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Crescentes in Illo Per Omnia
Growing in Him through all things
|Dooradoyle, County Limerick
|School type||Secondary, coeducational|
refounded 1859 & 1971
|Slogan||Ad maiorem Dei gloriam|
Crescent College Comprehensive SJ is a secondary school located on a section of 40 acres (162,000 m²) of parkland at Dooradoyle, Limerick, Ireland. The college is one of a number of Jesuit schools in Ireland.
16th to 18th centuries
The first Jesuit school in Ireland was established at Limerick in 1565 by the Apostolic Visitor of the Holy See David Wolfe, S.J., sent to Ireland in 1563 by Pope Pius IV with the concurrence of the third Jesuit General, Diego Lainez. Wolfe, a Limerick man, was possibly Knighted for services to the Crown some years before, but subsequently entered Holy Orders in Spain. He subsequently joined the Jesuits at Rome in 1550, where he formed an association with Ignatius Loyola, Francisco Borgia, and the early Jesuits. Recognised by Loyola as a young Irish man of some promise, he was recommended to Pope Paul IV as Nuncio in the late 1550s, which was accepted. Pope Paul's Apostolic Mission charged the Visitor to "absolve all manner of lapses from the church, and chiefly heresies and schismatical faults" and to set up Grammar Schools if possible and persuade parents to send their children to them. However, it took Wolfe two years to establish his visitation, though he was confirmed as Apostolic Visitor by Pope Paul's successor, Pius IV.
Wolfe finally arrived in Ireland with another Irish Jesuit called 'Dermot' in January 1561 and entered the Pale. Although his mission was supposed to be secret the Queen's Irish Government in Dublin had been kept well informed of his movements by a network of spies on the continent. In order to avoid the authorities he journeyed west to Limerick, leaving the Pale in the charge of priests of the Dublin Archdiocese. Wolfe was closely related to the Old English merchant aristocracy of Limerick.
Wolfe's mission was not without peril in either Ireland or Rome, and the fourth Jesuit General, Everard Mercurian, had been reluctant to involve the Jesuits directly in the affairs of English possessions, and eventually ended Wolfe's activities. Nevertheless, Woulfe's mission was not the first Jesuit foray into Ireland: some years earlier Ignatius had sent two Jesuits, Paschase Broet and Alfonso Salmeron, to assess the needs and prospects of a future Jesuit pastoral presence in Ireland. They were based in Donegal under the protection of The O'Donnell, Lord Tyrconnell. Little, however, was achieved and this early mission came to nothing.
Woulfe maintained a discreet presence in Limerick at first, living quietly for a time with his cousin, David Arthur, who was Dean of the Diocese of Limerick. Limerick city offered strategic possibilities as a wealthy and fortified trading port, where the Protestant Reformation had not yet taken hold, and was geographically proximate to the turbulent Geraldine Palatinate of Desmond, where it was well known that the Jesuit Order were corresponding with the 14th Earl's cousin, Lord James Fitzmaurice Fitzgerald, instigator of the first Desmond Rebellion. Wolfe became Fitzgerald's confessor and from this perspective the city was a secure base. The Visitor was also active in establishing control over the corrupted Irish Church, often with the enmity of the Bishops, and he conducted significant reforms of the Episcopal bench, recommending a number of priests of talent for key Sees of importance. Wolfe also travelled extensively around the western and northern parts of the island, establishing alliances with the Gaelic and Anglo-Norman Lords, and assessed the conditions of the clergy and the country in general. His account of the situation of Ireland at the time still survives.
Wolfe also encouraged young men to leave Ireland and train for the priesthood in the newly established seminaries on the Continent, designed to spearhead the reforms of Trent into Ireland. However, the authorities soon noticed this traffic from the Port of Limerick and then became aware of Wolfe's activities and his close relationship with Lord Desmond and his cousin.
Despite very significant progress in strengthening the Irish Church against the rising Protestant tide, Wolfe had yet to fulfil the Papal brief to establish Grammar Schools for the education of Catholic children. The delay was most likely occasioned by a dearth of well-educated clergy; however in 1565 he established the first Counter-Reformation school at Limerick, which opened at Castle Lane in 1565 and was entrusted to the Society of Jesus. This establishment at Limerick was one of the first educational missions of the Society of Jesus, and pre-dated the Jesuit missions to South America by some ten years. Woulfe, in addition to his increasingly burdensome duties, probably taught for a while at the Limerick school but the demands of re-organising the Irish Catholic Church, and introducing the Tridentine reforms, meant that he could not stay long in any one place; he entrusted the foundation to another cousin and Jesuit Scholastic, Edmund Daniel.
