Scoil Réalt na Mara began its life on 1st February, 1973, when, with a staff of nine, the pupils of Kilmore, Tomhaggard, Kilturk and Chapel Gardens moved in. The expansion in the numbers of our thriving community was reflected in the enlargement of the school in 1978. The exceptional growth in school-going population -currently over 370 pupils- led to further school building upgrades over a number of years and a new extension built in 2013 along with a magnificent sports hall.
Tomhaggard N.S. was the first school established in the parish. This single-roomed school measured thirty-five feet by fifteen internally and stood by the old churchyard of St. Anne. It was built in 1838 from local funds.
The Bord of Education was established in 1831 and initially gave grants to help with teachers salaries and after a time gave a two-thirds grants towards building. The schools were normally vested in local trustees, who were to ensure that the terms of the grant were kept.
Tomhaggard national school had no trustees. It had, however, a patron. In 1913, this office was filled by Canon M. O'Gorman, P.P., Kilmore, its manager being Rev. J. Rowe, C.C. The teachers who worked in the school were as well as may be determined- Mrs. Keeling, Mr. O'Gorman and Mrs. O'Gorman. Miss Lily O'Byrne replaced Mrs. O'Gorman, who was replaced by Mrs. P. Byrne in 1929. Mr. Jim Ryan succeeded Mr. O'Gorman, who came from the publichouse in Tomhaggard, and was himself replaced by Mr. George Whitmore on his departure to Bree.
The toilets for the school were situated across the road - there were no traffic hazards in those days. It is of interest to note that the school was built about the time that the first railway was laid in Ireland.
Kilturk was the second school to be built in the parish. This two-roomed school was built in 1859. The large room measured 35' 6" x 18' 9" and was 11' 10" internal height, whereas the small room measured 16' 11' x 14' 0" and was only 8' 9" in height. Evidently, the " babies " didn't need as much room!
Again it was a non-vested school, built entirely from local funds. It was managed by the parish priests of Kilmore. The Walsh sisters taught in the school in the beginning. They married, one becoming Mrs. Fender of Grange, the other Mrs. Cleary of The Moor. It appears that they were succeeded in the school by the Sisters of St. John of God, who came from Ballyharty towards the end of the 1880's. Sisters Aidan, Zeno and Laurence probably taught here.
The school was extended for them - a galvanised room being added. When the Sisters moved to Chapel Gardens about 1910, this iron structure was moved with them, the ball alley being erected in its stead. Mr. James O'Brien replaced the Sisters and was principal of the school until 1948. The pupils then were ail boys from second to eighth standard. Mr. O'Brien was succeeded by Mr. Maurice Cahillane, who taught here until his death in 1971. The assistants were: Miss May O'Brien (James' sister),Susan Maguire, who was there about 1924, Christine Stone, who became Mrs. Mc-Gill and taught in the school until the 1930's.; Anastatia "Sadie" Codd, who was replaced by Mrs. Cahillane in 1944.
It is of interest to note that many of the pupils stayed at school much later than is the case now. It should be recalled that for almost all national school education was all that was available at the time. Records of boys beginning their final year at the age of fifteen plus are quite common.
Many of the pupils came to school along now disused paths through the farmland. One such led from the Bank of Ballygrangans to Kilturk, another led from Grange and came by the Heps of Crosses. The salaries of the Master and Junior Assistant Mistress were in 1921 £19 and £8 respectively.
Mulrankin N.S. was the next school to be established in the parish. It was opened on 1st November, 1874. It was built on ground bought in the auction of the large estate of Ebenezer Rowe of Mountcross. The deeds of this sale are still preserved.
It would appear that there was an earlier school on the site from the lease of 1841, but no record now exists of it. Fr. P. Mayler, P.P., Kilmore; Nicholas Keating of Sarshill, farmer, and Michael Browne of Bridgetown, shopkeeper and farmer, were trustees appointed in the deed of sale.
Teachers in the school were - Master James Byrne, who taught about 1885 with Miss Kate Whitty. A Master Murphy taught here before the arrival of Mr John Kehoe and Mrs. Nora Kehoe. Mr Peadar Byrne came to the school in 1928 and was assisted successively by Miss G. Carey, Mrs. P. Bates, Mrs. M Flannery and Mrs. m Whelan. The rolls carried the names of eighteen boys and twenty-seven girls when it was amalgamated with Tomhaggard in January, 1969.
" The Moor " school was renovated in 1911, being at that time divided into two rooms. It had a residence for the teacher nearby, which is now the property of Mr. Cole. The school itself has been converted into a residence.
Kilmore Village national school was established towards the end of the last century. Mr. Murphy taught in this single-roomed structure until his death in 1911. The Sisters moved from Kilturk at this time and the school was extended by the addition of a long galvanised iron extension.
Some of the nuns who taught here were Sister Aidan and Sister Margaret Mary, Sister Carmel and Sister Assumpta, Sister Antonia, Sister Lazerian, Sister Virgilius, Sister Alcantra, Sister Paulinus and Sister Idus. Miss M. Fitzgerald in 1962 was the only lay teacher for many years.
The school managers were the parish priests of Kilmore. On its last day there were twenty-three boys up to first class and forty-three girls, Sister Dominica and Sister Ultan forming the staff. The building continues to serve the parish as a meeting place.
Chapel Gardens N.S. was built in 1898 on what appeared to have been common ground, as it was a recognised stop for travelling shows. There has been evidence of a cemetery close by, so perhaps it is the site of a ruined church. Kilmore Quay church was built in 1875, which points to an increasing population, thus justifying a school.
Mr. O'Gorman, whom we have met at a later time in Tomhaggard N.S., taught in Chapel Gardens when it was a single-roomed school. When the Sisters moved here from Kilturk, the school was extended — thus Kilturk's third room became Chapel Gardens second. The rooms measured 30' x 17' and 26' x 15'.
Some of the Sisters who taught here were Sisters Joseph, Berchman, Columbanus, Syra, Fintan, Theresa and Hilda. Miss Mary Codd taught with the Sisters here around 1956 and was followed by Miss Ita Ormonde on moving to Mulrankin. Sisters Inviolata and Clare were here when the school finally closed. The enrolment was eighteen boys, to first class, and fifty-six girls.
The school, which had been built on just over half an acre, was also served by scholars' paths — the ways of learning ! It was sold for use as a private dwelling.
Thus we complete the more reliable chronicle of our parish's national schools. The phase which preceded these is lost in the mists of time. Apart from the ' night school' next to Flaherty's in Chapel Gardens and a vague memory of schools in Kilmore, opposite the old school, close by the gate to the parish priest's residence and a possible school in ' The Moor,' there is only the appreciation that we are in the age which went before organised or state-aided education.
Whatever education was available was provided by travelling schoolmasters, who were the immediate successors of the hedge schoolmasters who endured a time in which it was illegal to follow their calling.