St Columb's College
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|Motto||Quaerite Primum Regnum Dei
(Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God)
|Established||3 November 1879|
|Colours||Royal Blue, Gold|
St Columb's College is a Roman Catholic boys' grammar school in Derry, Northern Ireland and, since 2008, a specialist school in Mathematics and Sports. It is named after Saint Columba, the missionary monk from County Donegal who founded a monastery in the area.
St Columb's College was established in 1879 on Bishop Street (now the site of Lumen Christi College), but later moved to Buncrana Road in the suburbs of the city. The College has a student population of over 1,500, making it one of the largest Catholic Boys' Schools in Europe. Colloquially, the school’s name is often shortened to "The College".
St Columb's was initially intended to be a diocesan seminary, educating young men mainly, though not exclusively, for the priesthood. The establishment of such a seminary was an obligation imposed by the Council of Trent (1545–63). Ireland's political volatility and the suppression of Catholicism and Presbyterianism, particularly after the Williamite Wars, resulted in the delay of establishing any diocesan seminaries in Ireland for centuries. St Columb's college itself was preceded by several failed attempts to create such an institution in Derry. Repeated but sporadic efforts were made to maintain a seminary for almost a century; at Clady, near Strabane, in the late eighteenth century, at Ferguson's Lane in Derry in the early nineteenth century and at Pump Street (first reference to St Columb's College as such) in the city from 1841 to 1864.
St Columb's finally opened its doors on 3 November 1879 with two priest teachers, Dr Edward O'Brien and Dr John Hassan. The school was considered to be quite large at the time and was expected to accommodate 20–30 boarders. The school quickly gained a reputation for academic achievement. On 18 September 1931 the Derry Journal listed St Columb's College's academic results. They were as follows; Two University Scholarships, Three Exhibitions and Prizes, Six Calls in King's Scholarship Exam (calls to teacher training), Two Pupil Teacherships, Eight regional Committee Scholarships, 31 Passed Matriculation, 26 Passed Senior Leaving Cert. Exam, 52 Passed Junior Leaving Cert. Exam. The results were impressive for a young and regional school but they were testimony to the scholarship that was taking place at St Columb's.
The Education Act, 1947 and expansion
One of the most notable alumni of St Columb's College, John Hume, noted, "When the history of St. Columb's College in this century is written, it will be clear that one of its major transformations, if not its major transformation, took place as a result of the Eleven Plus examination." The Education Act, 1947, provided for free secondary education to all throughout the United Kingdom. Entry to St. Columb's College, a Grammar school, would be determined by one's performance in the 11-plus or Transfer Test. The immediate result was an explosion in pupil numbers, a shortfall in teaching staff and greater pressure on existing resources. In 1941 the student body numbered 263. By 1960 the number stood at 770 with a teaching staff of 35. In under twenty years the school's size had tripled. It was now clear that additional facilities would be needed. In September 1973 St. Columb's College opened a new campus on the Buncrana Road in the city. The new site would cater for the senior years; its initial enrolment was of 900. The new building was designed by Frank Corr of Corr & McCormick and constructed by J Kennedy & Co. The total cost was £762,000. This figure does not include the £56,000 spent employing W & J McGonagle Ltd to construct the playing fields.
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In 1997 the school ceased to be a split-site institution and reunited itself on the Buncrana Road after the completion of a new Senior block to the rear of the existing buildings. This two-storey structure would house the facilities for A Level instruction. The Belfast Agreement 1998 saw a new era of peace for Northern Ireland. The thirty years of violence had concealed the wider change in social attitudes. More and more of the teaching staff at St Columb's were female and fewer were priests.
In September 2008, for the first time in St Columb's 129-year history, a lay person became Principal taking over from the Rev Eamonn Martin who had served for eight years as President. The new Principal was Mr Sean McGinty, former Vice President with responsibility for Pastoral matters. Mr McGinty retired in August 2012 and was succeeded by Mr Finbar Madden. In the academic year 2004/05 St Columb's College celebrated its 125th anniversary. To mark the event, a series of lectures were held. Guests included Mary McAleese, President of Ireland, Garret FitzGerald, former Irish Taoiseach, Mary Harney, then Tánaiste, Seamus Heaney and Dr Peter Jones.[who?] In addition, a history of St Columb's was commissioned; the book, "Seeking the Kingdom", was edited by Finbar Madden and Thomas Bradley.
