Castleknock College

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St Vincent's Castleknock College
Coláiste Chaisleán Cnucha
Castleknock College Crest.jpg
Castleknock College 2020 b.jpg

Coordinates53°22′07″N 6°22′06″W / 53.3685°N 6.3683°W / 53.3685; -6.3683Coordinates: 53°22′07″N 6°22′06″W / 53.3685°N 6.3683°W / 53.3685; -6.3683
MottoNos Autem in Nomine Domini
("We however, (put our trust) in the Name of the Lord")
Religious affiliation(s)Roman Catholic, Vincentian
Patron saint(s)Saint Vincent de Paul
Established1835; 187 years ago (1835)
FounderPhilip Dowley
PresidentVery Rev. Paschal Scallon C.M.
HeadmasterChris Kinder
ChaplainRev. Stephen Monaghan C.M.
Age range12–19
Number of students708
HousesBodkin, O’Shea, O’Callaghan, Ferris
Colour(s)Navy and sky blue   
SongNos Autem, Abide With Me
PublicationThe Castleknock College Chronicle
Alumni namePastmen

Castleknock College (Irish: Coláiste Caisleán Cnucha) is a voluntary Vincentian secondary school for boys, situated in the residential suburb of Castleknock, eight km (5.0 mi) west of Dublin city centre, Ireland.

Founded in 1835 by Philip Dowley, it is one of the oldest boys schools in Ireland.[1] Although priority is given to those of the main Catholic tradition, as a Christian school, it is attended by students of other denominations and faiths.[2] The school's colours are navy and sky blue. The school crest is a book, symbolising education, a cross, symbolising Catholicism, the Irish shamrock, symbolising the success of the Vincentians in Ireland and the papal tiara, symbolising loyalty to the Holy See.


In 1830, a year after the passing of Catholic Emancipation, priests from the Vincentian Community (Congregation of the Mission; CM) in Maynooth College obtained permission to open a day school under the patronage of the Archbishop of Dublin. On 28 August 1833 a day school at 24 Usher's Quay, in central Dublin, was opened.

On 28 August 1835, St. Vincent's Ecclesiastical Seminary was opened in Castleknock, as a boarding school catering for just 47 boys.[3] The first student to enrol in 1835 was John Lynch of Clones, County Monaghan. He would later enter the Vincentian order and eventually become Archbishop of Toronto. A contemporary of John Lynch was Patrick Moran, who would also be ordained as a Vincentian priest and become Bishop of Cape Town before being appointed as the first Catholic Bishop of Dunedin (New Zealand) in 1869.

Philip Dowley a former Dean of Maynooth and Provincial for the Vincentians, was the first president of the college.

The school site had previously been occupied by a Protestant school for boys run by William Gwynne. The school buildings together with 40 acres of land were sold to the Vincentian Fathers in 1835.[4]

Queen Victoria and her royal party visited the school on 22 April 1900. The event is historic, as being the first occasion that an English sovereign visited an Irish Catholic college. The intended visit of the Queen to Castleknock was made known to the authorities of the school some days beforehand by the Rudolph Feilding, 9th Earl of Denbigh.[5] This royal visit confirmed a place for the school at the summit of Irish education and Irish society.[6]

Before the foundation of Clonliffe College in 1861, seminarians for the Dublin Archdiocese would study in Castleknock before completing their studies in Maynooth College.[7]

Academic life[edit]

Menu from celebration dinner.

The school aims for a low teacher/pupil ratio, and has a range of computing and science laboratories.[8] The school's Alton Library, a reference and lending facility, is the largest second-level school library in Ireland.[9]

Sporting tradition[edit]

Sporting facilities at the school include nine rugby pitches, one soccer pitch, a cricket crease with pavilion, table tennis room, state of the art tennis courts, a fully equipped weights room and an athletics track.

