History of St Mel’s College

History of St Mel’s College

C10.6Library and Art Room.jpgFront View postcard.jpg1865 – The College opened in September with 48 boarders and 25 dayboys. The architect was Mr. John Burke, the builders Messrs. Kelly of Granard and the total cost was £16,000. Fr. James Reynolds was the first President. Previously he had been Superior of St. Mel’s Day School in the Market Sq.

1867 – Bishop Kilduff died of typhus fever, aged forty-seven, in the College he founded.

1871 – For most of the next decade the College was a major Seminary where students pursued courses in Philosophy and Theology right through to ordination. Approximately 650 former students of the College were ordained priests between 1865 and 2000.

1879 – The Theology class was discontinued and students for the priesthood went to Maynooth and Continental Colleges. The Intermediate Education Act came into operation, providing payment to Schools like St. Mel’s on the basis of examination results.

1880 – The avenue of trees was planted during the presidency of Fr. Hoare who became bishop in 1895.

1884 – Student numbers dropped to 17 boarders and 19 dayboys. The fees were £30 a year for boarders and £4 for dayboys. Over the next ten years the College faced a tough battle for survival because of falling enrolments. Suggestions were made to invite a Religious Order to run the school or to turn it into a Training College for Primary teachers. Nothing came of these plans.

1896 – Bishop Hoare established a system of scholarships or half-burses which helped to increase the student numbers to 78 in 1897.

1908 – Irish was introduced on the Curriculum for the first time. Canon Fullam died aged forty-seven after fifteen years as President. Newspapers acclaimed the College’s outstanding examination results, moving from 79th place in Ireland to 15th with the highest percentage of passes in the country in 1908.

1914 – Stained glass windows were installed in the College Chapel.

1915 – Golden Jubilee celebrations were marked with the opening of a new Gymnasium and Library (now the Study Hall), built at the cost of £3,000.

1921 – The College was raided by Crown Forces during the War of Independence. Student numbers stood at 135 and Canon Michael J. Masterson retired after thirteen years as President. General Sean MacEoin was feted at a banquet held in the college to mark his release from Mountjoy Jail.

1926 – The Intermediate Certificate and Leaving Certificate were introduced.

1928 – St. Mel’s won the Leinster Senior Football Championships for the first time, beating Belcamp College in Croke Park by 2-1 to 0-0. In the next four years they lost three Leinster Finals. From 1933 to 1948 St. Mel’s played in sixteen Leinster Senior finals and won fourteen of these.

1933 – New Dormitory and Baths were built.

1939 – The Emergency brought great hardship and food shortages. The President’s diary at the time recorded that the College was allowed 18 pounds of tea per month for 143 people, half a pound of sugar and half a pound of butter per head per week and half a ton of anthracite per month for cooking.

1944 – Three Mercy nuns arrived to supervise the kitchen and the Infirmary. For the next thirty years nuns were to play an important role in the life of the school

1948 – St. Mel’s won its first All Ireland Senior Final, beating St. Patrick’s College, Cavan in Croke Park By 4-7 to 3-3. The College again brought home the coveted Hogan Cup in 1962, 1963 and 1987.

1951 – St. Mary’s was built at a cost of £12,000 to accommodate the Sisters of Mercy and other staff. There were 169 students enrolled, 120 of them boarders. Fees were £40 a year for boarders and £8 for day boys. The death took place of Monsignor Thomas Langan at the age of 98. He had entered St. Mel’s in September 1865 and in 1935 his recollections of the early days of the College were published.

1954 – The St. Mel’s P.P.U. was launched.

1965 – The Centenary year of the College’s foundation was marked with the building of ‘New Wing’, providing accommodation for 100 boarders, as well as a new Refectory. ‘Prefabs’ were also built to cope with the increasing numbers.

1967 – Free Education was introduced. New lay teachers were appointed over the following years to cater for the influx of new students, mostly day boys.

1985 – A new Assembly Hall, Classrooms and Sports Hall were constructed.

1994 – St. Mel’s won the Leinster title for the 28th time, beating St. Peter’s, Wexford by 3-11 to 1-5.

1996 – There were 740 students and 42 teachers on the staff.

2000 – A new £2M extension was started and the Gymnasium was completed. The Junior team won the first Leinster title since 1975 while the Senior team were narrowly beaten in the Leinster Final by St. Patrick’s College, Navan. The decision was taken to phase out boarding, with no First Year boarders being taken for the first time since 1865.

2001 – The Junior team retained their Leinster title by defeating Good Counsel, Wexford. The long-awaited extension was completed and officially opened in November by Cardinal Daly.

2002 – Appointment of Mr. Denis Glennon as the first lay Principal, on the retirement of Fr. Frank Garvey. The last boarding students departed, ending a tradition which began in 1865.

2008 Transition Year was introduced to the college for the first time.

2009 The old school ref was refurbished as a school canteen and reopened as The John Gerety Hall in honour of the late John Gerety who was caretaker in St. Mel’s College for over 40 years.

2010 St Mel’s College welcomed the parishioners of Longford following the fire on Christmas Day 2009 in St. Mel’s Cathedral.

2013 Former pupil and present teacher Declan Rowley is appointed as Principal of the school.

2015 The college celebrates its 150th anniversary with a New Years Eve Ball attended by 300 and hosted in the school buildings. The Annual St Patrick’s Day Parade in Longford Town honours the celebration by dedicating the parade in honour of St Mel.

2017 Selected Memories-St Mel’s College 1865-2015 by Denis Glennon was published . This is a magnificent pictorial and historical record of life in St Mel’s College over 150 years and the college owes so much to former pupil, teacher and principal Denis Glennon for the quality of the publication.

2018 Caretaker Billy Igoe celebrates 40 years in St Mel’s college having joined the domestic staff in 1978.

2020 Fr Joe McGrath leaves the college for parish duties and for the first time in the history of the school there will be no priest on the teaching staff. School Secretary Rosemarie Halligan celebrates her 40th year on the Admin staff of the school.

Presidents 1865 – 2002

Rev. James Reynolds 1865-1871
Rev. Matthew Columb 1871-1874
Rev. Joseph Hoare 1874-1881
Rev. James O’Farrell 1881-1891
Rev. Patrick McGauran 1891-1893
Rev James Fullam 1893-1908
Rev. Michael J. Masterson 1908-1921
Rev. Denis O’Kane 1921-1933
Rev. Edward McCormack 1933-1940
Rev. James Reynolds 1940-1944
Rev. Michael Kearney 1944-1956
Rev. James J. Griffin 1956-1963
Rev. John J. Lennon 1963-1970
Rev. James Faughnan 1970-1978
Rev. James Bland 1978-1983
Rev. Peter Brady 1983-1989
Rev. Frank Garvey 1989-2002
Mr. Denis Glennon 2002-2008
Mr. Damian Cunningham 2008-2013
Mr. Declan Rowley 2013 – present

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