The school has a long and successful sporting history, with its students competing in many events across the country. It has excelled in soccer, Gaelic football, basketball and has produced many athletes.
Nobel Prize winners
- Seamus Heaney – Nobel Literature Prize, 1995
- John Hume – Nobel Peace Prize, 1998 (shared with David Trimble)
Notable former pupils
The college's former pupils association makes an annual award (the Alumnus Illustrissimus Award) to "a past-pupil who has achieved something of major significance or has made a considerable contribution in his own field". Past winners of the award are as follows:
- 1994 The Most Reverend Dr Edward Daly
- 1995 John Hume, former MP, MEP
- 1996 Seamus Heaney, poet
- 1997 Brian Friel, playwright
- 1998 Professor Sean Mullan, neurosurgeon
- 1999 Monsignor Brendan Devlin, cleric
- 2000 Sir James Doherty
- 2001 Professor Raymond Flannery, physicist
- 2002 Martin O'Neill, football player and manager
- 2003 Phil Coulter, composer
- 2004 Honouring all alumni (as part of the school's 125th anniversary celebrations)
- 2005 James Sharkey, diplomat
- 2006 Sir Liam McCollum PC, Lord Justice of Appeal in Northern Ireland
- 2007 Peter McCullagh (mathematician)/John Toland (mathematician)
- 2008 Professor Patrick Johnston, Director of the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB) and Dean of the School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen's University Belfast
- 2009 Professor Seamus Deane, poet, novelist
- 2010 Sir Declan Morgan, Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland
- 2011 Paul Brady, singer-songwriter, musician
- 2012 Professor Declan McGonagle, academic, curator
Other alumni and names associated with St Columb's include:
- Liam Ball, Irish Olympic swimmer
- Eamon Burns, Gaelic Athletic Association footballer
- Daniel Joseph Bradley, physicist
- Paul Brady, folk/rock musician
- Francie Brolly, Sinn Féin politician
- Ivor Canavan, Alliance Party of Northern Ireland, Politician/Cllr/Mayor of Derry
- Tony Connelly, RTÉ European Correspondent
- Peter Cunnah, pop musician
- Brian Dooher (GAA star), All Ireland winning captain
- Philip McFadden, Sculptor, Artist, Fellow of PS1
- Richard Doherty, military historian; RUC reservist; Chairman of the Institute of Road Safety Officers 1988-91, 2000-02.
- Willie Doherty, Turner Prize-nominated visual artist
- Mark Durkan, Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) Leader/politician/MP
- Mark H. Durkan, Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) Politician/MLA
- Colum Eastwood, Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) Leader/politician/Cllr/Mayor of Derry/MLA
- Darron Gibson, footballer
- Paddy Gormley, Nationalist politician
- Richie Kavanagh, comedic actor, entertainer
- George Leeke, Nationalist MP
- Seamus Mallon, rugby player
- Eamonn McCann, political activist, author
- Raymond McCartney, Sinn Féin politician
- Johnny McDaid, musician
- Mark McFadden, broadcaster, journalist
- Brian McGilloway, author
- Seosamh Mac Grianna, writer
- Paul McLoone, musician/frontman of The Undertones and also a DJ with Today FM.
- Gerard McSorley, actor
- Marcás Ó'Murchú, folk musician
- John O'Neill, Northern Ireland football player
- Luke O'Reilly, actor
- Patrick McGilligan, lawyer, politician and academic. Served as TD for NUI, Minister for Industry and Commerce (1924–32), also founder, ESB
- Charlie McGee, tenor
- Thomas Quigley, music teacher; RTÉ composer/arranger
The Boys of St Columb's
St Columb's featured in the film The Boys of St.Columb's made by West Park Pictures and Maccana Teoranta for RTÉ. Following the lives of several great Irish figures including Nobel Laureates Seamus Heaney and John Hume who all attended the same small school in Derry in the 1950s and have helped transform modern Ireland. The Boys of St Columb's was released on DVD in early March 2010 by Digital Classics DVD.