Sport has been played at Castleknock since the foundation of the college. Throughout the mid-nineteenth century a game peculiar to Castleknock, known as stilts, was played by the entire student body on a gravel patch in grounds. Owing to the often over-zealous efforts of the participants this game was discouraged by the college fathers in favour of soccer, which was the game of choice among students of Castleknock until 1909 when it was replaced by rugby as the college's primary sport.[10] In 1918 the college won the Leinster Colleges Senior hurling championship. Shortly afterwards the college concentrated more on rugby and the playing of Gaelic games became less prominent.[11]


Rugby posts were first erected in the college in November 1909. The school has won the Leinster Schools Senior Cup on eight occasions since first entering (and winning) the competition in 1913. Castleknock teams have been runners-up in the competition on fifteen occasions, contesting more finals than any other school apart from Belvedere College and Blackrock College. The Leinster Schools Junior Cup has also been won on eight occasions, the last time in 1966. Castleknock is considered to be one of the Major Leinster Rugby Schools, the others being Blackrock, Clongowes, Belvedere, Terenure, St Michael's and St Mary's. The college appointed Adrian Flavin, a former Ireland rugby player, as director of rugby in the year 2013.[12]

26 past men have represented Ireland at full international level, the most recent being Leinster Rugby's Devin Toner (class of 2004) who has been capped on three occasions. Toner is one of two past men to have won the Heineken Cup (2009, 2011, 2012) with Denis Hurley of Munster Rugby lifting the trophy in 2008.

Past men James Leo Farrell and Michael Dunne were part of the British and Irish Lions touring squad to New Zealand and Australia. Farrell had also played for the Lions on the 1927 tour to Argentina.


Students can choose from sprints, relays, long-distance, hurdles, high jump, long jump, triple jump, javelin, shot-put, hammer, discus, pole vault and walking. In the summer term, the college competes in the Leinster and All-Ireland finals held in Tullamore. The college has minor, junior, intermediate and senior athletics teams which compete for, and have won, the West Leinster Championship.[13]

Others sports[edit]

Castleknock College competes in a variety of other sports including soccer, cricket, tennis, table-tennis, badminton, golf, swimming, show-jumping and volleyball.


The school has a concert orchestra, a soul band, a junior concert band, a barbershop ensemble and an award-winning choir.[14]

Spiritual life[edit]

The college chaplain and members of the Vincentian Community are available for guidance and counselling. The school has always encouraged pupils to become involved in caring for the less-well-off members of society.[15]

The College Chapel[edit]

Masses are held daily in the Boys' Chapel by members of the Vincentian community. An annual family Mass for each year is celebrated at which boys of that year and their families participate together with the community and teachers. Masses are held at regular times in the chapel (e.g. Lent, Advent, exam time). Year and class Masses, benediction, scripture/prayer group meetings are held regularly throughout the year. Opportunity to attend the Sacrament of Reconciliation is available during the school week and also after benediction of the Blessed Sacrament on Thursday nights.

The College Chapel houses a large pipe organ which dates back to the early 1850s. The chapel organ was installed as a gift to the college community by Charles-Gerrard,[who?] Brother of the Lord. It is used in college masses and services.

SVP – Society of Saint Vincent de Paul[edit]

Castleknock College was established by the Congregation of the Mission (Vincentians), the religious order founded by St. Vincent de Paul; the college follows the ethos and traditions of the Vincentian order. The most popular student society within the college is the St. Vincent de Paul Society; charity work undertaken by the school community is organised through the St Vincent de Paul Society.

Members are involved in helping the impoverished through a variety of means such as visiting local centres for people with special needs. The SVP conferences also raise funds and collect food for the sister conferences in the Dublin 15 area.

Castleknock Ambo Partnership[edit]

Inaugurated in 2008 and expected to continue indefinitely, the Young Vincentian Mission sends a small group of fifth year students to work and live with the Vincentian community in Ethiopia, for two to three weeks each summer, overseen by the VLM – Vincentian Lay Missionaries. The first group in 2008 traveled to Mekelle in Northern Ethiopia and since 2009 the students have traveled to Ambo, Ethiopia. Successful applicants are trained and engage in a range of voluntary work for those struck by extreme poverty in Ambo, including teaching in the local Vincentian school, working in the Vincentian Food Programme, the Vincentian School for the Deaf, a leprosy village befriending members of the community and coaching Ambo United Football Club. Students are required to raise sufficient funds to meet their travel and subsistence expenses, and events are organised within and without the college to raise funds. This development programme has enabled the construction of expanded education facilities and the provision of medical and food supplies.[16]

Other extra–curricular activities[edit]

Extra–curricular activities offered include membership of the painting society, the chess club, Irish literature – Ceardlann Litríocht na Gaeilge, the Cumann Gaeilge, the maths society, the prefect mentoring system, debating, band, music, language societies (French, Spanish, German and Chinese), book club, student enterprise, SVP – Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, speech and drama, charity work, the history society and Picasso's Left Ear (student intellectual publication).


