Monday, May 7, 2012

The Shamrock School


For much of Canada's history and well into the Twentieth Century, many of Canada's children were educated in one room, multi-grade schools. [2]   Education was not always a public concern in the Harbour Main District of  Newfoundland.  Those children who did attend regularly were interested in book learning but the majority remained home to work with their parents either fishing or farming. [3]  The Shamrock School in Lakeveiw Harbour Main District stood at the junction of two roads, a site known locally as "Fardy's Cross". [4]   Aunt Agnes said, she believes there was a family named Fardy in the community and possibly it was their land the school had been built on.

This junction of two roads with a Cross, is also the location of The Old Irish R/C Cemetery that I wrote about in the post dated 04/21/2012, which is  at Conception Bay Hwy and Harbour Dr.

The Shamrock School was built in 1908, the white clapboard building was forty feet in length, twenty feet wide with a high peaked roof and ceilings that were at least twelve feet in height.  At the back of the school was a large attached porch that served as the school's entrance, with hooks on its walls for the children's outer garments and a large coal bin situated at it's rear.  Also attached to the back of the school were two outhouses, one for the girls and one for the boys, and these were accessed through a short partitioned hall.  During the period of study, the school had electricity but no running water.  Thirty-five to forty students seem to have been the average number attending the school at any given time.

In the center of the classroom sat a pot-bellied stove with a sheet of metal beneath to protect the floor from sparks. It was here that mittens dried after a winter's recess.  On exceptionally cold and windy days, the stove was sometimes taxed beyond it's capacity, despite the zealous efforts of the older boys to stoke it until it was red hot.  At such times, the teacher would dispense with the orderly row of desks and allow them to be moved around the stove in a roughly circular fashion. so that the children could better share the limited heat.  The lack of a schoolyard did not pose a problem, for the ponds, the woods and Kennedy's meadow were all easily available, the children organized their own activities during recess.[5]

In 1908, when the Shamrock School was built, my grandfather Stephen was 13 years old, he was well passed the age to start attending school, receiving his education from life experiences working with his father and family.  After reviewing the education history of Harbour Main District, it seems that there were schools established in neighboring communities, but the distance was probably an interfering factor for my grandfather and his siblings to attend, including the generation before him. My mother shared the story that her father was taught to read and write by her mother, who had been a school teacher before they were married.  My grandfather was 32 years old, when they married.  Uncle Ray explained that during this time period in Newfoundland, if a person could read or write they would be placed in a managerial or foremen position, and in return received higher pay.

My mother and her siblings all attended the Shamrock School in the 1930's -1940's.  Mary Costigan, who is mentioned in the top photo, taught at the school from 1942-1947 The Shamrock School was phased out at the end of 1966-67 school year upon the centralization of schools in  Harbour Main Parish.  It was demolished a few years later and with its removal a familiar landmark in Harbour Main disappeared.[6]

[1] "Our People.... Our Church...." Sts. Peter and Paul Parish, Harbour Main, Chapel's Cove, Lakeview Newfoundland, 1857 - 1982, Copyright 1983 by Rev. J. Glavine, P.P. pages 68-69.

[2]   Pat Trites, "The School on Fardy's Cross" Shamrock School Remembered, Framing Our Past, Canadian Women's History in the Twentieth Century.McGill-Queen's University Press 2001, pages 184 - 188.

[3] Alice Strapp, "History of Harbour Main",  Newfoundland's Grand Banks Genealogical and Historical Data, , Education.

[4] Ibid [2]

[5] Ibid [2]

[6] Ibid [1]

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