Education and Religion

About the beginning of the nineteenth century Lord Clancarty established schools all over his property for the education of the children of his tenants. Throughout the first half of the century they were a bone of contention between him and the Catholic clergy. They were under Protestant control and the reading of the Bible was included in the programme. Moral compulsion under threat of eviction was used to compel the Catholic children to attend. While there was no doubt a genuine anxiety on the Earl's part to provide education, it is also clear from the evidence given before the Devon Commission, the speeches of Richard Lalor Shiel and other sources that Protestant indoctrination was an underlying motive. He was aided in his efforts by the Kildare Place, the Church Mission and other societies and at times, especially in 1826, the struggle came to a head, but the advent of the National Schools brought his efforts to an end. In the parish of Ballinasloe there were at one time four or five of these schools in operation.

In the parish of Creagh the population in 1834 numbering 3162 was almost entirely Catholic. There were only 135 Protestants but the parish of Kilclooney including the town of Ballinasloe was about one sixth Protestant, the total population there standing at 6842. The partial famines which occurred during the early part of the century were taken advantage of by the agents of 'souperism' and some Catholics perverted but recanted when times of stress were over. On the material side the Trench family were to their tenants all that landlords of the time could possibly be and the town was a model of prosperity and cleanliness. The anomaly is caustically referred to by Maxwell (himself a minister of the established church) in the phrase that all seemed welcome in Ballinasloe except pigs and Papists!

In Creagh the old Catholic church of the Penal Times was replaced by a new one in 1824, which itself has been replaced in our own time. The old church of Ballinasloe was insufficient and the building of the present St. Michael's was begun on the same site, to the designs of McCarthy, revised by Pugin. It was consecrated on August 25th 1858 by Cardinal Wiseman of Westminister. Father Dillon was parish priest of Ballinasloe at the laying of the foundation stone in 1852, but had passed away before its consecration. After his death Creagh and Kilclooney, became a mensal parish.

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