article following is provided by that wonderful publication, the “Puslinch
Pioneer”, which for over thirty years has been dedicated to coverage of Puslinch Township news and history, and yes, most
amazingly, is produced entirely by volunteers as a community service. It is published ten times per year. To assist with production costs, annual
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remittances made payable to the “Puslinch Pioneer”, to
the Puslinch Pioneer, R.R. #3, Guelph,
Ontario, N1H 6H9.
A Pioneer Teacher at S. S. No. 3 Puslinch
the Puslinch Pioneer, v. 8, issue 10, June 1984.)
Patrick Joseph Downey came to Puslinch Township in 1856 to begin a 24-year
teaching appointment in the newly constructed S.S. #3. The school would later be known as the Downey school house.
Born in Cork, Ireland,
on St. Patrick’s Day 1820, Patrick Downey was educated in the monastery of the
Christian Brothers and later trained as an engineer before coming to Canada
in 1842. He decided to embark on a
teaching career when he found little use for his skills in engineering in the
his appointment in S.S.#3. Puslinch, he taught in S.S.#1, Eramosa from January 2, 1843 to May, 1852 for the sum
of £42 sterling per year. Then followed a brief assignment at the Stone
School in Guelph
from 1852 to 1854 and an historic engagement as the first Separate
School teacher in Guelph from January 16th, 1854 to 1856.
At S.S. #3 in Puslinch, Mr. Downey and his wife, the former Bridget
McTague, raised their 7 children in the house built for them in the school
Downey’s first pupils were mostly boys from the surrounding area. On occasion a number of lads from the Puslinch Lake School
would come to him to learn the Latin responses needed to serve at Mass when
the priest came out to some of the farm homes.
The Wellington County
Atlas records indicate
that Mr. Downey was “an especially lovable man who possessed an old world
courtesy of bearing” and who left an indelible impression on those who passed
under his tutelage. His two
granddaughters, presently living in Guelph,
also have fond memories. They recall
that he would give each child in their family a gift whenever his teaching
pension cheque arrived in their home in Renfrew where he spent his retirement
until his death in 1901.
The financial rewards as a teacher at S.S. #3
were very slim and the family had to live very frugally. They could not afford a carriage and thus had
to make the weekly Sunday trek to St. Bartholomew’s Church, now the Church of Our Lady,
in Guelph, on
All of Patrick Downey’s children with the exception of the youngest,
John, who died as a child, received their first schooling in S.S. #3. Catherine and Elizabeth entered the Loretto Convent and were known as Mother Clotilde and Mother Ignatia
Downey. Mary married a
school principal and fellow native of Puslinch, Christopher C. Collins. Joseph Patrick later became an editor of the Guelph Herald and was elected as a member of the Ontario
legislature. Edward and Fred moved to
other parts of Canada
where their descendants now live.
This article was contributed by Catherine