000 per annum ; and four “Grammar Schools” and 140 “English Schools are maintained, either in the whole or in part, by this endowment. In the year 1791 there were four “Grammar Schools” and four "English Schools" only, supported by the governors; and the Commissioners in that year reported that the governors
had, on the whole, executed their trust with fidelity. They also noticed the efficient and creditable state of three of the Grammar Schools, and that great care had been taken in managing the funds and estates of the charity.
The lapse of half a century does not seem to have improved the character or efficiency of those schools. The Commissioners of 1858, who seemed perhaps to be rather more anxious to detect abuses than observe merit, rather to alter than improve whatever existed, yet appear to have approved of the management of some few of the numerous schools maintained by this large endowment. Perhaps the governors attempted too much with inadequate means, and thus have brought on themselves discredit, if at least we are to trust the sweeping censure passed on them in the fourth volume of the present lynx-eyed Commissioners, who, in page 8, state as the result of their inquiries :-" Thus the governors have not only neglected the primary trust of their Grammar Schools, but have not managed prudently the secondary trust of English Schools, which they have developed to an extent disproportionate to their resources.” The attempt was, at least, evidence of a commendable anxiety to fulfil their trust, and might exonerate them from some portion of censure incurred by their failure.
The "Incorporated Society” was founded in the year 1733, and is possessed of an annual revenue derived from landed estates, and money in the funds, of about £8,000 per annum. The original design of the founders of the Society, and for which they were incorporated, was to maintain “a sufficient number of English Protestant Schools, wherein the children of the Irish natives might be instructed in the English tongue and the fundamental principles of true religion.” It was essentially a trust for the promotion of the Established religion by means of proselytism, and for many years the Society directed its labours to that object, with but doubtful success. From the time of its foundation, until the year 1832, the Society received large grants from Parliament in aid of its funds. The schools were widely and unfavourably known as “Charter Schools.” From the year 1803 a gradual change has been introduced into the management of the Society and the objects of the charity. In that year Protestants were admitted as pupils to these schools. After the year 1825 it became difficult to induce the children of Roman Catholics to attend, and from that time the nature of the schools was changed. “ From being schools for the conversion of Roman Catholics, they became schools for the education of members of the Established Church."- Report, p. 92. The Society at present maintains eight Boarding Schools and twelve Day Schools. In the year 1839, the Society adopted a system of electing children “on the foundation at competitive examinations. This system has been found to work well, and has received almost unqualified approval. The management of this endowment appears to be very creditable to the governors, among whom are many gentlemen of high educational attainments.”—Report, p. 97. There is an excellent Training School at Santry, which will well repay the labour of a visit. The Commissioners seem to have been struck with the management of this charitable endowment, and to have bestowed as much praise as they could find it in their nature to give to any institution, into whose abuses more
especially they were appointed to inquire, and the defects of which they were expected to detect or notice. Thus, in page 98 of their Report, they say :
“We are well satisfied with the state of the Boarding Institutions of the Incorporated Society; and we think that the greatest credit is due to the Society for the contrast that these institutions present to the state in which they were at so late a period as 1825. The Society were not deterred by the failure of the system which they had previously pursued, by the discredit into which the Society had fallen, or by the withdrawal of the large annual grants of public money. They courageously adopted an entirely new policy, and devoted their exertions to turning the great charity they had charge of to the best account, for the benefit of those who could conscientiously avail themselves of it."
It is rather refreshing to hear praise after so much, and perhaps well-deserved, censure of other institutions.
Alas, for poor human nature ! the next class of Endowed Schools presents a remarkable and sad contrast to those of the Incorporated Society. “ Diocesan” Free Schools were founded in the year 1570 ; and, after a precarious, fitful, and always puny existence, for nearly three hundred years, are still unimproved and, as we believe, unimprovable. These schools were established and lowed by Stat. 12 Eliz. c. 1, Ir. The appointment of the masters in four of the dioceses, Armagh, Dublin, Meath, and Kildare-was vested in the prelates of those dioceses ; of all others the patronage was vested in the Lord Lieutenant; he, too, was empowered to fix the master's salary, one-third of which was to be paid by the ordinary, and two-thirds by the parochial clergy. The salaries were fixed shortly after the foundation at a sum then probably deemed liberal and commensurate with the value of money
and scale of church livings, and continued unchanged from the time they were originally fixed until the year 1824. No surprise need, therefore, be excited at the low and helpless state into which the Diocesan Schools have fallen. The endowment was originally small and most defective in principle. It was a tax which both the visitors and tax-payers had a common interest in evading. The salary of the master is but a small part of the expense of a good free school-onethird was payable by the bishop, two-thirds by his clergy. No adequate provision was made for the repair or even building of schoolhouses; and thus the benefits hoped to be derived from the establishment of a number of good Model Schools were never realized. Queen Elizabeth was not lavish either in her grants of honours or her grants of lands; and in truth the word endowment, as applied to those schools, was rather inappropriate. It was more correctly the imposition of a personal and unpopular tax on a small and poor class (for the clergy were poor), to be managed by the tax-payers for the benefit of others, and without any provision for the
collection or due application of it. The result has been what might have been expected. It appears from the Report, which we have so often quoted, that in the year 1791 the whole number of Diocesan effective schools in all the dioceses was only twentythere should have been thirty-four. In the year 1809 the whole number of Diocesan Schools in operation was thirteen. But a slight improveent has been since manifested in these ill-endowed and badly-managed stitutions. They have ever been failures. There are now nominally renty Diocesan Schools, but of these seven are not in operation, and the remainder one-half were not favourably noticed. We have thus glanced at the principal endowments for schools in reland ; of these it would seem that the schools of the Incorporated ociety and Royal Schools were the most efficient and the best managed, nd the Diocesan Schools incomparably the worst. The smallness of he endowments, not exceeding £1600 per annum for all of this last lass of schools, would alone account for their inefficiency ; but many sther causes combine and assist in producing this result. The diffizulty of collecting this small income, of inducing grand juries to build or repair the schoolhouses, the total want of supervision and abuse of patronage, all aided in degrading the character and impeding the working of these schools. It is not necessary to allude to them farther.
