Grousehall is the electoral division of Gleneely in Inishowen. In the 1800’s it had the distinction of being the richest rural district of the peninsula with a total rateable valuation of £2,303. The Ball family had considerable wealth and in 1840 Catherine and Grace Ball decided to do work of a charitable nature.  They opened a school at Grousehall with assistance from the ‘Erasmus Smith Trust’. Smith was a Cromwellian profiteer who left money to endow schools all over Ireland.  The trust contributed £189.14.8 and £94.17.6 was raised by subscription among local landlords and other families, amounting to a total of just over £284 for the construction of the building. Archbishop Torrens also joined the Ball ladies in funding the building of the school.  Grace later left £281.5.0 in her will dated 8 December 1860 for the school.

The Balls were relatively wealthy in a community where the average income per family was below £40 per year.  Local families were delighted when the building got underway as it provided work as an alternative to emigration from Moville.  As the school was a two- storey building with large accommodation, quarrymen and carters were kept busy supplying stone.  It was designed to house 128 children because at this time, our population was almost double what it is today.  In reputable schools, the teacher resided on the premises and so an apartment for the teacher was also built.  The teachers where normally from outside the area and the prospect of having their own living quarters made the position very attractive.  A local Board of Governors managed the school but in effect, the Ball family where in charge.  The fact that the school was under the control of the local landlord family, and that it was funded by the Erasmus Smith Trust, ensured that teachers of high calibre would make an application for a post.

Locally the school was referred to as the English school to differentiate it from the ordinary National school run by the Commissioners of Education in Dublin.  English was the most important subject on the curriculum and there was a special subject called ‘Grammar’, which today is part of the syllabus of English in our schools.  Handwriting was also considered an important part of the subject, using Vere Foster handwriting exercise books.  While novels and Shakespearean plays were studied, pupils were encouraged to write with great accuracy and in the best possible style.  A subject called Dictation was also on the curriculum and this was used to test spelling, handwriting and grammar.  As a result, all pupils leaving the school were very competent in writing the English language.  Irish was not taught even though most people in the area used this language in their speech at this time.  Geography and History were also taught but the emphasis was on the study of the British Empire and pupils learned very little Irish history.  Because the range of subjects was small, students were proficient in the courses they studied.  Scripture was also on the syllabus and prayer was a feature of the day.  The Balls were anxious to distance themselves from some local schools which were engaged in proselytism and were run exclusively by Bible societies, and were generally unpopular with the local people.  Hedge schools still operated in Inishowen but were on the decline.

We know the names of some of the teachers from the Erasmus Smith records as the Trust paid part of the salary, perhaps as much as half.  James Moore worked there in the 1850’5 and the Trust paid him £17.10 but the Balls may have added to this.  His accommodation was regarded as part of his salary and had the option of growing potatoes and vegetables in the extensive school garden as the site had two acres attached.  In some schools, the teacher also kept a cow to supply milk.  In 1860, the teacher was Thomas Caster who received £17.10 from the trust.  By 1881, the salary amounted to £30 per annum in total.  The Endowment paid £8 and the remainder came from subscriptions.  A report on Endowed schools in 1881 described the school as being in good condition.

With a network of schools throughout the country, the Erasmus Smith Trust carried out annual inspections of schools which it funded or partly supported.  On 30th July 1856, an inspector arrived at Grousehall.  He praised the facilities and the large sum invested in the construction of an excellent building.  Following tests both oral and written, he announced that the results achieved by the pupils were among the best in the country.  He praised the teacher for the superb standard of education.  Everyone was delighted when he left following the stress of the inspection, and the successful results ensured that funding would be in place for the following year.  No one was happier than Catherine and Grace Ball who warmly thanked the pupils for their performance.  But when the written report arrived back at the school, the governors were in for a shock.  In a footnote, the inspector suggested that the school should close and relocate, as there were only ten students aged eight to twelve on rolls and it was a waste of resources and skills to have such an excellent teacher working with such a small number of pupils.

Catherine and Grace reacted angrily but to no avail.  Following further inspections, the Trust ceased to provide funding in 1865 and the Commissioners of Charitable Donations took over the running of the school in 1874.  The school catered for Protestant and Presbyterian pupils but the reason why the school had low numbers was because there was a school nearby Dristeran, which at one time had 335 pupils in very crowded conditions.  By 1881, the school had increased numbers with thirty-eight on rolls and an average attendance of twenty-six, which was much higher than in the National School nearby.  At this time, no Catholics attended and the pupils were almost all Presbyterians and Protestant pupils.

When Grousehall opened, Gleneely was a thriving village.  It had a police barracks, a post office, a dispensary and four great fairs were held during the year,  the fairs took place on the last Tuesday of February, May, August and November.  A mail car stopped in the village in the 1860’s.

During renovations, a leaflet for a ‘Blue Band’ margarine competition came to light.  Students from the school took part in the Hand-writing competition.  The leaflet is dated 1935.  The School closed around 1960.

The Ball Family
Captain Samuel Ball lived in Grousehall, a short distance from the school of the same name and belonged to a distinguished Irish family which included clergymen, writers and administrators who played an important role in Irish affairs.  Samuel received his commission on 10 December 1760 for the Third Regiment of Horse known as the Caribineers Ireland.  He served under Lord Donegal.  His name appears in Army Lists between 1761 and 1770.  He served in Germany and took part in the Seven Year War which involved the main countries of Europe including Britain, Austria, France, Russia, Sweden and the German states of Saxony and Prussia, the most powerful at the time.  The war ended with the Treaty of Paris sin 1776, in which the victors extended their territories.

