The Queen's College

"Who lasts a century can have no flaw:
I hold that wit a classic, good in law. "
- Pope-

If Trinity College deserved condemnation for being too sectarian, and not adapted, therefore, to the purposes of Irish national education, the Queens' Colleges of Belfast, Cork and Galway, which were in some degree established to remove that objection, and were so regulated that no jealousy at least could exist as to their being more favourable to one religion than another, were nevertheless denounced as godless and were quite as objectionable, in the opinion of many eminent men of different religious beliefs. In 1845, Sir Robert Peel being in office, the Act 8 and 9 Vict. C. 66 was passed providing for the establishment of three Queen's Colleges "in order to supply the want, which has been long felt in Ireland, of an improved academical education equally accessible to all classes of the community without religious distinction". The scheme had been suggested in 1838 in the report of the Select Committee on foundation Schools and Education in Ireland of which Mr. Thomas (afterwards Sir Thomas) Wyse was Chairman, and it was largely to his continual exertions that the scheme was due.

A sum of 100,000 was granted for sites and buildings for three colleges at Belfast, Cork and Galway and each college received 7,000 a year. Three Faculties were established in each, viz., Arts, Law and Physic. The Colleges were strictly undenominational, and the professors were forbidden by the Statutes to make any statement disrespectful to the religious convictions of their classes or to introduce political or polemical subjects. They were opened in October 1849.

The Queen's College, Galway according to the provisions of the Act was a corporation by the style and title of the President, Vice-President, and Professors of Queens College, Galway; and consisted of a President, Vice-President and twenty professors.

The professors were divided into three faculties, the Faculty of Arts, being further divided into the Literary and Science Divisions:

The Literary division of the Faculty of Arts included the Professors of

  • the Greek Language (William Edward Hearn, LL.B);
  • the Latin Language (William Nesbitt, A.M.):
  • History and English Literature (Rev. J.P.O'Toole, D.D.);
  • Modern Languages (Augustus Bensbach, M.D.);
  • the Celtic Languages (Cornelius Mahony).

The Science division of the Faculty of Arts included the Professors of

  • Mathematics (John Mulcahy, LL.D.);
  • National Philosophy (Morgan W. Crofton, A.B.);
  • Chemistry (Edmund Ronalds, Ph.Dr.);
  • Natural History (A.G. Melville, M.D., M.R.I.A.);
  • Logic and Metaphysics (Thomas W. Moffett, A.M., LL.B.);
  • Mineralogy and Geology (William King);
  • Civil Engineering (W. Bindon Blood, A.B., C.E.);
  • Agriculture (Thomas Skilling).

The Faculty of Medicine included the Professors of

  • Anatomy and Physiology (Charles Croker King, M.D., F.R.C.S.I., M.R.I.A., etc);Practice of Medicine (Nicholas Colahan, M.D., F.R.S.E.);
  • Practice of Surgery (James V. Browne, A.B, M.D., L.R.C.S.I.);
  • Materia Medica, and Medical Jurisprudence (Simon McCoy, M.D., F.R.C.S.I.);
  • Midwifery and Diseases of women and Children (Richard Doherty, M.D., Vice-President, Dublin Obstert. Soc.).
  • John Richardson, M.R.C.S.I., was Demonstrator of Anatomy.

The Faculty of Law included the Professors of

  • English Law (Hugh Law, A.B.);
  • Jurisprudence and Political Economy (D. Caulfield Heron, A.B.).

Each of these bodies elected annually from among its members, a Dean of the Faculty, who presided at its meetings, and represented his faculty or division of faculty, in the College Council, which consisted of the President (Edward Berwick, A.B.); the Vice-President (Rev. J.P.O'Toole, D.D.); and the four Deans of Faculty; William Nesbitt, John Mulcahy, James V. Browne and D. Caulfield Heron. The Council exercised and general government and administration of the College. It had the power of making regulations for its government in cases not provided for by the Statutes, rules, or ordinances; of arranging the courses of instruction in the College; of making regulations for the maintenance of discipline and good conduct among the students, in cases not provided for by the Statutes; and of affixing penalties and punishments to violations of the same.

Students of the College were either matriculated or non-matriculated. Matriculated students were admitted upon payment of the required fees, and passing the prescribed examinations in their respective faculties. Non-matriculated students were permitted, without undergoing a preliminary examination to attend any separate course of lectures, but were not permitted to become candidates for scholarships, prizes, or degrees. The College was opened for the registration of students on 15th October 1849, and lectures began on 20th of the same month.

