St MacNissi's College

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IMPORTANT: This page concerns a school which no longer exists, for the current school operating in its campus, see St Killian's College

Coordinates: 55°02′35″N 5°58′05″W / 55.043°N 5.968°W / 55.043; -5.968

St. MacNissi's College
Carnlough, County Antrim
Antrim, BT44 0JS
Northern Ireland
Type Grammar school
Motto Latin: Et Velle et Perficere
(To will and to do)
Opened 1951
Closed 2010
Colour(s) Purple and Gold

St MacNissi's College (now St Killian's College (colloquially known as Garron Tower) was a Roman Catholic grammar school located 5 miles (8 km) to the north of Carnlough.The grounds are situated on a plateau approximately 200 feet (61 m) above the famous Antrim Coast Road at Garron Point and overlook the North Channel) and out towards Scotland (Mull of Kintyre). The current school motto is Caritas et Veritas which means "Love and Truth". Prior to this, St MacNissi's College's motto was Et Velle et Perficere. which means "to be willing and to accomplish"

Garron Tower was built as a summer residence by Frances Anne Vane, Marchioness of Londonderry. She had inherited this part of the Antrim estates from her mother, Anne Katherine MacDonnell, Countess of Antrim who had married Sir Henry Vane-Tempest of County Durham. The Tower and grounds were purchased by McNeill's Hotel in Larne in 1915 and were acquired by the Catholic Bishop of Down and Connor in 1950 for use as a boarding school for boys. The history of Garron Tower dates from 1850, but its life as a school began in September 1951 when the Most Rev. Daniel Mageean D.D., Bishop of the Diocese of Down and Connor, officially opened the building as "a diocesan grammar school for boys" and named it St. MacNissi's College.[citation needed]

On 1 April 2010, St MacNissi's College and two other Antrim schools, St Aloysius' College, and St Comgall's College, amalgamated to become St Killian's College. Initially St Killian's began its operations from two sites - the former St MacNissi's College site at Garron Tower and the former St Comgall's College site in Larne. Currently the St Comgall's site has been demolished and St Killian's now operates exclusively from the Garron Tower site.[citation needed]


Main building[edit]

The college has extensive grounds which stretch for a mile or so around the main building. This main school building has ~30 classrooms, gymnasium, 100 desk study-hall, dining room, kitchens, cloakrooms, first-aid room, offices. The tower and old building did once provide living accommodation for priests and a beautiful old dining-room. Many significant pieces by local artists such as Charles McAuley and Sam McLarnon hang in this old section of the school.


The Chapel was completed in 1955 with the help of the late Fr. Charles Agnew's "Mile of Half-Crowns". On the canopy above the High Altar are the words "Laudate Pueri Dominum" which translates as "Boys, Praise the Lord".

On one of the Stained Glass windows (in the Chapel dedicated to Our Lady, that Chapel to the left of the High Altar) which were installed in late 1956, the following words, in very small print, are to be found: "As I am making this window the Hungarians have risen in revolt against Communist/Russian rule in Hungary. October 1956".

Boarding rooms[edit]

A 150-room boarding department (now empty) was opened in 1956. Called St. Mary's residence, single rooms made up the majority of this building but at the front ends, there were double rooms, six in total, two on each floor, which were occupied by the college priests and latterly by brothers or prefects supervising the floors.

Original stables were the open dormitories of Ardclinis, Trostan and Knochore. On the level above the Ardclinis Dormitory were the rooms of three priests. These old stables now house Music, Languages and Business Studies classrooms. The building is known as St Joseph's.[citation needed]

On the RHS of the road passing the old stables and directly facing the iron gates to these stables a large pre-fabricated dormitory, "H" shaped was erected. This dormitory was called Dunmaul. (I cannot remember the exact date that this building was erected but memory indicates that it was prior to 1954.)

Sports facilities[edit]

The Tennis Courts were situated in a small field which in the 1950s and early 1960s was called the "Wee Field". The £1.6 million block for IT, Home Economics, Art and Science on the site of the old Tennis Courts. At the south end of the College grounds there is a wooded area in which the original owner's dog, Urisk, is buried. The headstone remains and on it is written:

"Here Urisk lies and let the truth be told, This faithful dog was blind, infirm and old. Deaf to all else his mistress' voice he knew, Blind though he was, his step to her was true. So strong an instinct by affection fed, Endured till Urisk's vital spirit fled. Stoop grandeur from thy throne ye sons of pride, To whom no want is known, nor wish denied. A moment pause, and blush, if blush you can, To find in dogs more virtue than in man. And share, 'midst all your luxury and pelf', one thought for others out of ten for self'".

