St Mary's College, Galway

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St Mary's College
Galway, Ireland
Type secondary school
Established 1912
President Fr. Barry Hogg
Principal Ciarán Murphy
Enrollment 600

St Mary's College is a boys secondary school in Galway, Ireland. It educates students aged 12 to 18 for the Junior and Leaving Certificate examinations. It was founded in 1912 as the junior seminary of the Roman Catholic Galway and Kilmacduagh dioceses. It teaches boys to the Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate examinations. St. Mary's College retains the status of diocesan college although it recently ended its boarding provision (1999).

The school will celebrate its centennial in 2012, celebrating the completion of its main building in March 1912. The building is faced with granite and limestone, the two predominant stones of County Galway's geology.

Former students[edit]

Former students include former Fianna Fáil government minister Frank Fahey, the actor Mick Lally and deceased Bishop of Galway, James McLoughlin.

The Red Hand[edit]

Junior boarders, especially first years, lived in fear of the annual appearance of the Red Hand. Junior Dormitory was in the old college chapel which was held to be haunted by a questing severed hand. There were different stories of the origin of this story, each more macabre and embellished. However, the origins of the story may be linked to the theft of the hand, sometime in the early 19th century, from the disinterred body of the last Catholic warden of St. Nicholas' Collegiate Church. During renovations in St. Nicholas' church, the 100 year old corpse of the Warden had been uncovered and was found to be uncorrupted; causing immense excitement amongst the Catholics of Galway. A Protestant zealot offended by the presence of the Catholic church man in the now Protestant church, and resentful of the attention caused by the uncorrupted state of the corpse, hacked the hand of the body and made away with it. After a hue and cry, the stolen hand was later found discarded in a field in the western suburbs of the town where St. Mary's College now stands. This may have been the origin of the story.


For the past 100 years St. Mary’s College has enhanced the Galway skyline with its attractive architectural beauty and contrasting facade of limestone and granite, all resting in spacious grounds that provide a green haven in the midst of the city. The original St. Mary’s College at St.Helens Street opened its doors in March 1844 under the Patronage of Bishop George Browne. Reflecting on the experience of its founder, Fr. John Paul O’ Toole, who had difficulty in obtaining a good secondary education in his native Galway, St. Mary’s College offered a broad and enlightened curriculum. The school flourished, having fifty pupils on its roll within a year, and in 1846 the status of the school was raised to that of a minor seminary. It had a dual aim, namely, to train young men for the priesthood and to provide a first class Catholic education for Irish boys. Work on the current building, designed by the renowned architect W.A. Scott, began in 1910 and on Wednesday 26th of August 1912 the Diocesan College opened its doors to 60 boarders and 17 dayboys. Since those early years the college has advanced and adapted to the educational needs of its ever-changing environment, with the original building having been extended and modernised. A prestigious chapter in the College’s history came to an end when we ceased to cater for boarders in 2003. From the outset, extra-curricular activities were promoted as an integral part of a student’s balanced formation. Although excellence in performance is always the aim, the emphasis was, and still is, on encouraging participation St. Mary’s soon developed a reputation as one of the foremost sporting schools in the country, with many fine sportsmen having at some stage worn the famous red and black colours of Mary’s. However, despite our prowess on the sporting fields, the ultimate goal of St. Mary’s has always focused on excellence in academics. To that effect doctors, teachers, sportsmen, priests, men of the land and of business, of the sciences and of the arts can claim to be partakers of the bounty of St. Mary’s College and in turn the College regards their success as her success. In December 2012, to mark the Centenary of the College, a new book detailing the history of the College will be launched. this has been painstakingly compiled by former St. Mary’s student and renowned historian Peadar O’Dowd, and promises to be a fascinating read for all associated with the College.


For 100 years, the College has sought to live up to the ideals set out by its founders. It has adapted to changing circumstances in every decade. The College endeavours to instil its students with strong faith and belief in themselves and in God. The College is Catholic in its ethos and welcomes students of other faiths in an atmosphere of understanding and respect. St. Mary’s College strives to foster charity, co-operation and consideration for others amongst its students and to inculcate a spirit of responsibility and self-discipline. Students are encouraged to be proud of the achievements and traditions of their Alma Mater so that in later life, when they take their place in society, they will be well equipped to make their own distinctive and meaningful contribution and at the same time to continue the lifelong learning process. The College has been extended and built up over that 100 years, providing the excellent facilities and space we enjoy today. Through a skilful blend of the old and the new, it now has an excellent range of classrooms and speciality subject rooms, all with broadband. In addition, the spacious grounds, containing playing fields, tennis, basketball and handball courts, as well as a modern sports hall/gym, ensure the physical development and recreational needs of the students are well catered to. The high standards evident in all respects of school life are thanks to the generosity, professionalism and dedication of staff coupled with the energy, talent and commitment of students. Today, we in St. Mary’s, are heartened to reflect on all those who contribute to the College, students, parents, all the staff of St. Mary’s, The Board of Management, Bishop and Trustees.