** Irish schools Ireland

Irish Schools

Figure 1.--HBC is not sure what kind of school this is. It does not look like a private school. HBC had thought that that secondary schools in Ireland as in England generally required boys to wear blazers or suit jackets and ties. A HBC reader tells us, however, that blazers were not common at state schools. Some Irish boys still wore short pants uniforms to school in the 1960s. Three boys in this school, for some reason placed in the front row wear shorts. Presumably their parents preferred the short pants uniform.

We do not yet have extensive historical information on Irish schools. Some information is available on the 20th century. The educatiion system is somewhat similar to England . This is of course because England controlled Ireland for several centuries. Britain lagged behind Anmerica and many Euroopen countries in creating a free public school system. This included Ireland. Ireland began moving toward independence (1920s). As a result, as an Irish reader tells us, " Ireland now has its own variations and vagaries. Our school system now differs quite a bit from the U.K. school system." Another issue in Ireland has been finances. Ireland was tyhe poorest part of the Inited Kingdom and this of course affects the ability to finance the education system. The country's economy iprioved very littkle after indeoendence, largely because of the socialist policies adopted by the Government. Market reforms have since result in substantial econoimic growth (1990s). Itrerland became known as ther Celtic Tiger. This significantly improving the Government's ability to finance a quallity education system. Irish school uniforms in the first half of the 20th century were as far as we can tell, indistinguishable from English school uniforms. We know of know significant dirrerence. This is again understandable because until the 1920s, Ireland was a part of the United Kingdom. Even after the southern counnties achieved independence, Ireland retained close economic and cultural relations with Brirain. Perhaps the major change in recent years has theen economic success of Ireland after joining the European Union and instituting market reforms. This has geberated the money for families to achieve better results nd for the Goverment to better find public schools.

Historical Background

Some historical back ground is necessary understand the development of Irish school uniform. Especially why they are virtually identical to English school uniforms. The history of Ireland and England have been interwined throughout history. St. Patruck indeed was a youth from what is now England that was enslaced by Irish raiders. Ireland was first invaded by the English in the 12th century. From that time England has controlled part or all of Ireland in one form or another. From the reign of Henry VIII, Ireland was made a kingdom, under the same monarch as England, but a separate country. In law and in practice, the Irish government was usually subordinate to the English government. The 17th century saw several wars in England and Ireland: civil wars, colonial wars, and at least onewar that was part of a wider European conflict. Following some of these disruptions, thewinners forcibly transferred ownership of large amounts of land to new landlords, and sometimesnew tenants: those who had supported the winning side, and/or those who they felt would supportthem in the future. The net effect of this was to disenfranchise and alienate the Gaelic/Catholic (Roman Catholic) majority population (aristocracy and common people alike) and some of the older Anglo-Irish families, and establish a new ruling elite of Anglo-Irish (people of English background, and alsoanglicized Irish) members of the Church of Ireland (Anglican/Episcopalian). This "Protestant Ascendancy" lasted well into the 19th century, with traces still in evidence today. Another transplanted population was introduced to Ireland, mainly in the north-east (part of the northern province of Ulster): Presbyterians (historically know as Dissenters) from Scotland (also England and even Germany), and other nonconformist Christians (especially Friends (ie Quakers). They started arriving in the 16th century, and their numbers grew in the 17th. During this period theyand the Protestant Ascendancy were not close allies: there were significant differences inbackground, social class and style of Protestantism. Both the Catholic majority and the Presbyterians were the victims of discriminatory laws favouringthe Church of Ireland. Generally, though, the discrimination against Catholics was worse than that against the nonconformists. Ireland was technically made one with England, Scotland and Wales (1800) as part of the UnitedKingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. In some ways, this was a Good Thing for Ireland, as it led to electoral reform, land reform, and the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland and its right to taxthe whole population. But the colonial relationship remained, and as freedoms grew without realequality with England and the English, so did Irish nationalism develop and flourish. As the 19thcentury moved on, independence became inevitable. The British Parliament had passed an Irish Home Rule bill, butits implementation was delayed because of World War I (1914-18). A small band of Irish Republicans, holding thatindependence was Ireland's of right and not in England's gift, staged an armed rebellion (the EasterRising) in 1916, briefly taking over a small part of central Dublin. The government acted harshly,executing several of the rebels, and cracking down hard in general. This led most of the country toside with the rebel cause. It quickly became ungovernable by Britain.

