In light of Johnny Dooher’s talk on the 7th November 2015 on the subject of ‘Pre-Famine South Derry / Londonderry’ covering life and times and the education system in existence in our area then, we thought the following newspaper article from 1824 would, perhaps, shed some light on the Catholic education system existing at that point in the Maghera area. Naturally, since this letter comes from the Catholic Church, it only covers the Catholic part of the education system, but should still prove interesting to both students of local history and those with an interest in the early nineteenth century education system of this era, alike.
Dublin Evening Post 20th May 1824
“Sir “Maghera, May 10, 1824.
“I am directed by Dr. McLaughlin, Catholic Bishop of the Diocess [sic] of Derry, to transmit to you, for the information of the Catholic Association, the number of Schools in the Parishes of Maghera and Killylough. I have to inform you, Sir, that there are, in the first place, twelve schools in the Parishes of Maghera and Killylough, in which three hundred and seventy-six Catholic Children are taught either reading, writing, or arithmetic, and sometimes English grammar ; this is not exactly the number present, but it may be a great deal less than the number, upon an average that attends the School seven or eight months in the year.-
These Schools receive no aid, either from Parliamentary grants or any public body or association whatever. There are two other Schools, one for males, and the other for females, in the Parish of Maghera ; these are supported by the Worshipful Draper’s Company of London ; in the first are sixty males, in the other sixty-one females, of the Catholic Religion. These two Schools are upon the Lancastrian system, under the superintendence of a certain number of Governors, of whom the Priest of the Parish where the School is established is generally one- to each Pupil are given one pair of shoes and stockings yearly, and are further entitled, under certain restrictions, to the sum of £10, the males when they go to trades, the females when they marry.
“I have also to state, teat [sic] we have two Sunday Schools in the Chapel of the above Parishes. In one of these, on the last Sunday, were four hundred and ten Pupils, one hundred and sixty males, and two hundred and fifty females ; in the other Sunday School there were, in September last, three hundred and sixty-five Children, in a few Sundays more I expect they will greatly exceed this number ; these Children are taught gratis, by such Teachers as are, from time to time, appointed and approved of by the Clergyman of the Parish. I think it is my duty to add, that we have in the above Parishes, what I will call a Book Society, it was formed in December last, the Members are about one hundred and thirty in number, they contribute each five pence monthly, and have already purchased £20 worth of excellent Moral and Religious Books, it is a sort of Circulating Library. The Clergymen of the Parish thought it their duty to place themselves at the head of this Infant Society, in order to keep it together, and by their influence to diffuse a spirit for Reading and Religion throughout the whole of their Charge. Let the ingenuity of Mr. North reconcile this with the alledged [sic] exertions of the Catholic Clergy to perpetuate the ignorance of their Flocks.
“I have the honor to be, Sir,
“Your obedient, humble Servant,
Curate of Maghera and Killyleagh.
“P.S. We have had in Maghera something in the shape of a Kildare-street School, it is at present shut up, as ever was the Temple of Janus. I am told it will soon be opened again. Books, no Moll Flanders at all, but, in general, Enfield’s Speaker, History of England, Scott’s Lessons. New Testaments, Aesop’s Fables, Spelling Books, the Exile of Siberia-