NA BRÁITHRE CRIOSTAÍ I gCILL CHAINNIGH
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”