Wolfe's wider activities were increasingly attracting scrutiny from the Queen's government, particularly as he became embroiled in the difficult politics of Ireland. The imminent excommunication of Elizabeth I in 1570 emboldened him and he travelled to see Shane O'Neill in Ulster, and was later directly involved in a doomed conspiracy with Lord Fitzmaurice and the 15th Earl of Desmond to land Spanish troops in County Kerry, resulting in terrible slaughter at Smerwick Harbour, Co. Kerry. Woulfe's political intrigue with the Spanish and Irish Lords of doubtful loyalty, his strengthening and renewal of the Roman Church and the establishment of Catholic schools under Jesuit management, firstly at Limerick, and later in other towns and cities, represented a significant challenge to the Irish Government of Elizabeth. It underlined the dangers of Papal and Spanish efforts to establish the reforms of the Council of Trent in the Tudor Realms and displace the authority of the Crown in England and Ireland. Clearly a decisive response was required. In 1567 the government gained an upper hand over the restive Lordships of Ulster and Munster and The O'Neill was killed and Lord Desmond imprisoned.
Late in 1565 Pius IV died and Wolfe's authority as Apostolic Visitor was suspended, pending confirmation by his successor. He was, by now, tired and weary and petitioned the Jesuit General to be recalled, but Borgia refused on the basis that he had not the authority to overrule the wishes of the Pope. However the new Pope, Pius V, did not confirm Wolfe in his role as Nuncio and effectively he existed in a sort of limbo for the next three years, which dented his authority over the bishops and clergy. Then in 1568 Wolfe was finally captured and imprisoned at Dublin Castle. After a period of extreme hardship and torture in captivity, he was released by means a bribe offered through an influential English Catholic, Edmund Stuckley, to the Castle government. The inducement to the authorities was paid by a Limerick merchant on the understanding that it would be reimbursed by the Portuguese Jesuits, which was not subsequently fulfilled and led to the first cracks in the relationship between Fr. Wolfe and his Jesuit Order.
Despite these external setbacks initially, the Limerick school flourished and in 1565 the City Council decided that the masters should be paid an annual salary of ten pounds, but this money was not accepted as it was to be raised as a levy on ships entering and leaving the port. It was therefore decided that the education offered should be free, based only on voluntary contributions, very much in the spirit of Ignatius's Roman College founded 14 years before, where no fee was requested from pupils. The future primate, Richard Creagh, was probably involved in setting up this school as he had been a schoolmaster in Limerick. In 1564 Wolfe had inveigled him to accept the see of Armagh, though he quickly had to go into exile as he was pursued by both Shane O'Neill and the Dublin Castle Government and could not establish a presence in his Diocese. Whilst abroad he formed friendships with many Irish and English Jesuits on the continent and secured the services of William Good, an English Jesuit, to accompany him on his return to Ireland in 1567.
Wolfe was impressed by Fr. Good and it was proposed, with Primate Creagh's approval, that he should become rector of a Catholic university foundation in Ireland. He was admirably fitted for the position, having been a fellow of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and late headmaster of Wells Grammar School, under Queen Mary I. He had clearly abandoned a promising career in the English Church, having been lately a Canon at Wells Cathedral, but declined to keep communion with the Anglican Church, re-established after Elizabeth's accession in 1562. Given the political situation in Ireland, Archbishop Creagh's plans for a Catholic university had to be delayed and instead Fr Good joined Edmund Daniel teaching at the Limerick grammar school. A number of Good's reports survive in the Jesuit archives at Rome and he records the earliest example of a school play in Ireland, which was performed on the Feast of St John in 1566. He also makes reference to the curriculum offered and students – who he described as being piously inclined – were first instructed to read, and progressed to read selected letters of Cicero and other classical texts in Latin. The students copied all the works, as there were no books, and they studied catechism in English, or in Latin for the Irish speakers. There were no holidays at the school, but boys were withdrawn by their parents at harvest time. Classes took place in very confined space at Castle Lane in the City and demand meant that pupils could only attend class in rotation.
