A National School was, and still is, a secular elementary school, or public primary school, fully financed by the government. It was set up in the 1830s to accommodate the need for a non-religious schooling, an alternative to parochial schools administered by the Roman Catholic Church or the protestant Church of Ireland.
Thomas appears in the salary books ("pay books"), which I was able to locate at the National Archives in Dublin, October of 2019. I learned that from 1860-1862, Thomas was employed at Glenealy National School in Wicklow.
Patrick Mullarney, Thomas' brother-in-law, was also a National School Teacher in Wicklow and Dublin during the same time as Thomas. I suspect that this might be how Thomas met his wife Sarah, Patrick's older sister, in Wicklow.
From a variety of records, it's clear that his parents were Jacobi (aka James) and Elizabeth Howlett of Wexford. The one baptismal record that seems to match is from Ballyculane, Wexford, dated 1840, with parents Jacobi Howlett and Margarita Commins. However, his marriage and death records declare him to have been born in 1828.
|ST. MARY'S PRO CATHEDRAL|
Sadly, though, in 1865, about a year and a half after the birth of their daughter Lizzie, young Sarah died of tuberculosis, back at her home in Ballymanus. Her death record states she had the disease for ten months before dying. That must mean that she contracted it when her daughter was exactly one year old. At the time of her death, she was under the care of her brother Patrick, who was the informant on her death record (and not Thomas). It isn't very clear to me that Thomas and Sarah had any kind of strong relationship. They likely met through the School connection, had an evening of intimacy and were forced to be married because of it, probably only knowing each other 2 or 3 years total. Given that Sarah was highly contagious, it's also quite possible that she left Dublin City to go back home to Ballymanus, leaving her daughter and husband behind, so she wouldn't infect them.
|KINSEALY NATIONAL SCHOOL|
NORTH COUNTY DUBLIN
After Sarah's death, Thomas worked briefly at St. Peter's National School in Dublin in 1867, but soon afterward was working as a school teacher at Kinsealy School, and there he met a farmer's daughter by the name of Bridget Campbell. They were married at Baldoyle Chapel in 1870.
NORTH COUNTY DUBLIN
In 1889, his daughter Sarah had sailed to New England, and in the same year married my 2nd great grandfather, Mathew John Leonard of Portland Maine (originally of Dublin). I wonder if they knew each other in Ireland. Her father had spent many years working in Kinsealy, about five miles south of Portrane, where Mathew John grew up...
National School Teacher Salary Books (1868-1890)
Civil Birth, Marriage and Death Records
Catholic Parish Records (Marriage and Baptism)
Maine Death Record of Elizabeth Howlett-Leonard