The following students matriculated from the opening of the College to 23rd December 1850; James Archbold, John Berwick (son of the President), Joseph V. Blake, Andrew Bligh, Anthony F. Browne, William A. Browne, George Bunbury, William Henry Comyns, Martin J. Comyns, Patrick J Comyns, Patrick C. Connolly, Dominick Dillion, James H Dopping, John Dowling, Charles Drysdale, Charles W. Duggan, Joseph Duggan, Richard F. Eams, Richard Eaton, John W. B. Ellard. Thomas Elliott, John Evans, Timothy Feely, Robert Ferguson, Peter Thomas Finn, Nicholas Fitzgerald, Patrick J. Ford, Martin Gardiner, John J. Gibson, Charles Gilmore, John Glynn, William Gordon, John H. Hearn (son of Professor Hearn), Exham Heffernan, John Howze, Patrick J. Hughes, Francis Hurly, Joseph Hurly, George Irwin, Burton Jackson, William Johnston, John Johnston, Christopher M. Heane, Patrick J. Kelly, Garrett H. Kilkelly, William King, Christopher Kyle, James Lawlor, George Lyons, Dominick McDermott, Robert McGowan, John McGrath, Thomas McGrath, George Y. McMahon, Thomas A. McMahon, James A. McMullen, Richard H. Maunsell, Robert J. Mitchell, James Montgomery, John Moorehead, Thadeus Murphy, Bernard G. Norton, John O'Brien, John O'Doherty, Thomas O'Hara, Charles O'Hara, Edmund O'Kelly, John O'Leary, William O'Meagher, Joshua Paul, Patrick Perrin, John Powel, Richard Power, John Richardson (son of the Demonstrator of Anatomy), Edward Roche, Dominick D.Ryan, Henry St. George, Patrick Scott, William A. Scott, Peter Skerrett, Thomas Skilling (son of the Professor of Agriculture), James Slator, John A. Smyth, Robert Stephens, Joseph Tully, Robert Walkingshaw, and James Worrell.

Candidates for the degree of A.B. were required to pass a Matriculation examination in English, Greek, Latin, arithmetic and algebra, geometry, and history and geography. After having passed the examination, every candidate was required to pursue a course of study extending over three sessions and had to attend the prescribed lectures during at least two terms of each session. In the first session the student could select either French or German; in the second session either Greek and Latin or higher mathematics; in the third session either metaphysics or jurisprudence and political economy. In all cases, one or other of the courses was indispensable. After having completed these courses of study, and having passed the required collegiate examination, students could them present themselves for examination for the degree of A.B. from the Queen's University in Ireland. Candidates for the degree of A.M. were admitted to examination one year after having obtained the degree of A.B., provided they had attended College Lectures for one term during the year, and followed a programme of (1) Languages consisting of an extended course of Greek, Latin and two modern languages; together with attendance on a course of lectures on one foreign modern language; (2) History and metaphysics or jurisprudence, made up of an extended course of logic, and of history and English literature; together with attendance on a course of lectures on metaphysics or on a course of lectures on jurisprudence and political economy; (3) Mathematics and Physical Science: an extended course of mathematics and of the physical and natural sciences, together with attendance on a course of lectures on mineralogy and geology.

There were also available a two sessions' course for matriculated students leading to the Diploma of Civil Engineer and to the Diploma in Agriculture. For the degree of M.D. candidates were required to pass the matriculation examination in the subjects of matriculation prescribed for students in Arts. Then followed a course extending over four sessions - three-fourths at least of the lectures had to be attended and to pass a sessional examination in the subjects lectured on during the session. Students were also required to give evidence of twenty four months attendance in a general hospital; or of eighteen months' out practice at a hospital or dispensary; and also a course of practical pharmacy of three months. Clinical instruction was given at the County Infirmary, Prospect Hill, by the professors of the medical faculty. In the faculty of Law candidates could obtain either a Diploma in Elementary Law requiring a course of three years; or the degree of LL.B. after four years. This degree required also the degree of A.B. For the LL.D. degree a candidate could not sit for the examination until three years after having obtained the LL.B.

A class in Celtic Langauges was open to all students, but chiefly recommended to students of the second year. The course and examination was based on selections from The Gospel of St. Matthew; Halliday's edition of Keating's History of Ireland; selected portions of O'Donovan's Annals of the Four Masters; selections from Hardiman's Irish Ministrelsy; and grammar and composition. Prizes were awarded to the best answerers provided they had attended the professors lectures during two terms of the session. Courses of supplemental lectures, open to the public, were delivered during the third term of 1850-51, by the Professors of Logic, Jurisprudence and Political Economy respectively.

The College was empowered at the commencement of the session of 1851-2, to confer twenty four literary scholarships and twenty one science scholarships, of the value of 24 each; also six medical scholarships and three law scholarships of the value of 20 each. These scholarships were divided in equal proportion among matriculated students of the first, second, and third years. Two scholarships in engineering and four in agriculture were also divided in equal proportion. During the session of 1850-51, prizes, varying in amount, were awarded in case of sufficient merit, to the best students in individual subjects, and separate prizes were awarded to each class in those courses which occupied more than one session.

