Ballyleague N.S. is situated in the parish of Kilgefin, in the Ballyleague area of the parish. Ballyleague played an important role in the Church reforms from the 6th century onwards with the arrival of St. Brendan the Navigator and his brother St. Faithleach, who travelled north by way of the River Shannon, and came ashore about a mile west of our school in Ballyleague. A short distance from the landing place is the Holy Well of St. Faithleach.
St. Mary’s N.S. Ballyleague was first established in 1851 on a site near the church, granted by Sir Michael and Lady Bellew. The builders were Michael and Thomas Murray of Rathcline parish. It was a one-roomed school, which continued in existence right up until 1955, when the present building was constructed, overlooking Lough Ree.
Life in St. Mary’s Ballyleague was very different for the students in attendance compared to the comforts the students enjoy today. Local families contributed turf for the open fire used to heat the school. There was no electricity until 1950. There were no indoor toilets or running water. Children sat on long benches which ran the breadth of the room. Ink had to be mixed to fill the ink-wells, and blackboards and slates were used for the infants. Children walked to school, usually barefoot from Easter onward.
The new St. Mary’s Ballyleague was constructed in 1955, under the direction of the Very Rev. Canon Matthew O’Reilly. It was a two teacher school until the addition of a prefabricated classroom in 1972 and was considered the height of luxury in its time. Ballyleague and its hinterland enjoyed a period of increased prosperity with the advent of the E.S.B. Power Station and the development of the bogs by Bord na Móna. This had a positive effect on school enrolments.
The building remained untouched until the addition of the “West Wing” which comprises of a large airy classroom and Resource Room, in 2005. The modernisation of the school continued with the addition of the “East Wing” in 2008 and comprises of two large classrooms, Principal’s office, staff room, boys’ toilets and special education room.
The school enjoys the benefits of extensive grounds and wonderful views of Lough Ree, and is blessed with a vibrant learning community, steeped in a strong tradition of education.