The Story of the CBS Primary School
The Irish Christian Brothers came to Kilkenny in 1860. Five years earlier, at the request of the Bishop of Ossory, Rev. Dr. Walsh, the people of Kilkenny held a meeting under the Chairmanship of the Lord Mayor, James Tidmarsh. This large assembly unanimously decided to invite the Brothers to open a school in the city. A fund of some £3,000 was collected and invested for this purpose. The Vincent de Paul Society arranged a meeting between the Bishop and a delegate of the Br. Superior General. Here it was agreed that three Brothers would be sent to Kilkenny. They would be provided with a school and residence, furnished and free of charge. A stipend of £90 per annum would be paid for the upkeep of the new community. A voluntary fee of one penny per week would be levied on the pupils. This money would be used for school purposes only.
By 1860 a site had been purchased and a solid stone two-storey building erected. Downstairs were two large classrooms. The upper storey would act as a residence for the Brothers. This building stood at the junction of James ‘ Street and the Sconce and was located slightly in front of the facade of the present school. On the 26th of September 1860, it opened its doors to a large influx of pupils. Two hundred and sixty boys were put on the rolls that day but many others had to be excluded for lack of space.
On the morning the Brothers opened their school in St. Patrick’s Kilkenny, fifty Catholic pupils left the local Model School and enrolled in the Brothers’ school. Meanwhile the youth of Kilkenny were benefiting from the new Christian School in James’ Street. They followed an organised programme of studies; used a fixed set of text-books published by the Christian Brothers and were subject to a detailed oral and written examination each year, conducted by a visiting Br. Examiner. This procedure soon bore fruit. Very soon we learn that ex-pupils of James’ Street were in charge of management in Messers. Lowe, Shortal, McMahon and Fanning etc. Two more past pupils had become clerks of Petty Sessions. The merchants of the city looked to the school for trained young book-keepers.
At Confirmation His Lordship lauded the solid Christian education the boys received. To cope with new enrolments a building at the rear of the school and close to the brewery was rented from Messrs. Smithwick for £5 per annum. While awaiting the completion of their residence in the James’ Street school the three Brothers lived for a short time in a small house near St. Patrick’s Church. When eventually the community moved into their new home they found there a kitchenette, small dining room, community room, an Oratory, and four bedrooms. One of the brothers, Br. Cusack, was not involved in teaching. He was a “lay brother”, who acted as cook and house keeper. He was also a skilled carpenter and he built a toilet, bathroom and an extra bedroom in the attic. This extra accommodation was necessary as two more Brothers had joined the community and ran the new school in St. Patrick’s parish. Rev. Fr. Hayden Adm. of St. Patrick’s, with the generous support of his parishioners, had in 1864 erected a fine two roomed school and had procured the services of those two extra Brothers. Our Kilkenny establishments were now flourishing. By 1868 the Powis Commission reported to the House of Commons that there were 611 pupils on our rolls pursuing a well organised course in religion, writing, grammar, drawing and natural philosophy.
Br. Keane, purchased the “Harbour Field” from Joseph D. Smithwick. This seven acre acquisition, bordering Stephen Street was to provide an ideal location for the new primary school as well as a hurling field for the students.
The lovely new Scoil Iognaíd de Rís was officially opened and blessed by His Lordship Dr. Collier, in 1953. At last our junior pupils had a spacious home of their own. This new red-bricked building was the first school in Ireland to be dedicated to our own revered Founder, Br. Ignatius Rice. Such valiant and loyal teachers as Alfie Cullen, Paddy Kennedy and Paddy McEvoy must have relished this new sense of freedom after enduring the ordeal of the cramped and chaotic conditions of James’ Street. Now under the benign stewardship of such principals as Brs. Kenny, Grennan, Cordial, Lenihan and Murphy, this new school flourished. Extra classrooms and an Assembly Hall were added. A new school uniform was adopted in 1983.
A high standard of excellence has been achieved both in the classroom and in the playing fields. This good work was continued by Mr. Tommy O’ Brien, the first lay principal. Mr. Denis O’ Reilly was the second lay principal from 1999 -2013. Donal Mc Carthy took over the mantle in 2013. The current principal is Mr. Niall Bergin who was appointed in 2018.
