De La Salle Brothers Schools History

History of the Be La Sale Brothers Primary and Secondary Schools 1893-1998

St. Brigid’s National School

In 1865, Fr. Morrin, P.P. of Bagenalstown, had a new national school, St. Brigid’s, built, on the site of the present school. It had three classrooms and a cloakroom. In 1868, he invited -Br. J. A. Hoare, Superior General of the Irish Christian Brothers to send Brothers to staff the school. He bought a home, adjacent to the school for £230. Br. Patrick Barry was transferred from Borris Idrone, to be the first Principal, and a teaching Brother and a lay Brother accompanied him. Fr. Morrin died in 1881 and he was succeeded as Parish Priest by Fr. O’Neill who had been P.P. in Graiguenamanagh. Relations between Fr. O’Neill and the Brothers, strained. The cause was money. The parish, was probably in, great debt at the time. St. Brigid’s had been built in 1865. The teachers’ residence in Ballinkillen had been enlarged in 1883 and a major reconstruction of St. Andrew’s church was in progress. ‘To make matters worse, £1000, which Fr.-Morrin had invested in the Hibernian Bank, for the upkeep of the Brothers, failed to pay dividends. Fr. O’Neill wanted the Brothers to register under the Board of National Education and have their salaries paid by the government. The Brothers refused and Fr. O’Neill refused to hold the annual collection for them. They withdrew from the school in 1886. A Mr. Conwell was teaching in the school up to 1893. In 1893, Monsignor Burke, the Parish Priest, who had been President of Carlow College, established St. Joseph’s Academy and invited the De La Salle Brothers to staff both it and St. Brigid’s National School. On September lst 1893 three Brothers arrived in Bagenalstown. They were Br. Gall Deasy, Superior and Principal of the school, Br. James Stakett and Br. Martin Crawford, cook and housekeeper. They began school on September 4th. 117 boys being present. A Mr. McSwiney, a classics teacher, aided them. Latin, was taught in the cloakroom as well as other subjects connected with the Academy. Some classes were also taught in the Monastery sitting room. The Academy became independent in 1896 when Mr. Terence Flood replaced Mr. McSwiney. As a matter of interest, Br. Gall, the Principal was 23 years of age and Br. James was 2 months short of his 21st birthday. It cost the parish £700 to bring the Brothers to the town. £196 of this was received when a special collection was made on October 9th when the renovated. St. Andrew’s church was rededicated. Dr. Shennan, Bishop of Waterford preached the sermon on the occasion in the presence of Dr. Lynch, Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin. Unfortunately, there are very few references to school attendance after that. Any figures that I could find, refer to average attendance. This was calculated from the 1st of September of one year to the same date on the following year. Thus the average attendance for the following were-

1885 – 86107 (That was the Irish Christian Brothers’
final year.)
1892 – 9388
1893 – 94112 (The De La Salle Brothers’ final year.)
1907 – 1908178

All figures refer to boys over seven years of age. Because of the increase in the number of boys in the school, it was necessary to build extensions to both the school and the Monastery. To acquire funding for these extensions, through the Carlow Nationalist of Saturday February 22nd 1908, Monsignor Burke called a meeting of parishioners to organise this funding. At this meeting a committee was formed for this purpose. The members of this committee were:

Samuel Ward, Esq. Co. C.J.PJames Aughney D.C
P. HughesThomas Dowling
C. ClearyJohn Jordan
P. FenlonM Shiels
Monsignor BurkeBr. James

Lists of subscribers appeared in the Nationalist for some weeks afterwards. Subscriptions varied from £5 to 1s. Both, extensions were finished for the start of the 1909 school year. An extra large room was added to the school and three bedrooms, an oratory and community room were added to the monastery. There were now four Brothers teaching in St. Brigid’s and the Principal was Br. Michael O’Leary. On November 11th 1915, Monsignor Burke died after a severe attack of pneumonia and was replaced as Parish Priest and manager of St Brigid’s by Rev. M. Cullen. Br. Matthew, Principal, was transferred to Castlebar in January 1917 and was replaced as Principal of St. Brigid’s by Br. Felix McCarthy, a native of Paulstown

