Last weekend I had the pleasure of taking the short ferry ride across to Whiddy Island near Bantry, Co. Cork. Sadly like a lot of these Islands off the west coast of Ireland the population has been decreasing rapidly over the past 150 years. In 1880 the census listed 450 people as living on the island, this has decreased to the point where the population is listed as 20 in the most recent census of 2011. However those that remain are as friendly as they come!
The ‘Bank House’ right beside the ferry terminal rent bicycles so we took the opportunity to cycle around the island and whilst doing this we came across the old school house. Built in 1887, this one-room school (albeit with cloakroom/porch) replaced an earlier structure which was mentioned in Lewis’ Topographical Dictionary of 1837. Due to dwindling numbers the school finally closed in December 1947, however some signs and items inside lead one to believe that it may have served as a makeshift museum at some stage. The schoolhouse is a very picturesque little building and at the time of our visit I was sure it must have been in use more recently than 1947 due to the quite moderate level of damage that has been caused to the structure. Whiddy Island National School is a peaceful and timeless place, where the pupil’s benches still face the teacher’s desk just as they would have when the bell was rung for the last time over 65 years ago.
GPS: 51.69168, -9.49004