The 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 subscriptions of $25.00 are gratefully welcomed.  Please forward subscription requests, with 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


(from 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 new land.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               


Prior to 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 Ł42 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 grounds.


Patrick 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 foot.


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 Collins.