Tadgh O’ Leary – his Life and Times 1879 – 1959

 In History

He was born in Lehid,  Ardea on the Kenmare Peninsula in South Kerry in 1879.   He attended De La Salle College in Waterford and qualified as a teacher studying from 1899 to 1901.  He undertook a further course of study during the time he was a teacher in 1912 – 1913 and was awarded a Diploma in Education which enabled him to teach in the Preparatory School.  He was the son of John and Norah O’ Leary.

He started teaching in Currabaggan NS  and then moved to Currower where he was Principal. He began teaching in Bofield in 1916.  He would teach there until  retirement in July 1944.  He ran a Preparatory College in Bofield from 1916 to 1928. His daughter Johanna took over the running of the School from 1929 until it ended in 1932. This college attracted pupils from all over Ireland and prepared scholars/students for teaching and the other professions.  Advertisements appeared in the local and national papers for the preparatory college annually.   By 1924 the preparatory school was being highly praised in the following words from an Inspector “send her to Bofield for nowhere else in Ireland will she get a better preparation for the scholarship examinations.”

Tadgh married Maria Kelly from Templeteigan Bonniconlon and they had 5 in family they had a servant in the house in 1911. They employed servants then to work indoors and outdoors.  Maria taught in Bofield School from 1896 to 1935.   They lived in Carracastle west or Bofield in a large two storey house and they are in the census for 1911 from the stats here it would appear they moved into this house c. 1906 – the land belonged to the Loftus family.  The house had a large yard and offices and they had cows and bees and grew fruit also.  The students and pupils used to help O’ Leary to keep the bees and the fruit and it was from this that Matt Moran learned the art of bee – keeping.

Tadgh had a school library and taught science and also literature and the Irish language and Irish history.  He is remembered by some as a fine teacher by others as tough disciplinarian.  When he began teaching there in 1916 there were three teachers in the school and they were Tadgh, Maria O’ Leary and Miss Maria Loftus also from Bonniconlon.  After 1935 it became a two teacher school, the new teacher was May Doyle from Bohola and she taught there until 1959.  She later married Tadgh’s son Jack

O’Leary was involved in the political and community life of the area and the town of Ballina also.  Along with a local committee from the Bofield area he opened the Bofield Gaelic Clubroom which had its opening dance on St. Patrick’s Night 1928.  It was later called Bofield Hall and dances were held there under the direction of John Durcan of Carracastle until 1940.  O’ Leary was a member of the Gaelic League in Attymass and Bonniconlon also he was a Sinn Fein Activist and he also supported the Volunteers during the War of Independence and the Civil War and his house was a safe house and he was arrested at one stage for his activities – this was in early 1923 but he was later released.  He was a town commissioner and member of the Cooperative movement in Attymass and Bonniconlon.  He would alter join Fianna Fail in 1926 and was an active member of the Bonniconlon Fianna Fail Cumann who paid tribute to him at their meeting on the 2nd February 1959 on the day flowing his death on Sunday 1st February 1959 aged 80.  There were kind tributes paid to him at his retirement function in September 1944.   Tadgh was on the Ballina Old Age Pensions Committee in late October 1945 and campaigned for better pension conditions for retired national teachers.

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