The average attendance must have fallen in the years following 1909, because there is a note in 1918 which states that Br Matthew came from Waterford Training College because the average attendance had risen, allowing the appointment of a fourth teacher. This rise and fall in the average attendance seems to have been a recurring problem. For example there is an entry for October 1919 that states “The ‘Flu’ necessitated the closing of the school for six weeks in October and November. The effect of the influenza on the National School was a serious decline in the average attendance.” Br. Vincent Duddan replaced Br. Felix as the Principal In 1921. Br. Matthew, who had been on the staff of St. Brigid’s since 1918, died of scarlet fever on December 27th 1925. He was buried outside the door of Newtown Church, beside Br. Dominic who died on February 27th 1897. Br. Vincent resigned in 1926 and was replaced as Principal by Br. Luke Dunne, who was transferred to Kildare in 1927. Br. Luke was replaced by Br. Senaaus Francis Murphy who was Principal until 1931 when he was in turn replaced by Br. Luke who remained as Principal until 1942 when Br. Hilary Phelan replaced him. Br. Hilary was involved in the founding of Erin’s Own Hurling Club. Br. Luke was very interested in local history and collected a great deal of material for the folklore commission.. A lecture he delivered at Colaiste Carman, Gorey on May 10th 1934 on the History of Fr. John Murphy’s campaign in Carlow, Kilkenny and Laois is included in Fr. Peader Swayne’s book “‘98 in Carlow.”

In 1932 the average attendance was high enough to employ a fourth teacher. In 1940 a fresh water supply was introduced into the school and new toilets were installed. The number in the school was 187. In 1943 St. Brigid’s celebrated the golden jubilee of its connection with the De La Salle Brothers. Solemn High Mass was celebrated in St. Andrew’s Church and all the priests and the Bishop, who presided were past pupils of either St. Brigid’s or of St. Joseph’s Academy. Most Rev. Dr. Keogh, Bishop of Diocese presided. Rev. T. Murphy, C.C., Stradbally was chief celebrant, with Martin Brophy, P.P. Ballinkillen as Deacon and Andrew Farrell C.C. Edenderry as sub-deacon. The Master of ceremonies was Rev. Tom Browne, (Coolnacuppogue), P.P. V.F. Portlaoise. He also preached the Jubilee sermon. Rev. Joseph McDonnell presided at the organ. Seventeen priests, all past pupils were in sanctuary. In 1944 the school was closed during the months of February and March because of an outbreak of Diphtheria in the town. On May 14th 15th, 16th and 17th the Operetta, “Once Aboard the Lugger” was staged by the pupils as part of the Jubilee celebrations but failed to make the deadline.

In 1946 an inter Primary school sports competition was inaugurated in Co. Carlow for the O’Duffy Cup. St. Brigid’s won it six years in a row. In 1947 Br. Maurice Ward replaced Br. Hilary as Principal. In 1948 the Manager, Rev. Canon Lynam died and Monsignor James Conway who had been President of Carlow Ecclesiastical College replaced him. Br. Dermot O’Keeffe replaced Br. Maurice as Principal. From September 1954 to September 1955 classes were held in the McGrath Hall while this school was being renovated and refurbished. In 1958 Br. Dermot was replaced as Principal by Br. David Brouder. In October 1960 an extension to the school commenced. The work was finished for the reopening in September 1961. The extension consisted of three classrooms, cloakroom, staff room, toilets and two sheds. The cost was in the region of £14,000. Six teachers were appointed, as the number on rolls was 265.

Kevin Crowley was the first layman on the staff. He was appointed in 1961 and will be remembered for his tenor-role in The Gondoliers. He moved to Kildare in 1963 and died soon afterwards. His replacement was Liam O’Brien from Limerick, who moved to Garryhill after a couple of years and then to Dublin.

Another Limerick man replaced him – Brian Whelan. Mr. Liam Nolan now Principal in Newtown, joined the staff in 1967. Br. Finian was succeeded in 1971 as Principal by Br. Leo Looney who remained on until 1980. The other Brothers who taught in the school during the 70s were Ailbe O’Connell and Conleth Levins. Mrs. Anne Kinsella became a member of the staff in 1968 and Christine Somers in 1972. Michael Delaney now Secretary of the Leinster Council of the G.A.A was on the staff in the early 70’s. Kevin Cuddy was on the staff from 1975-1976, Pat Kavanagh 1973-1978 and George Darcy now Principal of Our Lady Queen f the Universe 1975-1990. Marie Quirke joined the staff in 1978 and Martin Farragher from 1981-1987.

Br . Leo was succeeded in 1980 by Br. Francis McCallig. Br. Conleth Levins died in 1983 and Br. Francis was transferred to Dublin in 1992. The present principal Hamish Beaton came to the school in 1983, Sean Hanafin in 1990 and Joseph Hanafin in 1992. As well Liam Shinnors came in 1987 , Gearoidin Ni hEidhin in 1990 and Mary Dore in 1991.