Presidents of St Columb's College
|Name||Period of Presidency||Notes|
|Edward O'Brien||1879–1880||Ordained in 1859 he became the first President of St. Columb's College in 1879. He formerly held the Chair of Rhetoric at St Patrick's College, Maynooth. Pope Leo XIII conferred on him the degree of D.D. and he was appointed Vicar General of the diocese.|
|John Hassan||1881–1888||Ordained in 1879, he took his D.D. the same year. Pope Leo XIII made him a domestic prelate and conferred on him the dignity of monsignor. Vice-rector of the Irish College from 1888 until his death in 1891.|
|Thomas McCloskey||1888–1890||Ordained in Rome in 1886|
|Charles McHugh||1890–1905||Ordained 1881. Bishop of Derry 1907–26. Figured prominently in campaign against conscription. He was one of 18 Catholic and 3 Protestant Bishops who signed manifesto against Irish partition on 7 May 1917. Led the first Irish national pilgrimage to Lourdes. As Bishop he preferred to live in the College and it was there that he died.|
|Bernard O'Kane||1905–1919||A graduate of the Royal University and ordained in 1891. A brilliant scientist, he was a regular contributor to technical journals on astronomy, light and radio waves and modern wireless, working in parallel with and sometimes anticipating the discoveries of Guglielmo Marconi. He was bishop from 1926–39.|
|John McShane||1919–1927||Ordained 1900. He was President during the troubles of 1920 when the College was at the centre of a small but deadly civil war. He was opposed to corporal punishment – a man before his time.|
|Neil Farren||1928–1939||Graduated from University College, Dublin with first class honours in 1914. He received a BCL and a BD from Maynooth in 1916 and 1918, respectively. Awarded the degree of DCL for his (later published) thesis Domicile and Quasi-Domicile. He became Ireland's youngest bishop in 1939. During the Second World War he was appointed "ordinary" of the American forces in Ireland, a kind of bishop away from home, and his services were recognized by the award of the United States Medal of Freedom.|
|Joseph O'Doherty||1939–1943||Ordained 1919. A talented ventriloquist and prestidigitator.|
|Eugene O'Doherty||1943–1944||Ordained 1921. He received a D.D. for his thesis, Doctrinal Process and its Laws. His is the shortest presidency on record as he was appointed Bishop of Dromore within months of his assuming the post.|
|Patrick McDowell||1944–1950||Ordained 1925. He received a D.D. for his postgraduate work on The Church and Economics at Dunboyne House. Appointed a domestic prelate with the rank of monsignor in 1966.|
|Anthony McFeely||1950–1959||Ordained in Rome in 1932. Noted for his patronage of the school plays and musicals of the time. Consecrated as Bishop of Raphoe in 1965.|
|John Farren||1959–1969||Ordained 1941. Appointed immediately after ordination to the College staff he was to serve for almost thirty years, presiding over the planning for the move of the Senior School to Buncrana Road.|
|James Coulter||1969–1983||Ordained in 1943. Became official diocesan historian. Noted for his expansion of the curriculum to include German, Spanish, Economics and Accounts and for his careful management of the school through civil strife. He was made a Prelate of Honour but he refused the offer of an OBE.|
|Ignatius McQuillan||1983–1990||Studied at St Columb's College, St Patrick's College, Maynooth, and took sabbatical leave in 1983 at the University of Oxford. Noted for his successful introduction of the new GCSE system. He later helped found Lumen Christi College.|
|John R. Walsh||1990–1999||Author of A History of the Irish Church (500–700), Noble Story and Religion: The Irish Experience which is a necessary source book for the new RE syllabus in the Republic of Ireland. Noted for his consolidation of the school on the new Buncrana Road campus.|
|Eamon Martin||2000–2008||Studied at St Columb's College, St Patrick's College, Maynooth, Queen's University, Belfast, University of Cambridge and the Institute of Education in London.|
|Sean McGinty||2008–2012||First lay principal of St Columb's College.|
- "Handbook for Parents and Pupils". St. Columb’s College, Derry. 2013. p. 24.
The official College playing colours for athletic and sporting activities are: ... (royal blue/gold band and gold collar and cuffs)