COOKERY & LAUNDRY INSTRUCTION IN IRISH NATIONAL SCHOOLS IN THE EARLY TWENTIETH CENTURY
Updated: Sep 21, 2019
At the end of the nineteenth century it was decided that cookery was of special importance in primary education in Ireland. The decision arose as Ireland was considered a country ‘where the labouring and artisan classes are sadly ignorant of the art of Cookery, their food in consequence being seldom prepared in as economical or nutritious a manner as it might be.’
Figure 1: Cookery instruction.
Prior to 1907, instruction in Cookery and Laundry had been undertaken by the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction except in convent schools. The Department had been established in 1899 with the goal of diluting the narrow concentration on a three Rs-type curriculum to encompass additional subjects such as kindergarten, drawing, singing, cooking and laundry. According to the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland, Cookery and Laundry instruction was undertaken by the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction and held in day classes at ‘central Technical schools, or in rural districts by means of itinerant instructors.’ Rule 120 in the Rules and Regulations 1906-7 changed the status of these programmes, consequently, cookery and laundry work were now to be ‘taught as part of the ordinary school programme to girls enrolled in the fifth and higher standards.’ The teacher would earn a few of five shillings per student provided that student attended at least 50 per cent of classes. Finally a special roll of the pupils receiving instruction was to be kept, and this instruction was to last at least six months of the year, covering thirty lessons, and each lesson must last at least one and a half hours. Rule 120 was revised and relaxed by the 1909-10 report.
Cookery and Laundry Instruction - Upper Glanmire
Instruction in Cookery and Laundry at Upper Glanmire National School was undertaken by Eliza Deely, daughter of the Principal, William. Eliza Mary was born in the nearby parish of Whitechurch on 17 December 1882. Sadly, Eliza’s mother, also Eliza Mary, who was also a school teacher, died in childbirth in 1888 when Eliza was just five years old. Mrs. Deely bequeathed just over £204 to her husband, William, approximately €30,000 in 2018.
Figure 2: Calendars of Wills and Administrations 1858 – 1920 entry for Eliza Mary Deely Senior. 
Eliza (junior) can be found on the 1901 Irish Census living in Ballincrokig North (map) with her younger brother, cousin, father, aunt and grandmother. Ballincrokig is approximately four kilometres from Upper Glanmire School (map). Eliza’s occupation is documented as school mistress, it should be noted that she was only eighteen years old.
Figure 3: 1901 Census showing Deely family.
Although today it would be deemed as unusual for such a young person to hold such an important role, in the nineteenth century, this situation would be considered as normal. The earliest form of primary teacher training was based on the monitorial apprenticeship model. In this system, older pupils, usually between twelve and fourteen years of age remained at primary school as monitors, where they assisted the master/mistress. In 1870, a commission was established to review National Schooling in Ireland. This commission, known as the Powis Commission (as it was chaired by Lord Powis) was pivotal in the development of the national school system. The key findings were:
Recognition of the denominational management structure.
Educational census conducted by the Royal Irish Constabulary of the children present in every primary school on 1 June 1968.
Establishing that model schools were not fit for purposes and that they should be closed.
System of payment by results to supplement teachers’ salaries.
‘Another eventual outcome of the Powis report was official recognition from 1883 of denominational national teacher training colleges, which received funding from the National Board and offered a two-year, full-time initial training course.’ According to the Cookery and Laundry Roll Book for the year ended June 1914, Eliza completed her teacher training in Mary Immaculate College, Limerick in 1904.In addition, she also completed an organiser’s course in 1907 and 1914 to enable her to instruct her charges in cookery and laundry lessons.
Figure 4: Roll for Cookery and Laundry Work for the year ending 30 June 1914.
The first roll book for Cookery instruction in Upper Glanmire covers the year ended 1910.The class consists of six first years and three second years.In compliance with the syllabus regulations of 1906-7, pupils are female, are from fifth or higher standard, and if from a lower standard are over eleven years of age.Cookery lessons are undertaken each Tuesday from 2 pm to 3.30 pm, commencing on 5 October 1909 for a period of 27 weeks (instruction in cookery need not be given during the hot summer months).
The topics taught were varied and ranged from lentil soup to using a foot scraper and making potato cakes to necessity of good ventilation. Topics covered in the following year (ending 1911), were expanded to include linseed tea and barley water among others.
Figure 5: Roll for Cookery and Laundry Work for the year ending 30 June 1910.
The first record of laundry instruction in Upper Glanmire National School is for the year ended 1912.The use of starch is prominently featured in the syllabus, from how to make boiled starch, to starching collars and cuffs.Also included is how to make melted soaps.
Figure 6: Roll for Cookery and Laundry Work for the year ending 30 June 1912.
The Roll Books for Cookery and Laundry exist up to 1942. The structure of the books remain more or less the same for the intervening thirty years, however, one important note is that prevailing language of the books after 1922 is Irish. It was recommended in 1922 ‘that the old syllabus be dispensed with, and that Irish be taught in every school for at least one hour per day. Irish was to be the medium of instruction for all subjects, except Mathematics and English, and the work of the Infant Standards was to be entirely in Irish. Irish history was to be emphasised and the curriculum was reduced in subject range in order that these changes might be facilitated.’ Of course this enthusiastic approach to newly found independence and the ensuing achievement of the various cultural and political objectives hit a roadblock. The majority of the teachers in the 1920s did not possess the linguistic proficiency to impart their knowledge of the Irish language to their young charges. In 1926, an acceptance was reached that the revival of the Irish language needed to progress on a more gradual basis.
End of the Deely's in Upper Glanmire
What of Eliza Mary Deely, assistant to her father, principal, William Deely? The last existing entry recording Eliza’s presence at Upper Glanmire National School is 30 April 1930. Daisy Earle, Organiser, conducted a two hour visit to Miss Deely’s needlework class and noted that, ‘fairly satisfactory needlework is being done. The sewing on garments and specimens should be much neater. Miss Deely has charge of too many pupils at needlework time. It would be a better arrangement if I & II standards were taken by the master during that time.’
Figure 7: Upper Glanmire Mixed National School, Organisers Observation Book.
Death records show that Mr. William Deely died on 5 October 1943 in St. Columcille’s Hospital, Loughlinstown, and his daughter Eliza, who never married, dying four years later on the 19 October 1947, in Friar Street, Youghal.
Figure 8: Death notice Eliza Deely. 
The syllabus in Irish primary schools may have radically changed in the intervening 100 years, but what does remain is the legacy these early educators etched on both the ethos of the present schools and the communities they serve.
Figure 9: Upper Glanmire National School, 1917. 
 Royal Commission on manual and practical instruction in Primary Schools under the Board of National Education in Ireland; Final Report, (Dublin, 1898) p. 42.
 Dr John Coolahan, ‘Irish Education: Its history and structure’ (Dublin, 1981) pp. 33-4.
 Seventy first report of the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland, 1904, Appendix, (Dublin, 1905) p. 191.
 Seventy third report of the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland, 1909-10, Appendix, (Dublin, 1908) p. 26.
 Image courtesy of www.willcalendars.nationalarchives.ie.
 Susan M Parkes, A guide to sources for the history of Irish education 1780 – 1922 (Dublin, 2010) p51.
 Seventy third report of the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland, 1909-10, Rules and regulations, (Dublin, 1908) p. 88.
 Primary School Curriculum, An Evolutionary Process, p 7-8.
 Irish Press, 20 October 1947.
 Cork Examiner, 21 December 1917.