The following are former pupils of St. Brigids who joined the De La Salle Brothers.
Br. Arcadius Ryan, Corries R.I.P
Br John Kavanagh Skibbereen.
Br. Ben O’ Hanlon from Paulstown now Assistant Provincial.
Br. Patrick Walsh from Dunleckney now teaching in Ballyfermot.
Br. Ultan Bolger, Royal Oak, R.I.P.
Br. Eugene Donegan, the Lock, who gave many years of service in Australia R.I.P.

St. Joseph’s Academy Muine Bheag 1896 -1983

The system of secondary education, which we now have originated in the Intermediate Act of 1878. There was, however, a number of privately run second-level schools in the country previous to that date. Most of them were run by one or other of the churches. With a few exceptions, Bagenalstown boys of the 19th Century – particularly the Catholics amongst them – could not have afforded or would not have wanted second-level education. We learn from Brennan’s “Schools of Kildare and Leighlin” that Joseph H. Thomas, a graduate of T.C.D., conducted a school called ‘Bagenalstown Academy’ in the 1820s. Of his fourteen students only two were Roman Catholics. Wealthier Protestants could have availed themselves of Kilkenny College. In the 1820s and 1830s wealthier Catholics could have boarded at Alexander Lynch’s ‘Everton School’ outside Carlow where Joseph Maty Callinan, the poet of Gougane Barra, taught for some time. In the 1830s a Mr. Sheridan conducted an ‘Academy’ at Leighlinbridge wherein the Classics, etc. were taught. There were places for 100 lay students in Carlow College. But in his history of Carlow, published in 1833, Ryan tells us that the College never had that number of lay students. In 1868 the P.P., Fr. Morrin invited the Christian Brothers to staff St. Brigid’s National School, which he had constructed in 1865. The Brothers arrived in the town in 1870. About the same time a committee was established in the town to ask the Brothers to staff a Classical School. The Superior General, Brother J. A. Hoare, was unable to meet their request. It was not until 1893 that Monsignor Burke established St. Joseph”s Academy and brought in the De La Salle Brothers to supervise it as well as staff the National School which the Christian Brothers had lo leave some time earlier due to circumstances beyond their control. Dr. Burke had been President of Carlow College and so was not a little interested in fostering vocations to the priesthood.

Experience had taught him that vocations flourished in areas where Classical Schools had been established. He now set about providing a “Classical and Intermediate School” for his new parish. These schools were classical in so far as they concentrated on Latin and Greek with an eye to preparing the boys for the Church. They were “Intermediate” in that they gave an education intermediate between the National Schools and the Universities; they conformed to the standards laid down by the Intermediate Education Act of 1878. At the time the De La Salle Brothers were prohibited by their rule from studying or teaching Latin. It became necessary therefore to employ lay teachers for this task and the position went first to a Professor McSwiney and then to Terence Flood (1896 – 1926). It is to Terence Flood and Br. James Sharkett, headmaster (1893 -1912), that the early success of the Academy must be attributed. Of them Dr. Thomas Keogh who entered the Academy in 1898 and later became Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin has said “It is to Br. James and Terence Flood that I owe the early formation of my character…I owe much to this grand old school…” In October 1893 major repairs on St. Andrew’s Church had been completed. At the High Mass of rededication on Sunday, October 8th, Most Rev. Dr. Sheehan, Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, preached the sermon and the proceeds of the collection were “used in paying off the expenses incident in the introduction of the Brothers of De La Salle, and to the building of a new Classical and Intermediate School”. An entry dated August 23rd 1896 in the Community History states that “St. Joseph’s School was placed under the direct control of the Brothers”. There were only five on roll at the time, which would seem to indicate that things had not been running smoothly.

It was at this juncture that Terence Flood became Classics Master there. The “Classical and Intermediate School” was renamed “St. Joseph’s Academy”. St. Joseph is a special patron of the Brothers and they already had St. Joseph’s Academies in such widely separated places as St. Louis, U.S.A. and Blackheath, London. The Classical School was first situated in the room built by Monsignor Burke at the western end of the National School. Since the renovation of the latter in 1954 the old Classical schoolroom has been used as a cloakroom. By 1901 a larger premises was required to accommodate the increasing numbers and Green Cottage, which stood at the corner of Railway and Station Roads was acquired from the Misses Wood. In his school account book in August 1906 Monsignor Burke recorded the “Purchase of School” for £150, Unfortunately he does not specify which school, but it would seem to have been St. Joseph’s on which he had probably been paying rent since, 1901.

