May 23, 2006


Chapter 18 of the An Tostal Programme of 1953 examines the early history of Kildare Town and the development of education in the town in the early 19th century.
        A LARGE town had grown up around St. Brigid’s foundation. The Annals record that in 708 and 774 the town was burned. As the buildings were for the most part of wood they were easily burned, but were also easily replaced. The monastery of Kildare being so near the sea-board was one of the first places attacked by the Danes. In 836 a Danish fleet of 30 sail arrived in the Liffey. They plundered every church and Abbey in Magh Lifé, not allowing anyone to escape. They destroyed Kildare by fire and sword and carried away the rich shrines of SS. Brigid and Conleth. Again in 843 the town was plundered by the foreigners, and also in 883, 887, 895, 915, 916, 924, 926, 927, 928, 940, 962, 977, 981, 998. Some of the Irish chiefs also plundered Kildare. The town and church were burned in 1050 and 1067. The town was also burned in 1071, 1089. [, - sic] 1099. [, - sic] 1138, 1143 and 1155. Shortly after the Norman invasion, William Marshall, one of the adven­turers who had got possession of this territory, erected a castle for its defence. In 1294 Calbach O’Connor of Offaly took the town and castle by force and destroyed all the rolls of the Earl of Kildare. A Parliament was held here in 1309, and in 1316 the castle and town were granted to John Fitzgerald, who was at that time appointed Earl of Kildare. In the wars during Elizabeth’s reign the town was reduced to a state of ruin. In 1600 the town suffered so severely that the houses were all in ruins, and without a single inhabitant. In 1643 Kildare was made a garrison post under the Earl of Castlehaven, and the town grew in consequence. In 1647 it was taken by Colonel Jones for the Parliamentarians; it fell again into the hands of the Irish but was finally re-taken. by the Lord Lieutenant. By charter of James II the town was governed by a cor­poration which returned two members to Parliament. The borough was disfranchised at the Union and £15,000 awarded as compensation to the Duke of Leinster. The borough grounds extended considerably beyond the town and included about 3,000 acres of the Curragh and 300 acres south of the town, called the Kings Bog or Commons of Kildare.
        According to a return made in 1824 by the Parish Priest, Father Patrick Brennan, there were in that year five schools in the town, four Catholic and one Protestant, as well as a Sunday School. John Cassidy, who had been educated in the neighbourhood, had been teaching in the town since 1810. Attendance, males 25, females 15 Established Church 3, Roman Catholics 37. John Leeson aged 33 had been teaching in various houses since 1816. Attendance, males 21, females 9, Established Church 1, Roman Catholics 29. Denis Murphy had been teaching in this parish 20 years. School 27ft. by l5ft., given free by the convent of this town. Attendance, males 15, females 12, Roman Catholics 27. Mrs. Ravenhill, aged 60, had been teaching in different houses in the parish since 1813. House, mud walled and thatched, about l2ft. square, attendence [attendance – sic], males 25, females, 15, Roman Catholics 40. Daniel McCrone, aged 32, taught in the Protestant School which was open since 1817. Seven Established Church and four Roman Catholics attended. There was a Sunday School held on all Sundays and Holydays in the Parish Chapel. The teachers were Roman Catholics, excellent moral characters, forming a Society in themselves, and teaching under the superintendence [superintendence – sic] of the P.P. and his curate, who at that time was Father Michael Nowlan. Attendance, males 289, females 255, Roman Catholics 544. Attendance last winter (1823-24) 500. Summer 1823, 686. One half can read. The books were the Four Archbishops’ Catechism, Abridgment of Christian Doctrine. Father Brennan points out that a great majority of the children are deprived of the ordinary means of education, and this was not from any indifference in the children or parents towards education, but from lack of means. Father Brennan stated there were upwards of twelve hundred children under his spiritual care: he was speaking of Rathangan as well as Kildare. The National School system was introduced in 1833. In 1837, according to Lewis, p.86, there were in the town three public schools in which about 800 children were taught, and a private school in which there were about 70 children. The parish in that year had a population of 2,541, of whom 1,753 lived in the town, in which there were 346 houses.

[William Marshall is credited with erecting the castle at Kildare but it is likely that a castle was first erected in Kildare Town by Strongbow as a means of safeguarding his interests in the town; The reference to 1294 is confused - there was no Earl of Kildare until 1316 and indeed Fitzgerald apparently engineered a raid on Kildare around the same time that O'Connor did; Lewis – Samuel Lewis’s Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, published 1837 – the entry for Kildare can be found in the Archive section of this website; all references in Lewis to County Kildare can be found at - Mario Corrigan]

Chapter 18 of the An Tostal Programme of 1953 examines the early history of Kildare Town and the development of education in the town in the early 19th century.

Posted by mariocorrigan at May 23, 2006 10:13 PM