Samuels father was Thomas Ball who was born inn 1696 in Co Derry and attended school at Carrickmacross, Co. Monaghan and Trinity College, Dublin.  He became a law officer and later High Sheriff for Co Longford in 1737.  Thomas married Grace Acton of Co Wicklow in 1725.  His second wife was Mildred Johnson and Samuel was the second son of the marriage.

Samuel married Catherine Chichester and they had six children at Grousehall, who were baptised at Culdaff church.  They were:
Thomas. B. 1778
Arthus. B. 1779
Mary B. 1777 who married Archdeacon Torrens. Her daughter married Rev. William Chichester, afterwards, Baron O’Neill of Shane’s Castle, Co. Antrim where the family estates can still be seen.
Grace. B. 1781
William Chichester. B. 1778

Catherine and Grace lived for a time at Culdaff House.  Catherine built the church at Gleneely after she had a dream in which an angel appeared to her and told her to build a place of Worship.  The church was dedicated to All Saints and was consecrated on 27 March 1856.  The first rector was Rev. John Samuel McClintock, followed by Rev. W. Sproule who was a native of Co Tyrone who left money in his will to the church.  In 1857 the Glebe House was built for clergy.  In 1895, the church had an annual income under the Diocesan Scheme of £50.  The curate was Rev. John Beckett.  1891, Rev. Charles Smith was installed and remained in office until 1923.  grouse hall was amalgamated with Culdaff from 1923 to 1961 and late joined Moville.  The parish was transferred to the diocese of Raphoe in 1978.  The Rector of Moville is Rev. H. Gilmore, who is in charge of Greencastle, Carndonagh, Cloncha (malin) and Culdaff.  The church is deconsecrated and the remains of Catherine and Grace are buried in the Graveyard.  See Amy Youngs ‘THE THREE HUNDRED YEARS IN INISHOWEN’, for the Ball family tree; it is available only in the Library, as it is very rare.

Michael Harkin’s book ’INISHOWEN’ can be bought in local shops in Carndonagh and contains information on Gleneely.

Members of the Ball family were closely linked to the protestant church. Rev. John Ball was a rector of Attenagh and was the grandfather of J.T Ball who served as Lord Chancellor of Ireland.

Norton Butler
Norton Butler was a native of Culdaff and lived in Grousehall from 1800.  He was involved in the Donegal Militia in trying to destroy the making of poteen which was a source of income in this area.  Butler was assinated on 2 July 1816 as he walked in the grounds of Grousehall by Daniel McGuiness, a neighbour. A reward of £200 was granted for his capture.  McGuiness was tried at Lifford and found guilty.  He was executed outside the jail on 31 March 1817.  According to official documents, McGuiness confessed to the murder before execution.

A second person Hugh McConnillogue was arrested for involvment and was also executed in Lifford.  He is buried in Bocan church and a small headstone was erected in the 1970’s over his gracve close to the sacristy door of the church.

Butler’s widow was awarded a pension by the Lord Lieutenant of £200 to help raise her children but she lived in poverty thereafter.  For more details on this story read Brian Bonner’s book, ’OUR INISHOWEN HERITAGE’, which is available in the library and is due to be re-printed shortly.  For Potee making, see Sean Beattie’s account in Donegal Annual, 1991 entitled ’THIS DESTRUCTIVE TRADE’, available in the library.

The last resident of Grousehall was a farmer named James Patterson.  He was educated at Foyle College, Derry, and had a lifelong interest in Geology and astronomy.  He travelled the world in persuit of his interests.  He built an observatory at the back of his house to observe the stars.  He wrote two books, one of which was science fiction.  His first book was published by the famous publisher in Dublin, Dolmen Press.

Research - Sean Beattie, (Culdaff)

Grousehall School
Established around 1840 by Catherine and Grace Ball with help from Archdeacon Torrens, the school became a noted landmark in the Inishowen countryside at the time of the Great Famine.  It was part funded by the Erasmus Smith Trust in Dublin, a body that provided educational endowments for Protestant schools.  Within a short period, the school won recognition for the standard of education it provided, with students achieving top results in inspections and lavish praise being bestowed on the teacher.  But there was a problem…

The Ball family
Captain Samuel Ball married a descendant of Sir Arthur Chichester who was granted Inishowen following the rebellion of Sir Cahir O’Doherty in 1608.  They lived at a residence called Grousehall and had six children.  The Ball family played an important role in Ireland as administrators, but today Samuel’s daughters are the only persons who are remembered locally for their charitable deeds.

Norton Butler
Norton Butler lived with his wife and family at Grousehall in the early 1800’s.  the Gleneely district had a reputation for making poteen and one of Butler’s tasks was to stop illicit distillation, as it was known.  Poteen was untaxed and the revenue authorities were very unhappy with the loss of income. Locals manufactured poteen and sold it at the poteen market in Moville in order to pay the rent.   Inevitably, Butler became very unpopular and there were several attempts on his life.  Finally two neighbours tragically brought his career to an end.  This led to their execution on Lifford roof in 1817.

Our many thanks to Historian Mr Sean Beattie (Culdaff) who compiled the History information for Grousehall House.