the Anglo-Irish Parliament, controlled by England, passed a code of laws called “Laws in Ireland for the Suppression of Popery,” commonly known as the Penal Code. The Penal Laws struck deep into the political, economic, and religious life of Irish Catholics. The Code had three objectives: to deny the Irish any means of participating in civic life; to deny them access to education; and, to separate them from the land. Like the pernicious Apartheid laws of South Africa, the Penal Code was aimed specifically at a particular group: native Irish Catholics, three-fourths of the population of Ireland at that time.
The Penal Code included restrictions on education:
…no person of the popish religion shall publicly teach school or instruct youth, or in private houses teach youth, except only the children of the master or mistress of the private house, upon pain of twenty pounds, and prison for three months for every such offence. (7 Will III c.4 )Schoolmasters were now treated as criminals. To encourage the “Popish” schoolmaster’s neighbors to turn him in, a reward, extracted from those neighbors, would be given of
10 pounds for each popish schoolmaster, usher or assistant; said reward to be levied on the popish inhabitants of the county where found. (8 Ann c.3 )
Any papist clergy or schoolmaster liable to transportation under these Acts shall within three months be transported to the common gaol of the next seaport town, to remain until transported. (8 Ann c.3 )Being “transported” had a very different meaning in the Penal Laws than it has in spiritual terms. It meant being shipped off to the West Indies. Any schoolmaster who tried to return to Ireland after being “transported” would be imprisoned indefinitely. Irish parents were also forbidden to send their child out of the country to be educated. This restriction was meant to deplete the number of priests in Ireland, who were generally educated in French seminaries. Irish Catholics were forbidden to teach Irish or Latin.
But the Irish resisted:
Despite all of this, the people of Ireland maintained a quiet rebellion. They were determined to keep classical education and Catholic tradition alive in their land through what was called the hedge school.
A hedge school is what it sounds like. Lessons were sometimes conducted in secret by Irish teachers out in the country side, often behind hedges but sometimes behind large rocks or in barns. The students would take turns keeping watch for the authorities.
Read the rest there.