Education in Ancient Ireland

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Education in Ancient Ireland: Pre-Christian Times

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Children in the past did not always go to school to learn. Early farmers learned how to plough and to tame animals instead. Long ago in Ireland from about 600 B.C. people who have been called 'the Celts' had the custom of sending their child to another family to be reared and taught certain things. This was called fosterage. Children would be taught practical things. A boy might learn how to herd cattle, how to horse-ride, play sports or use weapons. A girl who was fostered might learn about cooking and looking after animals or how to sew and make clothes.

As there were no books then, children did not study reading or writing.

What were Bardic Schools?

Different groups of people went to Bardic schools. The judges (breitheamh) went to study Irish Law, also known as Brehon Law.

Bards, who were poets or fili, had to learn off long and complicated traditional Irish stories and poems over 7 years. Then they travelled around Ireland and entertained the noble families by reciting and composing songs and stories.

To go to these schools you needed a very good memory as you could not write things down. You could also study to be a druid. Druids were pagan priests knew a lot about cures. They were also said to be able to perform magic and to predict things in the future.