This and the preceding classes are intimately connected with the Established Church.
The last division of “endowed” schools is composed of various endowments, and connected with various creeds of Christians. Of some-such as Midleton, Swords, Kilkenny, Drumkeeran, Robertstown, Leamy's, Wilson's Westmeath, &c.—the endowments are considerable, and respectable and fairly-fita dged schools have been or are maintained from these revenues, assisted by the payments from pupils. But of many, and indeed the great majority, the endowments are very limited, and even with the assistance of the payments derived from the pupils, are insufficient to support any but the most rudimentary schools, ill-managed and badly attended. In the voluminous mass of evidence contained in the first three volumes of the Commissioners, will be found some rather amusing instances of what an "endowed” school may be, or become, from neglect or other causes. We shall reward our readers for their patience in perusing thus far, by selecting some few extracts from the reports of the Assistant Commissioners, printed in the third volume. Raheny Endowed School, p. 45:
“ This endowment is in a most unsatisfactory state. The school seems a mere sham and delusion. The attendance of scholars is wretchedly small. I found only four children present. The schoolmaster holds the multifarious offices of parish clerk, postmaster, sexton, and bellringer; and receives £8 per annum for part of the Schoolhouse, used as a Dispensary."
Whitechurch Boys' School, p. 47:
“I examined the only pupil whom I saw present, and found him very backward indeed.”
Ballyroan, p. 209.-"The school seems never to have had even a chance of success from the time of its foundation. The charity, for ninety-nine years !! previous to 1831, had been involved in litigation, in Chancery, of course. The masters appear to have been sinecurists, or men of small capacity; and the present master, whether by illfortune or bad management, belongs to the former class. The schoolhouse is in a state of dilapidation, which may be called disgraceful." The endowment is about £200 per annum ; and two pupils were present when the Assistant-Commissioner visited this wretchedly-managed institution.
Perhaps, however, the most unique establishment is that of “ Tomregan,” p. 585, of which the Assistant-Commissioner who visited it reports, that
“Nothing can exceed the state of neglect into which this school has fallen. The endowment, small as it is, is entirely thrown away at present, and the school is deserted by everybody. The master, from his delicate state of health, appears quite unfit for his post ; and I shuddered with horror at the sight of the cart-whip with which he corrects the boys. The master says he instructs in reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, and grammar; but I do not believe this to be true, in point of fact--as he has no books suitable for such instruction. [He would seem to have no scholars either. ] He admitted he bad no books in use in the school but a Bible and Testament. He had a mass of fragments of other books, but no perfect copy of any text-book on geography, grammar, or arithmetic. The schoolhouse is in a state of dilapidation, and the school is unvisited."
Unfortunately but too many instances could be stated of the utter failure of the present conductors of Endowed Schools to realise the intentions of the benevolent founders. Throughout the three volumes may be seen very many cases of gross neglect on the part of patrons, masters, visitors, and trustees. Nor is this the case with regard to private bodies or small endowments only. Private persons and public bodies seem in many instances equally to have neglected their important duties of inspection, and abused their patronage ; and hence the discreditable state into which so many of the endowments have now fallen. Nor are the Commissioners of Education, to whom the Legislature has entrusted most ample powers and important functions, less remarkable than other parties for the ill-discharge of their duties. Nor is this much to be wondered at, when their very intelligent secretary, Mr. Kyle, in his evidence, vol. ii., pp. 96-7, states that "latterly, for the last few years, it has been very difficult to procure the attendance of the Commissioners, and that he has had to make personal solicitations to induce members to attend.”
It would be tedious to go more minutely through the uniuviting contents of the three first volumes of the Commissioners. The curious reader, who thinks everything gravely recorded by Commissioners, and paid for in a “Blue Book,” important, will find pages devoted (vol. i., p. 840, &c.) to the discussion of the interesting point of whether the question, " A herring and a half for three halfpence, how many for one shilling ?” (we used to put it for elevenpence) is an arithmetical question, or only a truism ; and what somewhat surprised us is, that an intelligent witness stated that he did not think that any gentleman who ever sat upon the fellowship bench was able to answer this
intricate question!! He may find some interest, too, in reading of the diligent inquiry made by the Commissioners into the pea-shooting and other amusements unchecked at Midleton School during the hours of serious business ; but we cannot detain him by such trifles, or even notice the management of many excellent schools, such as those under the control of