The Fanore School Case ranks as one of the most controversial episodes in the history of lrish education. Over the nine decades since it first emerged the affair has come to signify different things to different commentators. Some have seen it as symptomatic of a society strangled by institutional Catholicism, while others, mainly in the teaching profession, have viewed it as revelatory of the injustices casually and commonly visited on national teachers before the efforts of the Irish National Teachers' Organisation put an end to them. On the other hand, for the inhabitants of Fanore, those closest to the case apart from the actual protagonists, the events that unfolded at Fanore National School in 1914 represented less an educational dispute than a grave crisis of community which left enduring divisions in its wake.
Surprisingly, given the ramifications of the case, it has never been subjected to systematic study. Few of those who have expressed views on the case have ever taken the trouble to establish even its most basic details, and the Church itself, perhaps through fear of embarrassment, has never presented its version of events, or until recently even allowed scholars access to the relevant files in its archives. An appraisal of the whole case is therefore long overdue.
Joe Queally's credentials for such an appraisal are strong. A native of Fanore, he has always been interested in the School Case, and from childhood has imbibed from family and community sources an enormous volume of local knowledge relating to it. Much of this knowledge comes from his mother, the remarkable Susie Queally, who at 93 still retains vivid memories of the controversy, and of its central figure, the teacher, Michael O'Shea, to whom she was a pupil for a short time.
In his book Queally skilfully mines this rich seam of oral history, but he balances it by exhaustive deployment of archival material also. The most important sources here derive from the Galway Diocesan archive, to which the author was granted full access, and which has made it possible for the first time to take account of the Church's point of view.
Researched with thoroughness, and narrated with that energy and integrity that those who know him will recognise as the hallmarks of Joe Queally. The Fanore School Case brings to the reader a full, rounded view of the entire school controversy. It will be read with absorption by anyone interested either in the history of education in Ireland, or in an extraordinary and well-told story, or both at once.
Ciarin O Murchadha
On the 15 September 1914, the manager visited the school. I accompanied him to the porch and referred to the subject of my letter as he was about to leave. He sharply enquired whether I had forgotten his mind regarding my marriage and if I had considered my tenure in Fanore. On stating that I thought it monstrous that my tenure should depend on my marriage, he excitedly claimed, "Well then, we must part." When I mentioned the Maynooth Resolution to him, he said, "I'll let you see what protection the Maynooth Resolution will give you." He thereupon returned to the schoolroom, tore a sheet from the assistant's scribbler, wrote on it three-month's notice and threw it at me. The date on the notice was 15 September 1914.