In Calypso Bloom passes by "Saint Joseph's
National school" and hears the "Brats' clamour. Windows
open. Fresh air helps memory." In Hades the funeral
procession takes him by another "National school," this
one called Saint Andrew's though it is not named in the
narrative. The National Schools were public schools, funded by
the government, that served students of the lower middle class
and emphasized vocational education. In theory, at least, they
embraced all religious denominations and strictly separated
religious instruction from the rest of the curriculum.
Read MoreThe National School system, established by an Act of Parliament in 1831, was administered by a National Board of Education consisting of two members each from the Catholic church, the Presbyterian church, and the Church of Ireland. For early 19th century Irish Catholics emerging from the hedge school arrangements necessitated by the 18th century penal laws, the schools represented a chance of equal opportunity and social integration. But all three churches resisted the constraints on their ability to shape the course of education. Although they failed to change the law, they did manage to influence practice within particular schools, and many parents sought out schools that catered to their particular faith. According to an article in the 1 September 2017 issue of the Irish Examiner, by the end of the 19th century denominational adherence was threatening to undermine the system.
St. Joseph's school was at 81-84 Upper Dorset Street, and St. Andrew's was at 114-21 Great Brunswick Street. These buildings still stand today, though neither one remains a school. And the National School system in Ireland continues, still government-run and non-denominational.