Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

Christian Brothers School
By Cartan Finegan.

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Carlow C.B.S.

In 1986 Michael Purcell edited the Golden Jubilee Journal for the Christian Brothers, Bishop Foley School. Due to shortage of space many articles were omitted. As promised in that booklet C.C.H.S. intend to publish the omitted material in our journals. The following is one such article; it was submitted by Carlow born Cartan Finegan.

The mind has a tendency to block out unpleasant memories and maybe that's why my recollections of Carlow C.B.S. are so sketchy, and I'm not yet old enough to indulge in nostalgia. I mentioned the request to write this little piece to my equally distinguished Carlow-man, Jimmy Kelly — the head barman in the Shelbourne Hotel, and this kindly man remarked sadly "Ah! the Christian Brothers . . . they were very hard". This unlocked my memory log jam, and the images that were awakened illustrated very vividly the different relationships between pupils and teachers today and the Christian Brothers and their lay-teacher subordinates in my day. The principles of any behaviour science did not influence the single-sex authoritarian regime, which, while enunciating the catholic ethos, practised the protestant ethic — that hard work brought its automatic rewards.

Passing exams was the only end product, with no hint that producing good citizens was also a community benefit.

The Brothers, whose simple nationalistic fervour was father to the Provo inheritance; the 'leather' backed technique in teaching Irish that assured its failure; the Retreats where the Missioner thundered in "Portrait of the Artist" style, and whose probing of youthful sexuality was more voyeuristic than guiding; the lay-teacher who scorned at boys whose parents were very poor; and the one who whistled happily as he dealt with the boys lined up for physical punishment, these are on the unpleasant side of the coin of memory.

Coming from the nun's preparatory school, St. Joseph's into the cold-looking new granite C.B.S., one became conscious of an austere ambience, unsoftened by creativity in form, colour or attitude. But this is less a reflection on the C.B.S. than on the society of that day — which it mirrored. It produced very many sad results in pupils whose skills in Gaelic and catholic doctrine equipped them poorly for the societies to which they had to emigrate. The sense of betrayal, articulated in cynicism expressed by the many whose children are now very English, makes one glad that today's society, with all its defects, is a much warmer and more human society and one hopes that is also manifest in the Carlow C.B.S. as it completes its first half-century.

If some of our published material triggers off other memories, perhaps you would put pen to paper and submit your story for publication.

We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the Presbyterian and Methodist communities in Carlow for their invaluable assistance in the past. They have enabled our Society to create employment, by providing accommodation for our projects and have allowed us to use their premises as an archival repository.

By Cartan Finegan, who for many years was Head of Marketing for An Bord Bainne internationally and is now Assistant General Manager of C.I.E. and Director of C.I.E. Tours International. He is also currently President of the Chartered Institute oj Transport in Ireland.

Previously published in Carlow Past & Present Vol. 1. No. 3. 1990 p. 105

The Christian Brothers in Carlow

By Mrs. Mary O'Neill

IN 1853, Most Rev. James Walsh, Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, applied to the Superior General of the Christian Brothers to establish a Community in Carlow. He sent the then Administrator of Carlow, Rev. James Butler, to wait on the Superior General in North Richmond Street, Dublin, and to deliver the letter as below:


9th August, 1858.

My Dear Mr. Riordan,

My Rev. friend who will hand you this note will explain the details regarding my desire to have an estab­lishment of the Christian Brothers in Carlow. I hope you will concur in my views and enable me to have the schools soon opened.

Accept the assurance of the esteem with which I am,

My dear Mr. Riordan,

Yours faithfully,

J Walsh.

Cordial Reception

One of the Brother Assistants came to Carlow, where he was received cordially by the Bishop, who showed him a good well-built schoolhouse containing two rooms, each 50 ft. x 20 ft. and two smaller classrooms, the whole well-enclosed and rented for £8 per year. The Bishop mentioned that £1,000 as a foundation would be invested at 5 per cent, and that an Annual Collection would be made for the Brothers' support.

On September 19th, 1859, three Brothers arrived in Carlow—their temporary resi­dence was at No. 2 Montgomery Street, formerly used as a school and known as " The Academy." The Brothers opened School on October 3rd, 1859, in the National Schools, College Street, the block nearest the Dublin Road, the National teachers having withdrawn according to notice given them.

More Room Needed

The schoolrooms were soon found in­sufficient and the Bishop, to meet the difficulty, fitted up an apartment in Montgomery Street. In 1883, they moved from here to the old Parochial School which the Bishop had secured. The second storey was removed. Thus the whole School was on the same plot of ground.

In 1861, the Brothers moved to their present residence at Mount View, Dublin Road. This house had been built and occupied for many years by Thomas Hughes, Esq., a retired Carlow draper and father of Rev. James Hughes, sometime Administrator of Carlow and subsequently Parish Priest of Naas.

A New Wing

It was found to be inconvenient with its small rooms and low ceilings. The Superior decided on adding a wing to it and asked the financial assistance of the Bishop, who gave his £100. The work was commenced and finished in 1865. The new addition comprised a kitchen and refectory on the ground floor and a visitors' room and oratory overhead.

There was a Bro. Francis Clarke teach­ing in the Schools for twelve years from 1869-1881. The impression made by this devoted Brother on the minds and hearts of his pupils, past and present, was well expressed when he died, by erecting a Memorial to his memory. The Memorial took the form of enclosing the Brothers' Cemetery with a handsome railing and the erecting of a beautiful Celtic cross to mark his resting place.

Mount View Re-Built

Mount View was still found to be too small to accommodate the Brothers. Bro. O'Donoghue, Superior, succeeded not only in renovating and enlarging the old house, but practically built a new one. It was a commodious and comfortable residence and cost £1,000. The Superior had the satis­faction of seeing the completion of the work  in July,  1909.

At that time, the entrance from the Dublin Road was a little further up nearer to " Beechville." Stables and outoffices occupied the space where the present entrance gate stands. The Brothers kept cows and had an extensive garden worked by the energetic lay-Brother O'Neill, who sold milk and vegetables to the neighbour­ing folk to supplement their small income, which was mostly derived from school fees collected in weekly pennies.

Mr. Tom O'Neill of Gayville tells me this lay-Brother was the last member of the Community to be buried in their little cemetery at the top of the garden. He was an altar boy at the time, and over 90 boys lined the paths as the coffin was brought up. 

Source: Carloviana.   Journal of the Old Carlow Society Vol. 1. No. 4, New Series, Dec. 1956. Page 37

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