However, the prevailing political climate made circumstances difficult. In 1565 the School in Castle Lane had been attacked and looted in the presence of Daniel and Good. In 1570 Pope Pius V formally excommunicated Elizabeth I, resulting in a new wave of repression of Catholicism in Britain and Ireland. This had implications for the Limerick school, which had to move out of the city into the Earl of Desmond's territory at Kilmallock. Shortly thereafter it moved back to the city, but further reverses came. Daniel and Good had a turbulent relationship, and Good reported to Rome that he disapproved of Daniel's behavior. However they co-operated in founding more Grammar Schools at Clonmel and Youghal. In 1571 Daniel left Ireland and travelled the Iberian peninsula collecting ransom for Wolfe, who was imprisoned at Dublin Castle and largely abandoned by Rome and the Jesuits. On his return to Ireland in 1572 Daniel too engaged in conspiracy and doubled as a messenger to James FitzMaurice. With incriminating documents on his person, he was arrested in Limerick, taken to Cork "just as if he were a thief or noted evildoer," and after being court-marshalled by the President of Munster, Sir John Perrot, he was hanged, drawn, and quartered for treason, maybe on 25 October 1572, and refused pardon with an offer to take the Act of Supremacy. Fitzmaurice wrote to the Jesuit Superior General in 1576, "one of your brothers was cruelly killed because of me." He may have died because of Fitzmaurice, but he died for Wolfe, and for his faith. Reports of his execution caused a stir in the Catholic parts of the Continent, and it is memorialized in a number of contemporary woodcuts printed at Prague. Good was certainly back in Rome by 1577 and in 1586 the seizure of Earl of Desmond's estates resulted in a new permanent Protestant plantation in Munster, making the continuation of the school impossible for a time.
It wasn't until the early 1600s that the school could again re-open in the city, though the Jesuits kept a low profile existence in lodgings here and there. By 1640 a residence could again be established in Castle Lane and the school was occupying a site near St Mary’s Cathedral, though it was again disrupted by the Cromwellian invasion and the Protectorate. Of the forty-five active Jesuits throughout the country, only some eighteen managed to avoid capture.
At the restoration the school was again re-established, once more at Castle Lane, and remained open until the surrender of the city to Williamite forces in 1692. The number of Jesuits in Ireland ebbed and flowed at this time and in 1649 they were 67 including 11 novices, but by 1700 they were only 6 or 7, recovering to 25 by 1750. Besides Limerick, Jesuit houses and schools existed at Athlone, Carrick-on-Suir, Cashel, Clonmel, Kilkenny, Waterford, New Ross, Wexford, and Drogheda, as well as Dublin and Galway.
Despite the occasional and unwelcome attention of the authorities, particularly during these turbulent years, the Limerick school managed to survive the Protestant Reformation, the Cromwellian invasion and the Williamite Wars, and subsequent Penal Laws. It was finally forced to close not for religious or confessional reasons but due to the political difficulties of the Jesuit Order elsewhere, and in 1773 the school and public oratory in Castle Lane, 208 afters after its foundation by Wolfe, closed its doors following the Papal suppression of the Society of Jesus. It would not open again for 86 years.
Some commemorative inscription stones from Castle Lane, dating from the 16th and 17th centuries, were built into the external walls of the old Georgian School buildings at the Crescent in Limerick city centre, and may be viewed there. Another stone from the Castle Lane site, inscribed with a cross and the motto IHS, dated 1576, was brought to Dooradoyle in 1973.
19th & early 20th centuries
Following their restoration the Jesuits gradually re-established many of their schools throughout the country, and returned to Limerick at the invitation of the Bishop of Limerick, Dr. George Butler. Negotiations between the Order and the Diocese of Limerick were conducted at Rome rather than Ireland, and at the beginning of the 1859 school year the Bishop's school was entrusted to Jesuit management. This diocesan college operated initially at premises in Hartstone St., which had until recently been occupied by the Sisters of the Faithful Companions of Jesus, before they purchased Laurel Hill House and established a school for girls there. Paul Connolly, the son of an old and much-respected Limerick City family, was the first pupil enrolled, and would become the future Bishop of Limerick, Edward O'Dwyer.
