The National Education System finally came to Carrickfinn in 1898. The building which housed this school was recorded in the Ordnance Survey of 1835 and was inhabited by Edward Sweeney at the time of the Griffiths Valuation of 1858. The first teacher was Mrs Bridget Diver, known locally as Biddy Duirín. Biddy nee Durnin was born in Bunbeg in the neighbouring Parish of Gweedore where her father Hugh and his brother James worked as shoemakers. After her marriage to John Diver (Tharlaigh Mhicí), she taught in the National School in his native Gola Island. John died early in life as did their two young daughters. Heartbroken, she left for a new life in Canada. Soon after arriving, she found that life there didn’t suit her there, so she returned home to Bunbeg.
Biddy got the Head Mistress position in the new Carrickfinn National School which opened on May 5thth 1898. She rowed her currach across the narrow but hazardous estuary that separates Carrickfinn and Gweedore.
When the days were short and inclement she stayed in Carrickfinn where she is recorded in the 1911 census in Tammy Alcorn’s household.
Mrs Diver a well qualified and experienced teacher had children coming from surrounding areas to avail of her tuition. She taught only in the medium of English and one of her sayings was “who owns these rags” while holding a pupil’s coat up with a stick.
There were eleven boys and seven girls recorded on the first roll call on this historic day. The oldest pupil was Patrick Doherty (Phádraig Airt) a fourteen year from the neighbouring island of Inis Shionnaigh while five years old John Boyle (Mhicí) from Carrickfinn was the youngest.
When Mrs Diver was off on sick leave in 1915, a young teacher who had just graduated temporarily filled the position. His name was Jimmy “Fhéimidh” Greene from Ranafast who later was to become the most famous Gaelic novelist of the twentieth century under the penname Máire or Seamus Ó Grianna.
There are no records for the rate of the teacher’s pay but it could have be less than the £17 13s 8d per quarter, the principal of the two teacher Annagry National School received.
On July 19th 1904 an indenture was signed by Victor George Henry Francis Marquis of Conyngham of Slane Castle, Connell Gallagher Tenant and the Most Rev Patrick O’Donnell Bishop of Raphoe. The contract was start of a process which would see Carrickfinn Island getting the first purpose built National School.
The school was built on a site given by Connell Gallagher, a tenant of local Conyngham Estate and was supervised by Rev James Walker, Parish Priest of Lower Templecrone in which Carrickfinn Island was a part. The cost of the building was £228 stg, a grant £152 stg was given by Westminster to the Commissioners of Public Works while the remainder was raised within the Parish. Hughie McCole from the Hills was the stonemason that built the new school.
Biddy and her pupils left the old school on the opening of the new building on March 28th 1906. She continued to teach there until the end of term in 1923, when she retired after 45 years of service. She was replaced by Seán McColgan who had assisted her from 1916. She spent her retirement with her sister in Rathmullan where she died on 26th March 1933.
Written by Jimmy Duffy 15th May 2016