As mentioned earlier, Br. James Sharkett was appointed headmaster in 1896 and held the position until 1912. During this period the numbers in the Academy grew. By 1908 there were boys attending from the parishes of Bagenalstown, Myshall, Paulstown, Leighlin, Borris and Graiguenamanagh, the boys from Borris travelling daily by the Bagenalstown and Wexford Railway. Students were even known to travel from as far afield as Ballywilliam. Br. James was succeeded in 1912 by Br. Francis Murphy – past pupils who remember the handball alley will recall his name inscribed in plaster on the outside wall. Other headmasters of the Academy include Br. Fintan O’Grady, Br. Edmund Rigney, Br. Nicholas Ryan and Br. Hermes O’Connor. In. addition to Terence Flood two other lay teachers deserve mention for their outstanding service, Mr. Patrick Nolan and Mr. Peadar McCarthy.

Past, pupils of the Academy down, the years have figured prominently in Irish life, ecclesiastical, secular and sporting. Among the numerous past pupils who were ordained to the priesthood pride of place must go to Dr. Thomas Keogh, late Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin. A native of Gurteen near Graiguenamanagh, Thomas Keogh enrolled in the Academy in 1898 and had a distinguished academic career. Present day pupils brought, up in the era of school transport might marvel at the fact that he walked from his home every Monday morning, lodged at the house of Mr. John Nolan in High Street during the week and returned by foot on Friday evening. In political life the Academy can boast one Cabinet Minister, Mr. Tom Nolan, as well as T.D.s the Hughes brothers, M.J. Nolan and Maurice Manning. George Byrne and J.J. Dunleavy became school inspectors. In the sporting world Jem Byrne captained Wexford to four All-Irelands (Football) in a row. Sean Drea won a silver medal in the 1975 World Rowing Championships. Paddy Muffins achieved prominence as a horse trainer. A former pupil Capt. Gleeson was killed tragically in the Nietnba ambush in the Congo in 1960.

Mainly due to the poor financial state of the country and the lack of job opportunities the number attending the Academy remained low up to the end of the 1950s. When Br. Hermes O’Connor took over the Headmastership in 1955 the total enrolment was a mere 60 pupils – a number considered to be quite good at the time. Increased numbers in 1956 led to the building of a new classroom in 1957. By 1960 there were 120 on the roll. Meanwhile Br. Hermes had reintroduced Science and French, Subjects that the school had been unable to cater for many years due mainly to the snail numbers and consequent lack of teachers. The upturn in numbers reflected the general rise in the economic situation in the country. The advent of the O’Malley free education scheme and the free buses also contributed to the growth in the school numbers. This also led to the building of pre-fab classrooms to accommodate the rising number of pupils. A woodwork room was later provided. One of the results of the building of the pre-fabs was the disappearance of the ball alley. However the laying of basketball courts (begun in the mid-fifties) compensated for this. During the seventies the name of St. Joseph’s Academy acquired a new fame as a successful basketball nursery.

The need to rationalise second level schooling as well as the state of the buildings, led the protracted negotiations on the provision of a new secondary school. The result is the new Presentation, De La Sale College now completed. Already much, co-operation was taking place at senior cycle level between the two former schools. This has enabled the provision of a much broader Leaving Certificate curriculum. Besides, on the social level pupils of both schools had taken part in the production of Musicals and the annual Debut dinner dance was a joint venture. Thus the groundwork for the amalgamation was already laid.

Farewell Mass 11th December, 1998

On behalf of the organising committee I would like to welcome everybody here tonight. This Celebration Mass and Social evening is being held to honour the work of the De La Salle Brothers in Bagenalstown. For over the last century they have been an integral part of the spiritual, educational and sporting lives of the people of this town.

They fostered and nurtured a love of learning in all the boys in the Primary School under their care. They dedicated their lives to these boys and gave selflessly of their time to each child’s educational development.

Their contribution to various sporting organisations especially the G.A.A. cannot be forgotten. The successes achieved by teams under their care was the envy of all clubs in the county.

I hope that this night in some way expresses the high regard and esteem in which the De La Salle Brothers are held by the community. Their work will forever be remembered in the hearts and minds of all who knew them.