In 2007 the under-16 chess team won the Leinster Championship and finished runners-up in the All-Ireland Championship. Sixth year student, Anthony Bourached, recently won the Leinster Under-18 Chess Championship. Christopher O'Reilly,one of the two sixth years who currently teach chess at the school is a grandmaster and both students have competed on an international level winning a number of trophies in the process.


Debating is a tradition dating back to the school's foundation. It was originally taught in the school curriculum during the Victorian era and was originally known as 'public oration'. There are separate clubs for junior and senior pupils. The school's debating society has contributed to the Irish World Schools Debating Team, with five students representing Ireland since the competition's beginning in 1988. In both 2007 (Alan Henry & Liam O'Connell) and 2008 (Adam Noonan & Killian Breen) the college won the Leinster Schools Senior Debating Championships. The Past Pupils' Union coordinates the annual College Union Debate where students and Pastmen debate against each other.[17] Past speakers at the Union Debate include former Attorney General Paul Gallagher, Eunan O'Halpin, Mick Quinn and Irish Times correspondent Patsy McGarry.[18][19] The college also holds gold medal debates for every academic year giving the students the opportunity to win the medal on prize day if they win the debate.[20] The gold medal debates are used in sixth year to select an eligible Valedictorian for the year, who give his address at both the graduation mass and again at prize day. Former winners of the senior gold medal debates include the Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave, the Supreme Court Justice Anthony J. Hederman, Conor Gearty and Oisín Quinn.[21] The college debaters participate in many competitions including the L&H debates in UCD.[22]

Castleknock Chronicle[edit]

The Castleknock Chronicle has been published every year since 1886 by the College Union; it is a record of the main events in the college, and a valuable historical source.[23] It records the students in each year group and the members of every team and society in the college. In has photographs and articles written by staff and students about events in the college. The Chronicle also holds the distinction of being the publisher of the last-known photograph of the RMS Titanic.[24] As of 2011 it was being digitised.


Western entrance to the college
Castleknock Castle and motte on the college grounds 2018.
Castleknock Castle and College viewed from the Carpenterstown Road.

There are two hills in the grounds: the Windmill Hill and the hill of the castle. The former is reputed to be the burial mound of Cumhal, father of Fionn mac Cumhaill, a legendary Irish warrior. According to legend, mac Cumhaill was interred here following his death at the Battle of Cnucha. An archaeological dig of this hill carried out in June 2007 revealed the remains of four human skeletons probably dating from the early Christian period. The second hill is topped with the remains of Castleknock Castle which dates from the early thirteenth century, when it was founded by the Norman knight Hugh Tyrrell, who was later created Baron of Castleknock. He chose this location near the end of the esker which stretches from Galway to Dublin. Built on two mounds of the esker, it commanded the route into Dublin from the west. Castleknock was the final rallying point for the forces of the last High King of Ireland, Rory O'Connor. He failed to drive the Cambro-Normans from the area around Dublin in 1171.

The college is set on 70 acres of landscaped parkland estate with nine rugby pitches, a cricket crease and pavilion, a soccer pitch, an athletics and running track, six state of the art tennis courts, an all-weather rugby practice pitch and agricultural land[25] in which cows graze and wildlife such as pheasants, rabbits and squirrels are in abundance. There is car parking for students and others. The college is close to Castleknock village and is located beside Farmleigh Estate and the Phoenix Park.

College buildings[edit]

The college consists mainly of three buildings: McNamara house, Cregan house and the Dowley house. The McNamara and Cregan buildings are connected via the foyer known as 'St Vincent's Hall'. McNamara house contain several other wings and Vincentian community facilities as well as other classrooms and subject specific rooms. McNamara House also contains the library, concert hall, day boys' refectory and the boarders refectory.

Building works 2005–2009[edit]

From 2005 the college infrastructure was renewed, at a cost in the region of €16 million.[26] A 'link building' was built, and existing buildings expanded and refurbished; Irish President Mary McAleese officially opened the newly restored buildings on 29 September 2008. A state-of-the-art multi purpose sports and tennis ground was recently built, allowing for students and others to enjoy various activities.

