Life at training college

Carysfort Training College maintained a severely strict regime in the early twentieth century. Christine Coady (later Sister Pascal) who studied there in 1910, was critical of the narrowness of the training she received, although she did appreciate the low fees charged. There were literary and debating societies, dramatic and musical performances, but for Christine the overwhelming impression was of being overworked. She considered that the students had to study too many 'compulsory' subjects for their examinations. Every minute of the long day, from 6.30 am to 10 pm was carefully 'supervised' and there was no free time. She did enjoy the lectures of some staff members especially a lady who had been a professor at Belfast Training College and who was 'very thorough'.

One of the Professors there from 1906-1916 was Éamon de Valera. He was appointed Professor of Mathematics in 1906 at £120 per annum and Christine remembers some rather unusual aspects of his teaching of that subject:

Looking back one can see that many of the problems he set up were based on his study of arms and ammunition - the principle of the torpedo took up one session.'
In the final analysis she commented, 'Academically, our minds were enlarged, but our character training was very deficient.'
Christine Coady, Memories of a Carysfort student. Formerly located at Mercy Archives, Booterstown. Now at Mercy Archives, Herbert Street, Dublin.

Elizabeth Calwell started her teacher training course at the Church of Ireland Training College, Kildare Place, Dublin in 1906. She complained bitterly about the 'miserable existence' she had to endure and described a typical day:

At 6.30 in the morning the bell rings for us to get up, and from that till 9.30 p.m. we have not a moment to spare ... The bed-making is done after the most peculiar fashion imaginable and woe betide the girl who does not make hers according to the prescribed method. A dormitory inspector goes round after breakfast and inspects the beds and if there is a crease in your white quilt or pillow sham or your blankets are not even, etc. you are called back to make your bed again and a black mark is entered against you ... On Wednesday and Saturday evenings we get out to walk from l o'clock till 6 o'clock ... We parade up and down Grafton Street about a dozen times, and I am perfectly sick of it ... I only get home once a month ... and then I have freedom from 9.l5 a.m. till 5.45 p.m. Ladies may visit us on Thursday evening between 6 and 7 o'clock but no gentleman is allowed inside the door unless he sends in a special application to the principal beforehand ... The seniors have twice sent in a petition to get a night off, then we had no study after tea, the halls were cleared and we had games, music, etc. Dancing seemed to be the favourite amusement, but as I am a Presbyterian I did not indulge in that.
Elizabeth Calwell, 'The Letter of 1906' in Past Students' Association of the Church of Ireland College of Education Newsletter, April 1996, p. 20.


  1. Éamon de Valera was appointed Professor of ____ at ____ Training College in the year ____ at £___ per annum.
  2. What evidence is presented in the passage about Carysfort Training College to support Christine Coady's analysis that, 'Academically, our minds were enlarged, but our character training was very deficient'?
  3. Select any three aspects relating to Elizabeth Calwell's experience at the Church of Ireland Training College, Kildare Place that you would find the most unpleasant. Give reasons for your choice.


  1. Research the history of any Teacher Training College in Ireland.
  2. Interview teachers about their experiences at teacher training college and their early teaching careers.
  3. Role play a conversation between Christine Coady and Elizabeth Calwell in May 1916.
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