The Curragh
History - Information - Contacts


Schooldays on Curragh
by Mick Deely & Pat Flynn


On May 16, 1922 the British Army handed over the Curragh to the Irish Free State.  When the British army left the Curragh Camp they took all their school records with then, but we do know that the present School of Signals on O’Higgins Road was used as a Junior School. The first Free State School in the Curragh Camp opened in the same building on February 26. 1923. Fifty five pupils were on the school roll that day and everyone was present on that historic occasion.

  Ernest McGee of 27 Ordnance Barracks, Curragh Camp, was the first name entered on the roll books.  Earnest was born in October 1914 and his father was a painter with the Board of Works. Pat MeGee, Ernest's brother was the second name entered on the roll book. Both Ernest and Pat had attended Athgarvan National School prior to coming to the Curragh Boys' School.  Victor Hunt was the first person on the roll book that had never previously attended a primary school. Victor's father was a colonel commanding the Curragh Camp. One year after it opened, there were 114 roll and by 1925 the figure had risen to 173. The number of children continued to grow in June 1930 there were 336 boys enrolled.

  The first principal teacher of the Curragh Boy’s School was Mr. Michael J. Sheehan.  His pay in those days was £32 month.  Mr. Dermot Hegarty was the first assistant teacher and his pay was £17 month.  Ms Cait Clancy was the first lady teacher in the Curragh Camp Boys School in 1925.  Pay rose in those days 1958 the principle’s pay was £67 per month. During the Emergency, due to the risk of attack, it was decided to evacuate all but essential personnel from the Curragh. When this evacuation began on June 21st, 1940 there were 336 boys on the roll.  On Monday  June 24, 1940 there were only 142 on the roll.

When the war ended people began to move into the Curragh Camp.  The greatest number of pupils ever on the roll of the Curragh School was 457 on September 5, 1960. Since then the numbers have been gradually declining and to-day there are only 127 boys on the roll. The present school building was opened on Tuesday November 8, 1977.  A separate primary school for girls opened in 1962 and in 1995 a Gaelscoil opened at Herbert Lodge, the site of a former RIC barracks known locally as the Stone Barracks.


No post primary education of any kind was provided on the Curragh until 1933. Boys and girls seeking second level education had to travel to Kildare or Naas or places further a field. The County Kildare Vocational Committee set up a school in Plunkett Barracks on the Curragh in 1933 at the request of the Department of Defence, but it was only for first year students.  They were given free travel to Naas for further education. Except for the Emergency years, when it was closed because of the military situation, the Vocational School has progressed favorably to the present day and enjoys the unqualified support of the army authorities and County Kildare VEC. When the school reopened in 1947, it did not return to the fine building it had occupied prior to the war.  The school was housed in four different buildings until 1959.  With expanding courses and increased numbers a much larger building was later provided by the Army in McDermott Barracks. Additional accommodation, in an adjacent building, was added in 1967 by way of a fine science laboratory, art room and general classroom.

Since 1969 the school has been providing general education for army personnel with outstanding success in Group Certificate, Intermediate Certificate and Leaving Certificate examinations.  Second-chance fulltime education for soldiers was originally introduced at the request of some soldiers who asked the principal about returning to school to sit the examinations they missed by leaving school too soon.  The OC of the Curragh Camp at that time, Col. J. Quinn, was approached about the scheme.  All the army units in the area were notified and 50 men sought permission to return to school.  As a pilot scheme 18 men were selected to attend school for a half day, five days a week.  They sat Group Certificate examinations after one year and the results were so good that a second class was started on a full time basis in 1970.  These classes have continued without a break since 1969. Since 1978 Leaving Certificate Courses are provided for army personnel who are released from their units for two years.