If you had been a child in 19th century Ireland you would not have been able to go to a national school, paid for by the government because they didn’t exist. It has been estimated that in 1824 there were 11,000 schools in Ireland with a total of 500,000 children attending them. Most were hedge schools or paying schools of some sort. It wasn’t until 1831, with the setting up of the National Board of Education that primary education came to Ireland, but it would be wrong to think there was no formal education in Cullybackey or the surrounding area before 1831.
William Shaw tells us in his book, “Cullybackey: the story of an Ulster Village” that the old National School was built in 1819, but an article in the Larne Times 1908 on Cullybackey at the beginning of the 19th century would lead us to believe that there was an earlier school as quoted below.
“Here also stood the village school, where the elements of knowledge were imparted to the rising generation in the simple form of reading, writing and arithmetic. On the erection of the new school in 1819, a short distance in the direction of Ballymena it fell into disuse.”
The “Ordnance Survey Memoirs” of the 1830’s tell us that in Cullybackey the school was, “a good house of stone and lime, slated, 36 and a half by 16 feet inside with 4 windows on each side and established in 1825 by private subscription and assistance from the Kildare Place Society. Income from pupils 19 pounds, intellectual education books published by the Kildare Place Society were Thompson’s and Gough’s Arithmetic, Murray’s English Grammar with Thompson’s Geography, Number of pupils: males, 21 under 10 years of age, 12 from 10 to 15, total 33. Females 7 under 10 years of age, 6 from 10 to 15 total 13, total number of pupils 46, 42 Presbyterians, 4 other denominations. Master Daniel McFall, Presbyterian.
A new Public Elementary School was erected on the Main Street in 1900 to replace the “Auld School at the Pun” under the management of the Rev George Raphael Buick. It was renamed the “Buick Memorial Public Elementary School” after Dr Buick’s death in 1904 as he had given all of his money towards the building of the school. It was rebuilt and enlarged in 1937 by the Ballymena Education Committee and continues to educate the young people of the village today.
As well as the village school there were many other national schools in the surrounding area, sadly now all closed, but fortunately some of the registers for these schools have survived and are held in the Public Record Office for Northern Ireland. These and surviving Inspector’s Reports have been transcribed and can be accessed by clicking on the links below.