The Royal School

As part of the transformation of post-plantation Ulster, the provision of education was receiving consideration. On July 6th 1607, Sir Arthur Chichester, the architect of the Ulster Plantation, wrote to Lord Salisbury from Dublin Castle that King James, upon a visit to Bishop Montgomery of Derry, had made provision for land and money for the erection of three free schools, one at Derry, One in Clogher, and one at Raphoe.

In December 1618 Bryan Morrison was made Master of the school. By 1734, Bishop of Raphoe, Nicholas Forster, proceeded to replace the original school buildings. In a newspaper notice of 1798, a successor, Rev. James Irwin announced that he had:

"Engaged Assistants of the first Qualifications, with every liberal Appointment; for Greek, Latin, French, Italian, Mathematics, and their Applications to every Branch, Military and Naval; Geography, Writing, and the Mercantile Branches; the Belles Letters, Musick, Fencing and Dancing…." The quality of education and surroundings for boarding pupils varied over the intervening years. However, by 1857, the headmaster, Rev James Weir announced;

"The Schoolhouse

Sketch of the old Royal School

Black ink sketch of the former Roayl School, Raphoe

  is healthfully and pleasantly situated within 6 miles of Strabane and St. Johnston, stations on the Derry and Enniskillen Railway.

…The discipline of the school I mildly but firmly upheld…the moral conduct of the pupils is carefully looked after and encouraged."

J P Mahaffy, provost TCD, visited the school in 1881, and reported to the Endowed Schools Commissioners "This school is doing quietly and without making any display, a considerable amount of work. It lies in the centre of perhaps the richest agricultural population in Ireland, and farmers' sons come as day boys, in ponies and cars, from several miles off." However, he went on to criticise the lack of vegetables served to the pupils, and the rule of silence in the dining room.

One of the Royal School's most famous pupils was Isaac Butt (1813-1879), "the Father of Home Rule".


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