At the north end, there are four sports pitches and a set of Hand-Ball alleys (1 closed, 1 semi-closed and 1 open) all of which are the 60 x 40 type of alley. Behind the squash courts, there is a new outdoor basketball court.


  • Very Rev (Monsignor) William Tumelty BA STL (1951-1966) (RIP)
  • Very Rev (Canon) Dominic McHugh BA BD (1966-1972)(RIP)
  • Very Rev Padraig McKavanagh BA BD (1972 -1977) (RIP)
  • Very Rev (Canon) Brendan McGarry BA BD (1977 - 1979) (RIP)
  • Very Rev (Monsignor) Thomas Bartley BA BD (1979-1985) (RIP)
  • Very Rev Canon Raymund Fitzpatrick BA STL (1985-1987) (RIP)
  • Very Rev (Canon) Alexander McMullan BA BD (1987-1993) (RIP)
  • Very Rev Patrick Delargy BA STL MEd (1993-2002)
  • Mr Peter Geoghegan (2002-2005)
  • Mrs Eileen O’Loan (2009 -2010)

Other Priests of the Diocese that served as teachers at Garron Tower include three Bishops of the Diocese of Down and Connor, viz. Bishops, Patrick Walsh, Anthony Farquhar and Donal McKeown. Others include Canon Raymond Fitzpatrick DCL (RIP) whose late brother Fr Noel Fitzpatrick (a Chemist before he became a Priest and whose business was on the Antrim Road, Belfast) was the 2nd and last Priest to be murdered during the Troubles (1969-1994), Canon Patsy McKavanagh (RIP), Canon Archie Molloy (RIP) Dean of Discipline, Fr Charles Agnew (RIP) College Bursar, Fr Brian Brady (RIP) all 6'5" (1.95), Fr Fred MacSorley (RIP), Fr Gerard McConville, Very Rev (Canon) Brendan McGarry BA BD (1972-1979) (RIP), Fr Paddy O'Neill (RIP), Fr Vincent MacCartan (RIP), Fr Peter Forde, Fr Paddy White, Fr Patrick McKenna, Fr Dermot McKay, Fr Aidan McCaughan, Fr Colin Grant and Fr Tony Fitzimmons.

In addition to the Priests there were Sisters of St. Louis viz. Sister Mary Oliver (Nursing), Sister Mary Gertrude (Music) and Sister Mary Grignon (Cooking). The College Convent was built to the right of the College Chapel in the same stone as the College Chapel and St. Mary's building.

This building holds a vivid memory for those who were students during 1956. A terrible incident and sight remains with me to this day and it was seeing a fellow student, Terry Fannin (RIP) who was killed (March 1956) in the Water Wheel on the Coast Road, lying in a coffin in the room off the RHS of this building's main corridor. Terry's (RIP) coffin was removed to the College Chapel for Mass Prior to removal to Belfast for Requiem Mass and burial in Milltown Cemetery. During the time it was here there was, at all times, a six student, all wearing the school uniform, "Guard of Honour" around the coffin.

Architectural features[edit]

The seaward wall of the school has seven cannons facing the sea which are of naval origin from the Napoleonic wars.

Towards the northern end of the sea-wall, there was a gate, lending access to a twisting path down to the Coast Road but the end of this path, where it met the Coast Road, was out-of-bounds. Just across the road and about 50 yards to the north, the Garron Point Post Office was located and the journey between the gate at the Coast Road and the Post Office was fraught with danger. About 400 yards north of the Post Office, at the bottom of Dunmaul Hill, is situated a "Water Driven" Pump House where in March 1956 a boarder at the college, Terry Fannin, lost his life.[citation needed]. See above for more information.


  • Brendan O’Leary - university professor, University of Pennsylvania [1]
  • Eugene O’Hagan, Martin O’Hagan and David Delargy - The Priests[2]
  • Declan O'Loan - SDLP politician[3]
  • Donal McKeown - Bishop of Derry [4]
  • John McGarry - university professor, Queen's University, Canada[5]
  • Brian ‘Shorty’ O’Kane - musician[6]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "Brendan O'Leary". Retrieved 17 February 2017. 
  2. ^ "The Priests". Retrieved 17 February 2017. 
  3. ^ "Declan O'Loan". Retrieved 17 February 2017. 
  4. ^ "Donal McKeown". Retrieved 17 February 2017. 
  5. ^ "John McGarry". Retrieved 18 February 2017. 
  6. ^ "Shorty O'Kane". Retrieved 17 February 2017.