Cultural associations[edit]

The school featured indirectly but prominently in Gerard Siggins' series of novels Rugby Rebel as the shared basis of Castlerock College (a portmanteau of Castleknock College and Blackrock College), the boarding school which the protagonist Eoin attends. The popular fictional series starring Ross O'Carroll Kelly has mentioned Castleknock on a number of occasions in the books and Irish Times columns; the name of the fictional school the lead character attended was also Castlerock College.

Popular media[edit]

The 2016 Irish comedy-drama film Handsome Devil directed by John Butler was predominantly filmed at Castleknock and featured as the fictional all-boys boarding school 'Woodhill College'. It was screened in the Contemporary World Cinema section at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival. It centres on an ostracised teenager (Fionn O'Shea) at an elite rugby-obsessed all boys boarding school in Ireland whose new roommate (Nicholas Galitzine) is the school's new rugby star-player. The two form an unlikely friendship until it is tested by those around them. Handsome Devil has received critical acclaim, winning the award for Best Irish Feature of 2017 from the Dublin Film Critics' Circle; four nominations at the 2018 Irish Film and Television Academy (IFTA) Awards, including Best Feature Film; and the Best Single Drama Award at the annual Celtic Media Festival in 2018.

Evelyn, the 2002 drama film loosely based on the true story of Desmond Doyle and his fight in the Irish courts (December 1955) to be reunited with his children was predominantly filmed at Castleknock and featured as the orphanage. The film stars Sophie Vavasseur in the title role, Pierce Brosnan as her father and Aidan Quinn, Julianna Margulies, Stephen Rea and Alan Bates as supporters to Doyle's case. The film had a limited release in the United States, starting on 13 December 2002 and was later followed by the United Kingdom release on 21 March 2003.

Presidents of Castleknock College[edit]

  • Philip Dowley (1835–1864)[27]
  • Thomas MacNamara (1864–1866)
  • Peter Duff (1867–1873)
  • Malachy O'Callaghan (1873–1885)
  • James Moore (1885–1892)
  • Thomas Hardy (1892–1895)
  • Joseph Geoghegan (1895–1902)
  • M.P. Brosnahan (1902–1907)
  • Paul Cullen (1907–1915)
  • M.J. O'Reilly (1915)
  • John Shanahan (1915–1916)
  • E.P. Meehan (1916–19)
  • Vincent McCarthy (1919–1926)
  • Henry O'Connor (1926–32)
  • T.K. Donovan (1932–1938)
  • W.J. Meagher (1938–1944)
  • William Sullivan (1944–1950)
  • D.F. Cregan (1950–1957)
  • M.J. Walsh (1957–1963)
  • Patrick O'Donoghue (1963–1972)
  • Matthew Barry (1972–1980)
  • Henry Slowey (1980–1985)
  • Kevin O'Shea (1985–1999)
  • Simon Clyne (1999–2005)
  • Peter J. Slevin (2005–2018)
  • Paschal Scallon (2018–)


Past Pupils' Union[edit]

The Castleknock Union was founded in the year 1896 by the Lord Chief Justice of England, Charles Russell, Baron Russell of Killowen with the aim of reconnecting all past pupils of the college.[29] The college hosts many networking events for past pupils throughout the year that include the annual business lunch, the gold medal debate, the union debate and Union Day.[30][31][32] Many notable figures have been guest speakers at the annual Business lunch such as the Irish rugby head coach Joe Schmidt and the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.[33][34] In 2016 the Past Pupils' Union launched the Union Scholarship Fund to assist boys who otherwise could not afford to attain an education at Castleknock College due to socioeconomic barriers.[35]

Notable past pupils[edit]

Pastman Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave TD in 1976.

Former pupils of Castleknock College are known as Pastmen.

The school's alumni and faculty include two Taoisigh,[36] one President of Ireland,[37] one Ceann Comhairle, several cabinet ministers,[38] two Supreme Court Justices,[39] five Attorneys General,[40] one Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, three archbishops, one founding member of Fianna Fáil, the founder of the Green Party of Ireland,[41] one Lord Mayor of Dublin,[42] one Victoria Cross holder,[43] 26 Irish International rugby players and numerous notable figures in the world of arts, academia and business.

