Cumann Seandalaiochta agus Staire Phort Lairge

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Back-to-school... over 200 years ago! by Béatrice Payet

Before the establishment of organised schooling as we know it, which in Ireland started to appear in the second half of the 19th century through the religious orders and the National School system, education was a luxury mostly reserved to the children of those who could afford it, by hiring the services of private tutors. I am not going to delve into the politics of it all, I was only interested in finding out how education was organised in Waterford City at the beginning of the 19th century, based on the information on Public Schools in the newspapers of the time. 

Before the formal establishment of schools, various 'Academies' as they called themselves, run privately by a single or several teachers, offered tuition in a variety of subjects for a set fee, paid yearly or quarterly. Some also offered full board. They had to advertise in the local newspapers to get the attention of parents, and sell their skills. 

They were located mostly in the city centre, and it is interesting to follow their re-location as better premises become available. 

We find Miss Daly in Lady Lane, Mrs Monserrat in Cook Lane, Mr Bacon at the Widow's Apartments, Mr Holden in Peter Street, Mr Cole in Beau Street, The Misses Brown in High Street, Mr Maher in George's Street. Mr Willis starts on Hennessy's Road but soon moves to New Street, etc. 

Relocation was sometimes to a more central position, but not always. They have the welfare of their boarders at heart: Mr Frazer having been an assistant at Mr Waters' Grammar school starts his own business and relocates to Stephen Street in January 1792, in a house of 

dry and healthy situation, ‘receiving an addition consisting of a large school-room and dormitories in the rear of which there will be an extensive play-ground’

Miss Terresse Lonergan relocates to Great Bridge Street 

which situation for Health, Air and Beauty cannot be exceeded, added to the beautiful outlets and the new bridge for the young ladies daily to resort.

The young Masters and Ladies were taught a variety of subjects; for 'a crown per quarter, and a crown entrance'  at Mrs Monserrat's 

children of 5 years old and upwards will be taught French and English, correctly

Mr Maher specialises in Classical, Mercantile & Mathematics, to which he adds French by 1810. 

Given the nature of the accommodation, groups were small, between 8 and 14 pupils maximum. 

What about holidays? Mrs Daly leaves it at the discretion of the parents, but most of the others had the vacation time in the month of July or August, again the dates were published by each school in the newspapers. 

However that wasn't all. 

Examinations took place in December and May, and the results, too were published!


  1. Thanks Beatrice, how fascinating. I'm aware of several locations in Cheekpoint where private tutors operated. This is the clearest description of how they originated. Thanks for posting

    1. Glad you enjoyed it! The old newspapers are so rich in information, they really are a great source.

  2. Hi. Lovely piece. Was it only 'young gentlemen' who were awarded certificates, although both boys and girls had schools.


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