Franciscan School

At the invitation of Christopher Dillon Bellew, the Franciscan Brothers of the Third Order Regular founded a Monastery and school in Mountbellew in 1818. the first brothers were Bonaventure Lee and Michael Dillion and although they were sent by the Provincial of the Friars Minor it is not recorded from what house they came. It is believed, however, that they came from an establishment in the Dalkey locality. The rule observed by the Community was that of Pope Leo X and this had been adhered to since 1521. the Order was placed in a quandary upon the passing of the Catholic Emancipation Act, of 1829, however, because of the fact that whilst the Act emancipated Bishops, clergy and laity, it contained certain penal clauses which were applicable to religious. For the same reason, Christopher Dillon Bellow, their Landlord, was placed in an awkward predicament. As a solution to the problem, it was decided to petition the Pope for permission to leave the jurisdiction of the Friars Minor and to attach to the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Tuam. This permission was granted by His Holiness in a letter to Dr. Oliver Kelly dated the 13th September 1830.

In 1834, Dr. McHale was translated to the See of Tuam; and this event was to have an important bearing on education in the Archdiocese during the following fifty years. The system of National Education had been introduced by the Stanley Education Act of 1831, and during his life Dr. McHale opposed the workings of the Statute by every means in his power. This statute provided for a system of mixed education by means of grants to be expended by the Lord Lieutenant through the 'Commissioners of National Education' for the instruction of children irrespective of their religious denomination. The Archbishop considered it as just another step in the proselytising campaign of the Government and he referred to it as "a system in which Catholics and sectaries, truth and error, faith and heresy, were all huddled together in hideous confusion". (Letters of the Archbishop of Tuam, p. 536). Part of his plan of opposition was to forestall the establishment of National Schools by committing education to Religious Orders wherever possible and in this he was ably assisted by the Brothers of the Third Order Regular, through their foundations in Tuam, Roundstone, Brooklodge, Clifden, Errew and Westport.

From the limited records available, I have been unable to fix definitely the date upon which the Brothers first came to Tuam. Battersby's Catholic Directory of 1836 refers to the school as being in existence in 1835 and the date could probably be safely fixed in the winter of 1834 or Spring of 1835. Battersby's Directory of 1839 which refers to institutions in existence the previous year, includes the following reference: "In the town of Tuam there is an affiliation of the Franciscan Order of Mountbellew which the Archbishop has highly recommended". The same Directory for 1849 refers to the fact that there were 400 pupils on rolls the previous year and that the Superior was Rev. Br. Lewis Alexander. This Directory refers to the establishment for the last time in its edition of 1851 and it may be presumed that the school closed down in 1850.

Slater's Commercial Directory of 1846 contains three references to his school. It states that "a community of Presentation Nuns and also of Franciscan Monks have establishments here". Later, it refers to a "boys Catholic school, taught by the friars of the monastery" and in a third reference it states that the monastery was situated at Ballygaddy Road, that the community consisted of three brothers and that Br. Lewis Alexander was prior.

From these references it is evident that the Order took over the free School at Prospect, and this is substantiated by the fact that the rate books of Tuam Union for 1842 referred to the premises as the Roman Catholic Free School.

I can find no record of the reason for the Order's departure from Tuam in 1850 and having regard to the fact that the school was in a flourishing condition two years previously, the abruptness of its termination is unexplainable.

The premises were taken over by the Irish Christian Brothers in 1851.

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