“Ní neart go cur le chéile”
Blessed Edmund Rice
On October 6, 1996, Pope John Paul II beatified – declared ‘Blessed’ – Edmund Rice, the founder of the Christian Brothers and the Presentation Brothers. Edmund Rice was born to a farming family, under the shadow of the Penal Laws, on June 1, 1762 at Westcourt, Callan, County Kilkenny, Ireland. He attended the commercial academy in Kilkenny for about two years after secretly receiving his elementary education at the local ‘hedge school’ in Callan.
In 1779 Edmund was apprenticed to his uncle, Michael Rice, in the business of supplying all the needs of ships that plied their trade across the Atlantic between Europe and the eastern coast of North America. By his late twenties, through his entrepreneurial skills, he had earned enough money to make himself and his family comfortable for life.
Edmund married Mary Elliot, the daughter to a prosperous Waterford businessman, in 1786. After three short years of marriage, Mary suffered a tragic accident, gave birth to a handicapped daughter, also called Mary, and died shortly after. Edmund was devastated. After a period of reflection he turned to his special vocation, which was to provide dignity for the poor, especially through education.
So, as a 40-year old widower and a successful businessman in Waterford on Ireland’s southeast coast, Edmund Rice changed course radically. He sold off his business interests and started a primary school for a few poor boys in a converted stable, with a room for himself above the makeshift classrooms.
During the following year, he used more of his funds to put up a larger building in the city’s working-class district. In 1802 Edmund was joined by two companions, Thomas Grosvener and Patrick Finn, and the three began to live a form of community life in rooms over the Stable School in New Street. The men shared his vision where they combined a semi-monastic life with the hard work of teaching unruly boys under primitive conditions.
All of Edmund’s educational activities were illegal in the eyes of the ‘authorities’ in Ireland. Most Irish Catholics were effectively cut off from education and consequently cut off from social and political progress. By founding schools and teaching congregations, Edmund Rice, like Daniel O’ Connell, was a liberator. That is one reason why O’Connell greatly admired the man he called “patriarch of the monks of the West.”. Appropriately, therefore, Edmund’s first Dublin Schools in North Richmond Street were named the O’Connell Schools. But all these achievements came at a great personal and mental distress. So, in 1838, Edmund laid down the onerous office of Superiour General and retired to Mount Sion, Waterford.
Edmund died on the 29th August, 1844. His vision continues to live on in the positive response to today’s challenges made by his successors in the Edmund Rice Family.
Edmund Rice Schools Trust (ERST)
Scoil Iognáid de Rís (CBS Primary), Kilkenny is part of the Edmund Rice Schools Trust (ERST)
The Edmund Rice Schools Trust has responsibility for 96 schools, secondary and primary, in the Republic of Ireland. The Trust supports its schools and their students, teachers, principals and voluntary boards of management, members, directors and staff in line with the tenets of the Edmund Rice Schools Trust Charter.
Our schools promote equality of access and participation – in other words, children of any faith, or none, at every level of ability, of any nationality or ethnic grouping are all welcome in our schools. All of our schools recognise the uniqueness of each individual in caring communities where holistic development is nurtured. Enrolment processes are open and flagged in advance. High educational, developmental and pastoral standards apply in all our schools.
In addition to the provision of high standards of excellence in teaching and learning, our schools uphold a strong sporting tradition, gaelic culture, and ethos of social justice. Inspired by the five key elements of the Edmund Rice Schools Trust Charter our schools are responding to a changing world and supporting the leaders of the future to work in partnership, care for the environment, look after themselves and others equally and be inspirational citizens.
The five key elements of the Edmund Rice Schools Trust Charter are
- Nurturing faith, Christian spirituality and Gospel-based values;
- Promoting partnership;
- Excelling in teaching and learning;
- Creating a caring school community;
- Inspiring transformational leadership.
The main object of the Trust is to ensure and foster the advancement of education and to further the aims and purposes of Catholic education in the Edmund Rice tradition in colleges, schools and other educational projects in Ireland owned or operated by the Company in accordance with the religious and education philosophy of the Company as stated in the Edmund Rice School Trust Charter.
The Edmund Rice Schools Trust gives everyone involved in running the ninety seven schools the opportunity to share ideas and pursue best practice together and so give practical expression to the Edmund Rice Schools Trust Charter.