The curriculum included ancient classics, mathematics, and modern languages (English and French). German was added later and the school prospectus advertised that boys were to be prepared "for the University and the Ecclesiastical Colleges; for the Learned Professions; for the Public Service - Civil and Military; and for the department of Mercantile and Commercial Life."
In 1862 the Jesuits acquired Crescent House and three neighbouring Tontine buildings towards the southern end of the Georgian Crescent. Crescent House was a large city residence recently vacated by a local banking family, the Russells. By tradition Mrs. Richard Russell, while in residence, had ordered all the blinds of the house closed so she wouldn't have to look upon John Hogan's statute of Daniel O'Connell, recently erected in the middle of the Crescent. The Georgian house on the Crescent House had a large garden and a number of vacant neighbouring sites, offering great possibilities for expansion. However the Jesuits had paid a large sum for Crescent House and they initially postponed plans for a neighbouring Church until this debt was lessened. It wasn't until 1864 that the execution of plans for the Church commenced and although the garden of Crescent House was large, it wasn't sufficient to house the new Church so the additional properties had to be purchased.
At this time the school suffered a serious setback when the Jesuits quarreled with Dr. Butler's successor and the new Bishop removed the Diocesan College from their care, moving it back to Hartstone Street. The Jesuits, however, continued their own school at the newly acquired buildings at the Crescent, which became independent of the Diocese
The school at the Crescent, and the attached Chapel, were dedicated first to St Aloysius Gonzaga, but rededicated to the Sacred Heart in 1868, after the school chapel was enlarged and opened for public worship. This was the first church and school in Ireland dedicated to the Cult of the Sacred Heart, popularised centuries before in France by Claude de la Colombiere, S.J. However, despite this the Sacred Heart College, like Belvedere College in Dublin, became better recognised by the name of its premises, and was popularly known as Crescent College, or "the Crescent". Crescent was a fee-paying school catering in the main for the city's growing Catholic middle class, and received no government support. In its early years Sacred Heart College struggled to survive in competition with the Bishop's school, and many students enrolled in the preparatory school were lost to boarding schools as they became older. However, the arrival of a new generation of Jesuit teachers, notably Tom and Peter Finlay (the latter recorded in Joyce's Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man) brought a new vigour and prestige in the 1870s. In 1879 when the results of the first nationwide Intermediate Examinations were published a Crescent boy, Charles Doyle (later a Judge of the King's Bench), obtained first place in Ireland. This was seen as a triumph for the school, and for all schools that received no subsidy from the government.
Further innovations came in 1874 when the rector, Fr William Ronan, S.J., invited a French Jesuit colleague Fr Jean Baptiste René to establish an Apostolic College at the Crescent House as a seminary for men of little means. This proved a success, but overcrowding with the day pupils necessitated that the Apostolic College should relocate to a boarding school at Mungret, with funds provided by a local Catholic nobleman, the Earl of Emly. These schools were again to be joined together when Mungret College merged with the Crescent in 1974.
The political controversies of Irish independence came to the Crescent in the early 1920s, and Fr William Hackett established and publicly drilled the "Crescent Volunteers" in 1918 in defiance of the authorities, which was closely observed by the local constabulary. Following the treaty, Fr Hackett was sympathetic to the Republican forces during the civil war, and for his political views he was discreetly transferred to Australia in 1922 at the request of the Provisional Government.