Historical Schools

We have very limited information at this time as to how schools fitted into Irish history. Irish monastaries played an inportant role in early medieval Europe. These monastries wereknown for their learning and must have had schools, but we have no information about them at this time. After the Reformation Schools became an issue between the English Protestants and native born Irish Catholics. The English used the schools to teach the Protestant faith. The Irish turned to illegal Hedge Schools which provided an Irish view of history, Gaelic language instruction, and Catholocism. Britain laged behind many other countries in providing free public schools for children. This did not occur until the late 19th century when so-called National Schools were established. We are not sure about the curriculum in these schools. We do not know how religion was handled and who was allowed to teach in these schools. Were all the teachers Protestants? Nor do we knowhow they handled historical issues. Nor do we know when Catholics were allowed to found schools. We do know that the Christian Brothers played an important role in early Catholic schools. We do not know, however, to what extent the British authorities.monitored the curriculum.

Figure 2.--These boys at a rural Irish school were still wearing 'dresses in this photograph taken in 1915. We are not sure what kind of school it was, perhaps a National School.


I currently have very little information on Irish school uniforms. Boys in rural areas that went to school were often outfitted in dresses. Boys in urban areas were more likely to dress like English boys. Affluent Irish boys appear to have worn basically the same styles as British boys. English-style styles appear to have become increasingly common in the 20th century, especially after World War I. This is an interestingly development because this was just the time when the Irish Free State was form and Ireland broke from the British. HBC still has limited information on Irish schoolwear, but Irish readers have supplied some information which has helped to sketch out some basic patterns.

Types of Schools

As in England, there are a variety of historical schools of various types. The British founded National Schools. Irish nationalists attempted tp perpetuate Irish culture through Hege Schools. The Christian Brothers were active in Ireland. There has been three types of schools in Ireland, state schools, private schools, and Catholic schools--kind of a cross between private schools and state schools. There are many similarities among these schools, but also some notable differences. The trends have of course varied overtime. Many of the schoolwear fashions are essentially English fashions and reflect trens in comparable schools. The Catholic schols are run by a board of managment. They run on a government grant per pupil and funding from parents. The Public secondary schools are state run they get all funding from the state. The private secondary schhols are mostly boarding schools. They ar primarily supported by school ees, but do get some grants from the govenment but not much.


There are a wide range of activities conducted at school, both inside and outside the classroom. Here we will collect information from arriving at school to going home in the afternoon. Many of these activities required a specaialized uniform or sports gear. We don't think that state primaries had uniforms, at least before World War II. This may have changed after the War as it did in Britain. State secondary schools did have uniforms. Thus classroom wear will be affected by this basic pattern. Many private schools had a dress uniform worn on Sunday or special school events. During regular school days a less elaborate uniform was worn. At scome schools boys would come to schools in their blazers, but just wear their jumpers while in class. Some class room activities like art or science might require some sort of protective gear. Quite a number of schools sponsored youth group units such as Scouts. Some secondary schools had Cadet units. Many schools had a gym uniform. There was a variety of specialized uniform for various team sports.

Figure 5.--This Irish boy wears a uniform indistinguishable from his English counterpart. Notw the trim on the blazer.


The schoolwear and school uniform garments worn in Ireland are the same as those wore in England. The authors know of no specifically Irish garment worn by school boys. This of course reflects the fact that until the 1920s, Ireland was part of Britain and the Irish school system was founded and set up by British authorities. Private schools also followed British patterns. We see the same style of caps, blazers, ties, and other Britih school uniform garments. It is impossible to identify Irish boys by the school uniforms they wear, even destinguishing them from the British. And the tendency to wear these school uniform items followed the same basic trend as in Britain. The private schools were the first to wear unifoerms with the state schools following after World war II. The one destinctive Irish trend was the flannel dresses boys wore in the 19th abnd early 20th century. This was different than the kilt style in Scotland as these flannel dresses were in no way considered to be a national costume.

Individual Schools

HBC is collecting information om individual Irish schools. These repesentative schlools show the variety of school clothes and school uniforms worn by Irish boys. They also provide insights on schoolwear trends over time at these schools. HBC readers are incouraged to provide details on their schools.

Individual Experiences

Irish readers have provided some information on some of their school experiences.

Engish and Irish school: Late 1960s-early 70s

Prep school: 1973

Scottish nuns: 1980s


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Created: June 5, 1999
Last updated: 11:27 AM 3/6/2016