Sheltering in doorways from a downpour in Fermoy wasn’t the most auspicious start to our walk last Monday but once that passed we were soon immersed in 19/20th century church and educational history. Christy Roche our guide could win Mastermind hands down with his bottomless pit of knowledge, no matter what questions were put to him.
Beginning with St Patrick’s church, its size, intricately painted ceiling, matching galleries and ornate carpentry features had us neck swivelling. We learnt that John Anderson a Scotsman had founded Fermoy in the early 1800s, buying 4/6ths of the Hodders estate as he had 4 daughters for whom to cater.. An export merchant, Anderson’s quay in Cork bears his name also and he was instrumental in improving the road from Cork to Dublin too. We could do with him today to finish the Dunkettle project in a timely manner at 1800s prices!
Further up the hill brought us to Fermoy College/Manor school built by William Adair, another Scotsman, and the oldest school in the town. Again, a farseeing broadminded man, he wanted education for all, regardless of religion. Taken over by Richard Russell in 1911, additions were made of a gym and outdoor swimming pool and they followed the English educational system, though he ‘massaged’ results to boost school prestige! Never done nowadays!
A National school built in 1833 had gothic church style windows(still preserved today) but these were frowned upon by the Dept. of Education who insisted on ‘square’ windows 4’X3′( figure that out) for their schools. On another note, the ground rents which had been paid to English landlords were paid to the government after 1922 until its local representative was kidnapped by farmers from Mallow no less until a ransom of £450 was paid. Compensation of £4,500 subsequently had to be handed over to the unfortunate Rep who returned to England after his ordeal. Exciting times indeed.
The Loretto convent schools, St Coleman’s Boarding College, Presentation and Christian brothers followed, adding to the educational opportunities in the town. They’ve all been concentrated in a relatively small hilly area of Fermoy, each leaving an extraordinary legacy behind through the legions of pupils and staff that patronised them, some of our members included.
Trying to distil a few hundred years of history into 1 1/2 hours was some feat and a return visit later in the year to the other side of the town, focusing on the military impact will be organised with the inestimable Christy Roche. Watch out for the text!Mary Cahill