St. Joseph’s National School, Corlea

When one considers the Faith History of any parish, the first thing to come to mind is the local church and its history. The local school too, plays a very important school in the passing on of the Faith from generation to generation. Corlea School is a good example of this. Those who built it had little else but faith to help them keep going and their descendants showed their desire to have it play a central role in handing on the faith. Although the surrounding countryside can be bleak, the school itself has stood the test of time and weather to serve the needs of community.

The aim of the Penal Laws was to keep the Irish poor, ignorant and obedient. Corlea School and many others like it, show that those laws failed in their objective. During the Penal Laws, the light of learning was kept burning by the travelling schoolmaster and his hedgeschool. After the relaxation of the Penal Laws, the Stanley Act of 1831, set up a state system of Primary Education in Ireland. During this time the country was racked by famines, culminating in the devastation of the Great Famine. This, however tragic as it was, didn’t prevent people and their priests from establishing a school in Corlea in 1893, thus, Corlea School, born in the aftermath of famine and land wars in the nineteenth century, serving the educational needs of generations of children.

From 1920s and up to the 1970s, facilities remained basic in the school, with outdoor dry toilet, no running water and open fires. However, with the advent of the New Curriculum and the introduction of the Board Management System, facilities began to improve. The school building now provides comfortable learning conditions for its pupils and is the focal point for adult education classes and meetings.

Far from capitulating to the ravages of time Corlea School has, in all aspects, played a central role in serving the needs of its community, a testimony, if any were necessary, to people’s desire to educate their children. This empathy with school was very evident during the Centenary celebrations, which incorporated an exhibition in the school attended by the Bishop, a Mass, a Radio Programme and Video, and the launching of a Centenary Book at a function in a local hotel, attended by hundreds of its past pupils.

As we enter the new millennium, the world is changing fast. Faith and morals and indeed all the traditional values, which have stood the test of time and oppression, are under all sorts of pressure. It has fallen upon the shoulders of teachers and schools to try to pass on the faith, uphold standards and impart Christian values. The small school, in the local context, provides the best chance for children to learn, develop a sense of community and understand the sacrifices of their forefathers to give them their educational opportunity. Corlea School played that role over the last hundred years, continues to play it successfully and hopefully will continue to be a focus for learning and community service for many years to come.