Whitecross NS History
There were four schools in the parish in 1826. These were located in Greenanstown, Stamullen, Gormanston and Lisdornan. In 1831, the British government set up a national school system so that every child in the country was entitled to free primary school education at public expense. Previously, parents had to pay for their children’s education. A national school was first established in Whitecross in 1842 on a site given by Lord Trimbleston. This school served the area for over 100 years, until 1951, and is still standing in the wooded area just south of the present school.
A new school was built at Whitecross in 1951 and was officially opened and blessed by Most Rev. John Kyne, then Bishop of Meath. It was originally a two teacher school and developed as the population grew in the area.
- 1951 – Moved to new two classroom school, from old buildings.
- 1958 – Appointment of third teacher. One teacher moved back to the old school.
- 1961 – Third classroom build onto the new school. Water and toilets installed in the school.
- 1967 – Central heating installed in the new school.
- 1967 – Prefabricated classroom erected in the school yard.
- 1970 – A second prefabricated classroom is erected in the school yard.
- 1979 – Peter Gordon is appointed principal.
- 1980 – Four new classrooms built and General Purpose Room. The school now consists of 7 classrooms and the hall.
- 1990 – New double prefabricated classrooms and learning support room.
- 2002 – Liam Burke appointed principal.
- 2018 – Patrick Doran appointed principal.
- 2021 – New permanent school reopens consisting of 16 maintstream classrooms, 5 SET rooms, GP Hall, Library & Resource Room. The school also opene two ASD classes which are currently located in temporary prefabs. A permanent extension has been approved and will commence in the near future.
The old Whitecross School was built in 1842 however before this time a number of ‘hedge schools’ existed in the area. Despite the name ‘hedge school’ classes often took place in small school houses as well as outdoors. There were two such school houses in the area at Lisdornan and Cooperhill whilst a man from Sarsfieldstown called Thomas O’Brien was a hedge school master who moved around the area teaching in different places. Thomas O’Brien was the grandfather of the famous local nationalist poet Tomás Ó Briain. Thomas O’Brien taught both English and Irish and used slates and slate pencils to teach the children how the write. Thomas O’Brien only stopped teaching in hedge schools when the new school at Whitecross opened in 1842.
The hedge school in Lisdornan took place in a stone house with a slate roof that was given free of charge by a local farmer called Mr Moore. The school was located beside the Moat of Lisdornan and all four walls are still standing to this day although the roof is gone and the whole building is now covered in a very thick layer of ivy.
The hedge school at Cooperhill was located in a mud walled cabin about half a mile north of Cooperhill crossroads on the left-hand side of the road. This detailed account of the school is given by the then 85-year-old Mrs McDonald and is taken from the Schools Manuscript collection from 1938:
“About eighty years ago the elder members of our family and myself attended a school which was a one roomed mud cabin where the hedge-school-teacher resided, a woman named Eliza Kelly, and taught a class of over 100 pupils who were taught sitting outside in the shelter of the hedges. She excelled in teaching Catechism which was the principal education at that time. At one time known to myself she presented 100 pupils for confirmation in St. Mary’s Drogheda. This school was held about 2 miles the south side of Drogheda at a place called Cailleac Loo (Calliaghstown). About that time those schools were broken up.”
The hedge school master Eliza Kelly is recorded living in the mud walled cabin in the Griffith’s Valuation from 1853. The house was demolished in the late 1800’s but the adjoining field is still called the ‘School House Field’.
In 1839 Colonel Pepper of Ballygarth Castle erected a temporary school in the village until funds could be collected to build a permanent school. Local subscriptions were gathered and the school was built on a small piece of land donated by Lord Trimblestown in the corner of Whitecross townland from which the school took its name. Colonel Pepper also donated a small triangle of adjoining land which functioned as the school garden.
A detailed account of the teachers who taught in Whitecross School was given to pupil Eileen Boylan by Mr John Leonard for the 1938 Schools Manuscript Collection. John Leonard lived in the small white cottage behind the garden of the current national school.
Whitecross School was built in the year 1842 by funds locally subscribed. The first teacher was a Mr Kavanagh. He was succeeded by a Mr John Horan with Miss Heffernan as work mistress. Mr John Horan was succeeded by Mr J Madden with Miss Heffernan still as work mistress. Mr J Madden left and went to Slane and was succeeded by Mr John Ryan who hailed from Tipperary whose sister Miss Ryan was Junior Assistant along with him. Mr Ryan went back to Tipperary and was succeeded by Patrick Henry about the year 1904. His sister Miss Johanna Henry was appointed Junior Assistant mistress in 1905. In 1912 Mr Henry went to teach in Ferbane and was succeeded by Mr John and Mrs O’Farrell in 1912. In 1922 Mr O’Farrell left and was succeeded by Mr Frank Shortt who only remained for six months and in 1925 he was succeeded by teacher Mr CJ Walsh. Mrs O’Farrell remained as assistant until she resigned in the year 1938.
Mr Walsh was joined on the teaching staff by his wife in 1939. Mr Walsh was the head master when the new school opened in 1951 and only retired in 1962.
The new school was opened in 1951 and was built in a field that was previously called the Caylea. Whitecross is not the name of the crossroads but is actually the name of the townland in which the old school was located and which takes its name from an ancient stone wayside cross that is located there. The new school is actually located in the townland of Dimanistown East but it retained the name Whitecross from the old school.
The new school consisted of only two classrooms and in 1958 due to growing numbers a third teacher was employed and some classes moved back to the old school. Infants and the younger classes along with 5th and 6th class remained in the new school whilst 3rd and 4th classes were taught in the old school. Classes continued to be taught in the old school until a third classroom was completed in 1961. Running water and toilets were also installed at this time which replaced the dry toilets which were built onto the back of the colonnade.
In 1962 Mr Walsh retired and was replaced by Mr Thornton who had previously taught in Bellewstown and then Stamullen for a great many years. In 1967 central heating was installed in the school. Before this two or three classes used to be taught in each room and when the weather was cold the fire was lit at the top of the classroom and each class used to take turns standing around the fire in a big ring while doing reading exercises.
Mr Boylan took over as headmaster in 1971 and he was succeeded by Peter Gordon in 1979. In 1980 major extensions to the school were completed with four new classrooms and the hall being built which replaced old prefabricated classrooms in the yard. Peter Gordon served for over twenty years and was only replaced in 2003 by Liam Burke. From 2003, the school expanded greatly and grew to an enrolment of over 400 pupils. Liam Burke retired in 2018 and was replaced by Patrick Doran as principal. The school building was completely renovated and extended to accommodate all classes in 2019. In September 2021, all the mainstream classes were accommodated within the new building. The school also opened two ASD classes in September 2021. Two prefabs were retained on site to accommodate these classes. A permanent extension to the new school has been approved and when built it will accommodate three ASD classes. The Board of Management are currently engaged with the design process for this extension. The school now employs 24 teachers, 9 Special Needs Assistants, a secretary, a caretaker and two assistants to run the Infant After-School Club.