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History & Heritage > Schools > Hedge Schools

Hedge Schools

The Hedge Schoolmaster was not the sort of man whom Carleton and Lever have lampooned. No such thing; he was generally a well-informed stranger, the son perhaps of some noble family who had been disinherited by Elizabeth or by James the First, or by the inhuman Cromwell.

The school boys carried with them to these masters Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, the History of Greece and Rome, the Arabian Nights, Thomas-a-Kempis, Dr. Gallagher and Keating, the Old Testament, Sallust in English. Ovid, Ward’s Cantos. McGeoghegan’s History of Ireland, and a hundred and one other books. Where they all came from is one of the things that now astonishes me, for these books were in every peasant’s cottage on the little loft over the fireplace, along with the wool-cards, the balls of yarn, and the spindles; there the books rested, some without covers, and all of them stained with smoke.

When a boy had his Odyssey read, he exchanged it with another chap for his Iliad, and so on. They spent seven or eight years at this kind of work, and got them of by heart, as we called it.

Further Reading Sources:
Volume  1 – 1986 Roscommon Historical & Archaeological Society Journal
  • Page 10: From Hedge School to National Board 1810-1861 James Hoban