Academia, science and medicine

Arts and media

Pastman Colin Farrell in 2016.




Politics and diplomacy



In fiction

Notable teachers, past and present[edit]

Partner Schools[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "History". Castleknock College. Retrieved 30 November 2019.
  2. ^ "Headmaster's Message". Castleknock College. Retrieved 30 November 2019.
  3. ^ "History – Castleknock College". Castleknock College. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  4. ^ William John Fitzpatrick, Memories of Father Healy of Little Bray, Macmillan, 1895, page 14
  5. ^ "Queen Victoria visits Castleknock College". Retrieved 8 December 2019.
  6. ^ O'Neill, Ciaran (2014). Catholics of Consequence: Transnational Education, Social Mobility, and the Irish Catholic Elite 1850–1900. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-870771-4.
  7. ^ Secondary Schools – St. Vincents Castleknock Dubin
  8. ^ "The College and its Facilities". St. Vincent's Castleknock College. Retrieved 5 May 2020.
  9. ^ "The College and its Facilities". Castleknock College. Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  10. ^ "Rugby". Castleknock College. Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  11. ^ Fitzpatrick, David (2004). Harry Boland's Irish Revolution. Cork University Press. ISBN 9781859183861.
  12. ^ "Adrian Flavin, College Director of Rugby". Retrieved 3 December 2019.
  13. ^ "Athletics". St. Vincent's Castleknock College. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  14. ^ "Music". Castleknock College. Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  15. ^ "Chaplaincy". Castleknock College. Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  16. ^ "Ambo project". Castleknock College. Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  17. ^ "Union Debate 2020". Retrieved 3 May 2020.
  18. ^ "1916 Centenary Debate - the Photos". Retrieved 3 May 2020.
  19. ^ "Devin Toner, Castleknock Union Pastman of the Year 2018". Retrieved 8 May 2020.
  20. ^ "Debating". Castleknock College. Retrieved 23 December 2019.
  21. ^ "Debating Gold Medal at Knock". Retrieved 22 December 2019.
  22. ^ "Debating". St. Vincent's Castleknock College. Retrieved 5 May 2020.
  23. ^ "Castleknock College Union". Retrieved 7 May 2020.
  24. ^ "Titanic: The Last Photograph?". 23 April 2004.
  25. ^ "About Us". Castleknock College. Retrieved 6 January 2020.
  26. ^ "The College and its Facilities". Castleknock College. Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  27. ^ "History". Castleknock College. Retrieved 6 January 2020.
  28. ^ "SVC President". Retrieved 6 January 2020.
  29. ^ "First Union Meeting". Retrieved 3 December 2019.
  30. ^ "2020 Business Lunch – Guest Speaker An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar". Retrieved 6 December 2019.
  31. ^ "Union Debate 2019". Retrieved 6 December 2019.
  32. ^ "Union Debate 2020". Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  33. ^ "Business Lunch 2019". Retrieved 7 December 2019.
  34. ^ "2020 Business Lunch – Guest Speaker An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar". Retrieved 7 December 2019.
  35. ^ "Union Scholarship Fund". Retrieved 7 December 2019.
  36. ^ "Liam Cosgrave, former taoiseach and Fine Gael leader, dies aged 97". The Irish Times. Retrieved 23 November 2019.
  37. ^ "The Meehan Brothers & 'Dev' at Knock". Retrieved 23 November 2019.
  38. ^ "Former Justice Minister Patrick Cooney settles defamation case". 5 February 2019. Retrieved 23 November 2019.
  39. ^ "Judge Anthony Hederman hailed as 'quiet hero' at funeral Mass". Retrieved 23 November 2019.
  40. ^ Coulter, Carol. "Brilliance under fire". The Irish Times. Retrieved 23 November 2019.
  41. ^ "Founder warns of 'wipe-out' of Greens". The Irish Times. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  42. ^ "Lunch with Oisin Quinn: No rest for the wigged as lawyer swaps court for Mansion House". Retrieved 23 November 2019.
  43. ^ "The VC and GC Association". Retrieved 23 November 2019.
  44. ^ Parsons, Michael. "Who was Fr Joseph Leonard?". The Irish Times. Retrieved 20 March 2020.

External links[edit]