Our History

The college was founded as a major and minor seminary for the Diocese of Kilmore.

The college was opened on 12 March with 83 students on the roll, all boarders.  The new College could accommodate about 100 boarding students and was built at a cost of £11,176

The college ceased to be major seminary and was opened to day-students for the first time.

The first recorded appearance of a St Patrick’s College football team was a challenge game against an Antrim senior team played at Wattlebridge, Co. Fermanagh, on August 16th.

A college team played in the McRory Cup, the Ulster Colleges Football Championship, for the first time.

St Patrick’s College won the McRory Cup for the first time. College teams would subsequently win another 11 Ulster titles.

Construction began on the New Wing, a four storey block consisting of new living accommodation, classrooms, science block, etc

The number of boarders reach a peak of 241.

Free post-primary education was introduced. The number of day-students began to rise rapidly.

The college assembly hall was opened.
For the first time, the number of day-students exceeded the number of boarders.

St Patrick’s won the Hogan Cup, the All-Ireland Colleges Gaelic Football Championship.

The college celebrated it’s centenary. The then President of Ireland, Mr Erskine Childers, visited the college to mark the occasion.

St Augustine’s, a new block consisting of classrooms, laboratories, art room and music room, was opened.

President Mary Robinson visited the College to mark European day

Student numbers reached 721, an all-time high. Of these, 104 were boarding students

With less than 80 boarders it was decided that the Boarding School would close. The closure would be phased over two years and the boarding would finally end in June 2000

A Little More History

The life style of students and staff in the 1880’s and 1890’s.

In the early years of the college, when students were allowed home for Christmas and for summer, the highlight of the school year was the annual picnic, usually held in May or early June. The outing travelled to a different venue each year, Castle Saunderson, Tullyvin and the residence of Baron Hughes, near Gowna. These picnics continued until 1878, when the last of them was held at Tullyvin. Professors, students, domestic staff as well as the Cavan Boys Band travelled on board four brakes and a number of cars. It is interesting to note from the college account books that it took almost three gallons of whiskey to supply the needs of the day. It must have been a very good day indeed!. In those days the attitude to drink was quite lenient. Until the early years of this century it was accepted that most students took a drink. On the other hand smoking was looked on much more seriously.

Student dress consisted of a three-piece tweed suit and a cap. This cap was not a school skull-cap of the type worn in English schools but an ordinary conventional cap. Indeed, a student without a cap was considered improperly dressed. Students would travel to the college by train or by horse and trap. There’s a story in college lore about a first year student from Killinkere who arrive at the college in an ass and cart. He was wrongly under the impression that the college would provide for his ass until Christmas. Meeting the president, he asked: ‘Please Father, where will I put the beast and the cart?’

Student group circa 1898

The earliest photographs of the student body we have from the 1890’s show that the students were, on average, a few years older than the student of today and that many of them were physically very mature. This meant that they were better able to stand up to the rather spartan conditions in the college, especially during those first thirty years. There was no central heating in the college until 1908. Each bed-room had a fire-place but it was never used. Cold and dampness were the students’ great enemy.
A student who entered the college in 1902, before the central heating was installed, has left us this account:
“There was no heat at all in the refectory, chapel, corridors or bed-rooms. Getting between the sheets was an experience in winter. Those of us who got up at first bell which was at 6 a.m. usually went down to the main corridor where we walked briskly in an attempt to warm ourselves until the last bell at 6.20. Then clad with our top-coats we went to the chapel where the only heat we had was from a few oil lamps. It was a mystery we survived it.”

College Volunteers 1918

In those early days breakfast consisted of porridge and milk. An egg could be had for an extra 15 shillings a year. At noon they were given a lunch of bread and milk. Dinner was at 3 p.m. The account books for the 1870’s and 1880’s show that bacon, fish and eggs constituted the menu for dinner. Beef was a rare luxury. For their supper students were served porridge and milk at 8 p.m. This was the last meal of the day.

The Feast of All Saints, The Anniversary of the Opening of the College and St. Patrick’s Day were special occasions in the annual life of the college and were celebrated with special dinners. On St. Patrick’s Day a special table was set aside for students who wished to take wine. At first most students did so, but this tradition died out in the early 1900’s when the temperance movement began to sweep the country.


Finally, there was little in the way of recreational facilities. On Saturdays students went on walks to places such as Butlersbridge, Redhills or Killygarry. These walks were compulsory and it seems that students regarded them as more a penance than a pleasure. In addition to the walks handball was played from 1877, as well as a little croquet, cricket and soccer. Gaelic football did not become part of college life until the early years of this century.

The contents of this page are based on extracts from ‘St Patrick’s College: A Centenary History” by Fr T.P. Cunningham and Fr Dan Gallogly