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The female school, although belonging to the National establishments, is conducted by the Sisters of Mercy, four or five of whom attend the school by turns. There are also two paid mistresses in the school. At the time of my visit there were only 32 girls in attendance, owing to the prevalence of the same reasons which affected the numbers in the boys' school. Some weeks back, however, there were between 200 and 300 in attendance. In July there were
on the roll 389. There is not, at present, one Protestant in the school. This is an industrial as well as an ordinary educational school. The following is the state of these schools, according to the official returns of the National Board, dated September each year:
There is a Protestant school in Ardnaree, attached to the English Parochial Church, and supported to a considerable extent by the Rector. It does not appear in the list of the schools assisted by the Church Education Society. The school-house is small, and in every way inferior to the National School. At the time of my visit there were on the books 58 boys, with an average attendance of 25; and 42 girls, with an average attendance of 20. Formerly (before the famine) the schools seem to have been better attended, the boys then reaching to the number of 130, and the girls to 110. A short
period of the school-time, in the girls' school, is devoted to industrial work. The children are expected to pay one penny or twopence per week, but few pay anything. The master told me that nearly one half of his pupils were Catholics, but the mistress said the Catholics only amounted to about a fifth part among the girls. All who attend the schools read the Scriptures, and must learn the Creed and the Lord's Prayer; but the Catholics are excused from the catechetical instruction. No food or clothing has been given to the children in these schools for the last two years.
There is also a very neat and well-organised Presbyterian School in Ballina. At the time of my visit it had on its books 52 boys and girls. All these are Catholics, except six, and all of them read the Scriptures and receive the same religious instruction. Twenty-five of the Catholic children even attend the Presbyterian Church. This is an industrial school, and seems excellently managed. No bribes in the way of food or clothing are held out to the Catholics to attend it; but the girls receive the profit on their own work, and obtain all the materials at a cheaper rate.
This is a Mission School, established with a view to the ultimate conversion of the Roman Catholics, and was the first battery I had seen erected by the Presbyterian powers against the fortress of Catholicism. It is necessary to distinguish such schools from the common or ordinary schools so liberally
provided by the Presbyterian Church. Wherever any of her ministers are to be found, whether in the Presbyterian land of Ulster, or elsewhere, the establishment of a school may be said to be almost as much a matter of course as the erection of a chapel, education being never for a moment forgotten by this intellectual sect of Christians. But these Mission Schools are on a different footing, and have, in some respects, a different object. They are, like the Church Mission Schools of the English Church, for the most part planted among Roman Catholic populations; and the officers connected with them do not confine themselves exclusively to instruction in the schools. In each district where any of these schools exist, there is a local missionary and a catechist or Scripture reader, whose duty it is to give religious instruction in school and out of school.
There are in Connaught two distinct sections of these Presbyterian Mission Schools; one supported by the Presbyterian body at large from certain funds derived from various associated bodies, collections at churches, and private contributions; the other set on foot and maintained by the “Belfast Ladies' Relief Association for Connaught.” These two Societies, though having objects in common, are yet distinct in their organisation and management.
Of the schools which may be termed “General Presbyterian Mission Schools,” there are at this time
no less than forty-three in the counties
of Mayo, Sligo, Roscommon, and Leitrim, containing in all about 2000 children. Of this number only a fifth or sixth part are Protestants. “In these forty schools (says one of the Reports) there are forty-seven teachers engaged in giving instruction in common literature, and in Scriptural and industrial knowledge. The number on the roll is above 2000-between fifteen and sixteen hundred in daily attendance—and about one half of them are working at the sewed muslin manufacture. Each district is independent of the others, as to special oversight and management; but all are conducted on the same general principles, under the care of the general superintendent.” Beside these schools there are twenty or thirty more of the same kind in the south and west of Ireland, and a considerable number more (perhaps forty) which are only partially supported by the funds above mentioned. It will be further seen by the following extracts from the same Report, that the schools are, for the most part, industrial schools, and the pupils chiefly girls; and it will be observed that the plan of the English Church Mission Schools, in giving physical relief to the children, is likewise adopted to a certain extent: .“ As most of the schools are female schools, and the young people had little or nothing to do, and much poverty and destitution prevail continually, it seemed to be important to teach them some branch of female industry; and the sewed muslin manufacture,' so long practised in Ulster, was found, after trial of other kinds of work, to be most available and profitable. This useful art is now, therefore, taught in all the schools where the teachers are female, and is forming the children to habits of industry and diligence, of which, at first, they seemed almost incapable. The Relief fund, for supplying some food and clothing to the more destitute children, has proved a very important auxiliary to the work. It helps to sustain them until able, by their own hands, to support themselves. It has made the schools a refuge also for a great number of orphans, and a blessing to them, both in respect to industrial and saving knowledge. Thus, in one district alone, ninety children are to be found in our schools, of whom fifty-six have lost their fathers, and nineteen are without mothers, and fifteen are wholly orphan; while the whole of the children of one small village have been rescued from starvation and idleness, and their fatal accompaniments and fruits. Of these there are fifty now able to support themselves, and twenty-five who can do so in part.”
The Belfast Ladies' Relief Association for Connaught was set on foot in 1846, I believe, by Dr. Edgar, its present President, but was, from the beginning, supported equally by all denominations of Protestants. Its great objects were to introduce industrial training of such kind as to enable girls and young women to gain their livelihood by means of a trade, and to promote the Protestant religion,