David Manson – Belfast’s Enlightened Schoolmaster
In 1755 David Manson set up a school in Clugstons Entry in central Belfast, promising to teach
“by way of Amusement, English Grammar, Reading and Spelling at a moderate Expense”Belfast News Letter
Manson was to prove a figure of note in terms on education in Northern Ireland but what was his background?
As a child Manson suffered from rheumatic fever and had received little formal education himself. Taught at home by his mother, Manson went on to teach English in Larne before starting out on his own.
Love is a Boy,Samuel Butler, in Hudibras, first published in 1662:
by Poets styl’d,
Then Spare the Rod,
and spill the Child.
His progressive teaching ideas were based on encouraging success rather than punishing failure. Unusually for the times, when discipline and punishment often characterised schooling, he provided teaching for both girls and boys and encouraged his pupils to enjoy learning through games and rewards – fostering a zeal for knowledge. Manson also started a free night school for teachers so that he could share and spread his views and innovative practices. He authored a well-regarded dictionary “Manson’s Spelling Book”
His venture was so successful that he had to move to larger premises, first to High Street, then to Rosemary lane and finally to Donegall Street. Many of his students came from prominent Belfast families. One of his most noted pupils was Mary Ann McCracken, who apparently excelled at mathematics. Another alumni of the school, the author Katherine Hamilton, wrote of him:
“David Manson’s extraordinary talents were exerted in too limited a sphere to attract attention. He consequently escaped the attacks of bigotry and envy; but the obscurity which ensured his peace prevented his plans from obtaining the notice to which they were entitled…”Katherine Hamilton, Author
However, Manson’s innovatory educational style was publically recognised in 1779 when he was granted the Freedom of the Borough of Belfast. David Manson died on 2nd March 1792 and his torch-lit funeral was attended by hundreds. This was a testament in itself to the respect and admiration this Belfast schoolmaster earned through his outstanding work and his enlightened values.
If you enjoyed this article…
If you like our posts please help us to grow our readership by sharing any posts that you like using the social media sharing icons shown with each post.
Please Consider a Small Donation
Belfast Entries is a husband & wife hobby website featuring articles on our shared history, memories and entertaining stories of our past. To help us meet rising website hosting costs please click the coffee cup below to learn how to make a small donation. Please note that every contribution is valued and that we will not contact you directly in order to respect your privacy.
Donations this month 5 😊
Thank you Declan
Thank you Anonymous
Thank you Donnah
Thank you Kevin
Thank you Sheril
We had 6 donations last month
What are others reading now?
Cost of Living Crisis
Given the current cost of living crisis that will impact so many in coming months we have added a page signposting organisations that may be able to offer support. We have no relationship with these organisations and cannot offer financial advice but we hope that some of the links may prove useful.
Ancestry Antrim Arthur Chichester artist Belfast Belfast Entries Belfast Family belfast roots Carrickfergus Castle Cemetery Church Clifton House County Antrim County Down Department Store Donegal education. family tree Famous Folk Forgotten folk Genealogy Ghost graveyard Historical places History Hotel Ireland Irish Census Records Irish Family Irish genealogy irish roots Mary Ann McCracken Operation Overlord Otto Jaffe Outlaw People Philanthropist Places to see Poor House Sailortown St Patrick Titanic Tourism United Irishmen
Belfast Entries posts & photos are our intellectual property and copyrighted to us. Where we use photos that do not belong to us, it is because we believe them to be in the public domain or shared under a Creative Commons licence with appropriate attribution. None of our content or images can be used without our consent. Note that a link to our Copyright & Takedown notice is included in the website footer on all pages.