Braithfimid uainn a gcuid saothair.
Hamish Beaton
Chairman of Organising Committee


Partings are never easy and the departure of the Brothers from Muine Bheag this year is also a sad occasion. The leaving of friends and acquaintances after years of happy association brings its own feeling of loss too. However, while we grieve at our going, we realise that we have many reasons for celebration as well.

We celebrate 105 fruitful years of service in Christian Education to the youth of Muine Bheag and its environs. From very humble beginnings in 1896, the Academy continued to provide quality education, often in difficult circumstances, right up to recent years, when it was replaced by the present modern College designed to meet changing, present day educational needs. Likewise, the Primary School can boast of an equally impressive record. However, the most telling and lasting contribution of both schools, perhaps, has been the strong emphasis which they have always placed on sound Christian values as an integral part of their service to the young.

We celebrate also the spirit of goodwill and co-operation which has marked the relationship of the parents with the schools. Brothers who taught in Muine Bheag speak glowingly of the friendly and supportive attitude of parents and their willingness and availability to help in any way required. The same spirit of co-operation has been evident in our dealings with the local community and especially with the priests of the parish. For this we are especially grateful.

Above all we celebrate a life time of harmonious and fruitful work with our sister religious and lay colleagues. The witness of their lives, their extraordinary commitment and their exemplar support made our task so much easier and the effort so worthwhile.

So, while we regret leaving, we thank God for the may blessings received, and we rejoice in the knowledge that, in passing on the torch to our lay colleagues, the future of Christian Education in Muine Bheag is secure.
Brother Christopher Commins, f.s.c. Provincial
The Bishop’s House, Carlow.

This is a sad occasion for the people of Bagenalstown as they unite in saying farewell to the De La Salle Brothers, who are leaving after 105 years in the town.

Their departure makes us all more conscious of the special regard in which they were held over those years and of how indebted Bagenalstown people are to them. Generations of students appreciate the value of the Christian and human formation which they received from the Brothers. Those Brothers are assured of a prominent place from future historians of Bagenalstown and of the diocese.

In the name of the diocese I want to express deep thanks to the De La Salle Congregation and to the individual Brothers for their dedication to the education of boys and lately girls and, in particular, for the special part they played as educators in Bagenalstown. They left a tradition of education which will not die out. The teachers who are following them derive inspiration from the tradition and will ensure that it is kept alive.
Laurence Ryan
Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin
16 November, 1998

The multi-coloured and speckled leaves floating to the ground at this time remind us to bid farewell to Summer and Autumn. The bleak trees will be with us all Winter until burgeoning buds herald a New Spring with new life.

A time of Farewell and New Beginnings. A farewell to the members of the De La Salle Congregation who have shared their Christian Catholic ethos with the pupils of their schools and with the people of our town and its surrounds for 105 years. Just as we are sorry to see the leaves go, we regret very much the departure of the Brothers. They brightened our lives, coloured our education, energised our social activities and matured our Faith over the years. We will miss you.

Your legacy has deep roots and will flourish in a New Spring guided now by the people you have nurtured over the years. We hope that we will not fail you.

May the retrenchment of your Congregation be only temporary so that in a New Era you will return to tackle the felt needs of people which you did so brilliantly over a 100 years ago. On behalf of all, idir cleir is tuatha, past and present, thanks for what was and let us pray for each other in the future.
God Bless,
Pierce (Fr.)

September 1st 1998 was a sad day in the history of our school. For the first time in one hundred and five years there was no De La Salle brother to cross the threshold. This day had, of course, been fast approaching since my appointment as principal in 1995, replacing Br. Philbert Cronin. I am grateful to the Order for those three years of grace, during which I had time to imbibe Lasallian culture and tradition, not least through the presence in our school of Brother Donal O’ Donoghue, Brother Norbert Mullins and Brother Stephen Deignan who represents the Lasallian Trustees on the Board of Management.

Since the amalgamation of the Presentation and De La Salle Secondary Schools in 1983 the school was fortunate to have the services of Br. Damian Kellegher, Principal, 1983-1988, Br. Norbert Devine, Principal, 1988-1992 and Br. Philbert Cronin, Principal 1992-1995. Other brothers who served in the school were, Br. Gergory Ferguson, Br. Martin Breen, Br. John Mansfield and Br. Denis Coleman.

Tonight is a time for celebration of the major contribution made by the De La Salle Brothers to education in Bagenalstown area and a time for thanks for the rich inheritance they have bestowed upon us.
Anne Keating
Presentation De La Salle College