Late 20th and early 21st centuries
In 1939 the school population remained under 130 but by the 1940s it grew to 300 boys, rising to over 500 by the 1960s. The Jesuit community was identified almost entirely with the upper and middle class population in the city and beyond, which, following the changing emphasis of the post-Conciliar period, troubled many Jesuits. A biography of Fr William Hackett reveals a rather cranky priest who made no secret of his belief that parents who sent their children to Jesuit schools were "making their way into the upper middle class on the back of the Jesuit vow of poverty." Fr Hackett was not unique in this view and the Generalship of Pedro Arrupe challenged the Jesuits to return to the original Ignatian vision and the spirit of the early Jesuit schools. As part of this reflection many Jesuit schools re-evaluated their role. In Britain four Jesuit Schools became Comprehensive in the 1960s, and it was proposed that the Crescent in Limerick and Gonzaga College in Dublin should adopt a comprehensive curriculum in a new relationship with the Minister for Education, and cease to be fee-paying schools. Negotiations opened in the late 1960s at the invitation of the then Minister and former pupil Donagh O'Malley, who had been a classmate of the Jesuit Provincial, Cecil McGarry, S.J. The comprehensive scheme proceeded in Limerick only, and this ushered in a period of significant reform and expansion under Fr Thomas Morrissey: the name Sacred Heart College was dropped and "Crescent College Comprehensive SJ" restored in recognition of the popular name of the school. In 1971 the Georgian school buildings at Crescent House were found to be structurally unsound, overcrowded, and not adaptable to expansion. Some thought was given to a relocation to Mungret College, but after consideration the Mungret site was deemed to be too far outside the city catchment area. Instead land was purchased at Dooradoyle in 1973, resulting in the demolition of the McMahon historical seat (a family closely related to the French Dukes of Magenta). Shortly afterwards a new shopping centre opened beside the school which was named "the Crescent" after its neighbour.
In 1978 Crescent became the first Irish Jesuit school to become partially co-educational, with a ratio of 3 boys to 1 girl, and Coláiste Iognáid Galway followed a few years later. The preparatory school, which had remained at Crescent House, was closed in 1978 as the Department of Education declined to allow boys an automatic right of entry to the secondary school, since demand for places was particularly strong. At Dooradoyle many innovations and developments in curriculum were undertaken and Crescent, along with Gonzaga in Dublin, became the first schools in Ireland to offer a transition year. Other novel experiments such as Classical Studies in the 1970s and a special "Irish Studies" programme for first years were later phased out and not adopted in other schools. In the 1980s, in collaboration with then National Institute for Higher Education in Limerick (subsequently UL), students from Crescent were able to study computer and technology courses at Leaving Certificate level, which awarded points for entry into third level courses.
Crescent continues a tradition of excellence in the fields of drama, debating, music, and sport which are important dimensions of any Jesuit school. Girls' hockey and boys' rugby are the main sports, though many other contact and noncontact activities are offered. Rugby at Crescent blossomed from the late 1940s under the care of Fr. Gerry Guinane, and in that time Crescent had considerable success in the Munster Schools Senior Cup, constituting one of the big five rugby schools in Munster. It had won many senior titles since the cup's inception in 1909, and many Provincial and local titles at junior level. The school is represented nationally at club level by Old Crescent RFC, which is now an open club, but an important component of the Crescent tradition. Girls' hockey has exclusively dominated Irish and Provincial championships for many years and boys and girls have represented Munster and Ireland in rugby and hockey at all levels over the years. Besides the sports success, the school maintains an award-winning orchestra and an annual musical is produced, involving students and staff, besides an annual public concert at Christmas.
Crescent now sits on 40 acres of mature grounds and gardens landscaped by Fr William Troddyn and the late school gardener, P.J. Brennan. Fr Troddyn was introduced to professional gardening whilst a scholastic at Emo Park, and some of his hard work there still survives. Amongst the many trees he planted at Crescent is a mature avenue of copper beeches, and thousands of daffodils, that spring forth annually in May: a fitting tribute to the memory of both men who contributed to the modern Crescent environment. In this tradition the school also maintains a nature garden to attract wildlife to the campus and make students environmentally aware.
Today the school operates under the joint trusteeship of the Society of Jesus and the Minister for Education. Unlike other Irish Comprehensive schools with a faith-based sponsor, the Jesuit Provincial enjoys a perpetual majority on the Board of Management, a privilege shared only with Protestant schools at Cork and Donegal redesignated as Comprehensives in the 1960s and 1970s. The ethos is Jesuit and Catholic though most of the current teaching staff are lay-persons, while five Jesuit priests live on campus at the residence, Della Strada. In 2001 the school appointed its first lay headmaster. The Headmaster Nicholas Cuddihy was appointed in 2008.
Crescent offers a six-year curriculum, and classes are divided into five lines, each named after a Jesuit patron. Demand for places in the school continues to be heavily oversubscribed.
In June 2006 Sacred Heart Church closed, ending the connection of 150 years with Crescent House – from which the school took its name. A House of Prayer and Spirituality has located to the Jesuit Residence in Dooradoyle. The Sacred Heart Church building, after a long vacancy, was purchased by a Traditionalist Order, the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest.
Crescent has a long tradition of national and international touring. Every year students depart to Delphi, Co. Galway. Recess, Co.Galway and Achill, Co.Mayo for personal development and team building. Paris and Barcelona are some of the more recent international tours, and trips were made in the 1980s to what were then somewhat exotic capitals like Havana, East Berlin, and Moscow. An annual pilgrimage also takes place to the inter-denominational monastery at Taize in France, and walking, pilgrimage retreats around Ireland are undertaken by pupils in their final year of study. Skiing and snowboarding tours are held annually at various skiing resorts throughout Europe. Sporting teams also regularly tour and represent the school at the international level: Crescent rugby, soccer, and hockey teams have represented the school in the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Japan, Australia, Spain, South Africa, and many other locations. The school's surfing club, now entering its fifth year, has several annual outings to Lahinch, Co. Clare.
Although the intake is non-selective, Crescent is one of the top-performing schools in academics. The Sunday Times table of the top 400 schools in Ireland published in June 2013 showed Crescent College had risen 58 places from 99th to 41st during the period 2010-2013 in terms of provision of graduates to university and tertiary colleges.
In 2013 the school received international jerseys from the following students who made the national teams in their respective sports.
CCC International Honours
Mike O’Donnell Ireland U19 Rugby
Calvin Nash Ireland U18 Schools Rugby
Greg O'Shea European Youth Olympic Athletics
Lauren Ryan European Youth Olympic Athletics
Clodagh Moloney Ireland U18 Girls Hockey
Stephen Shanahan Irish Junior Cycling Team
Ciara O’Halloran Ireland Under 16s
Jenny Morrissey Ireland Under 16s
2013/2014 Roll of Honour
Munster Schools Senior Cup Winners
Senior City Cup Runners-up
U19 Barry Cup Winners
U17 Bowen Shield Runners-up
Munster Schools Junior Cup Runners-up
Junior City Cup Winners
U15 McCarthy Cup A Winners
U15 McCarthy Cup B Winners
U15 North Munster League Winners
U15 Peter McVerry Trust (JESUIT CUP) Tournament Winners
Munster Schools Senior A Cup Winners
Munster Schools Senior League Winners
Kate Russell All-Ireland Finals Silver Medal Winners
Munster Schools Senior C League Winners
Munster Schools Junior A Cup Winners
Munster Schools Junior A League Winners
Munster Schools 2nd Year B Cup Winners
Munster Schools 2nd Year B League Winners
U14 North Munster Schools League Winners
U17 North Munster Schools League Winners
U16 A Girls All-Ireland Schools Cup Winners
U16 Girls Limerick City & County Cup & League Winners
U16 Girls Play-off Winners
2nd Year Girls Limerick City & County Cup & League Winners
2nd Year Boys All-Ireland Play-off Winners
2nd Year Boys All-Ireland semi-finals on 9 May in UL
1st Year Boys Regional runners-up
U16 Boys Southwest Regional runners-up
1st & 2nd Year Boys Limerick City & County semi-finals to be played in May
Ciara Lane voted MVP at the U16 A All-Ireland Finals
North Munster Schools Senior Cross Country winner
U19 200m Gold Medal at the Munster Indoor Championships
U19 60m Silver Medal at the Munster Indoor Championships
U18 60m Gold medal at the Munster Championships
U18 200m Gold medal at the Munster Championships
U17 200m Gold medal at the Irish Championships
U17 200m Irish record holder
U16 60m Gold medal at the Munster Indoor Championships
U16 200m Gold Medal at the Munster Indoor Championships
U16 Hurdles Bronze Medal at the Munster Indoor Championships
60m Junior Girls Gold Medal at the North Munster Schools Indoors
60m Hurdles Bronze Medal at the North Munster Schools Indoors
60m Hurdles Silver Medal at the North Munster Schools Indoors
U15 Hurdles Bronze Medal at the Munster Indoor Championships
Intermediate Girls 4 × 200 m Relay Gold Medal Winners at the North Munster Schools Indoors
Lauren Ryan – Charlotte Phelan – Ciara O’Brien – Kila Curran
Amongst the past pupils of Crescent are:
Crescent College in popular culture
- Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt's memoir of growing up in Limerick in the 1930s and '40s, references the school.