At a general sessional examination held on 6th and 7th June, 1850 the students of the faculty of Arts were examined in the subjects appointed for the undergraduate course of study during the first session, and the most distinguished candidates were arranged in order of merit: 12 First Class and 12 Second Class. The other students who were allowed their examination, both at this examination and at the supplemental examination in October, were not classed in order of merit. All students who had passed the general sessional examination were qualified to present themselves for the examination in the special subjects to which prizes were awarded.

The total amount of fees payable to the College and to the several professors for the prescribed courses were: for the degree of A.B., 11, 10 and 7; for the first, second and third years respectively; for the Diploma of Civil Engineer, 11, 10s. and 10; for the Diploma in Agriculture 7 10s., and 7; for the degree of M.D., 13 10s., 13 10s., 6 and 6 (if a graduate in arts, 11 10s., 6 and 6); for the Diploma in Elementary Law, 7, 6 and 4; for the degree of LL.B and LL.D., 15, 14, 9 and 8. All fees for scholars were from 4 to 5 less. Fees were payable in two instalments. The first instalment included the College fee - 3 for the first year, and 2 for every subsequent year and a moiety of the class fees payable to the several professors. In the case of students of the first year the College fee only was required before the matriculation examination; and in the event of the candidate failing to pass the examination the fee was returned. Class fees varied from 1 to 3 3s. per subject. In addition to class fees non-matriculated students paid five shillings each session to the College and fifteen shillings for admission to the privileges of the library.

In accordance with the Act, clergymen of the several denominations were appointed as Deans of Residence: Catholic, Rev. Godfrey Mitchell; Church of Ireland, Rev. John Treanor; and Presbyterian, Rev. William Adair. Arising out of the Synod of Thurles in August, 1850 the Catholic clergy were prohibited under penalty of suspension, from taking part in the administration of the College, and the position of Father Mitchell was therefore an anomalous one; and although Archbishop MacHale had been appointed a Visitor by the Crown on 6th September 1850, he declined to act. The Bishop of Galway, Dr. Lawrence O'Donnell who was also a visitor does not seem to have refused to act in that capacity. But the danger apprehended from the constitution of the College did not arise so much, it seems, from the want of religious instruction, which all could have received at their respective churches, as the exclusive power vested in the Government to regulate the proceedings and absorb the whole patronage and control over the institution. The supreme authority was vested in the Board of Visitors appointed by the Crown.

At meetings of the Senate of the Queen's University in Ireland in October 1852, and 1853, degrees and diplomas were conferred on 14 candidates from the college. For the four years ended June, 1853, the number of admissions amounted to 379 made up of 358 matriculated students and 21 non-matriculated students. James Hardiman, M.R.I.A., was the Librarian and superintended its discipline. Professors and officers of the College, matriculated and non-matriculated students, persons who had made donations to the College, and all clergymen resident in the town's neighbourhood were by the Council privileged to read in the Library.

The Museum consisted of four departments: zoological and botanical specimens; geological and mineralogical specimens; a cabinet of physical and mechanical apparatus; and objects of art and antiquity. A collection of casts of fossils from the Siwalik Hills had been presented by the East India Company. Strangers as well as students were admitted to the Museum.

The Council had proposed to establish a boarding house adjacent to the College under its immediate control, by which arrangement it was hoped "to enable most effectually to secure and enforce regularity and good conduct amongst its students residing there and to afford them accommodation upon the most moderate terms". But by this time Sir Robert Peel was dead, and the Galway College like those of Belfast and Cork, received little support "even from the Government that founded them".

As already stated the Synod of Thurles proclaimed the Colleges as being dangerous to faith and morals. There were eight Catholic student since 1850 at all three Colleges, and strange to say, the number increased to twenty-one in 1851. on the whole, however, it would seem that the Catholics as a body would have none of them. The total number of students attending the College has varied considerably. They fell from 208 (87 being Catholics) in 1881-82 to 83 in 1898-90, of whom 28 were Catholics. In 1900-01 there were 31 scholars and 15 exhibitioners out of 84 matriculated students, of whom some thirty came from Belfast and the other Ulster districts. These Ulster students earned the name of "pot-hunters" through the regularity with which they carried off scholarships and prizes.

So long as our University College remains as closely linked with western society in general as it has been in our democracy for the past century, it will always be a live issue in our country. In spite of acknowledged academic glory, it would be against tradition if in Galway the logic of the learned community were pressed to its extreme, and the College became so academically severe as to find no place, among students or teachers, for any but the present scholars and searchers after knowledge.

The College has gone a long way since October 1849, without in fact losing its pedigree. How far dare it go in the changed conditions of today? In the report made by the President at the end of the session which terminated in June, 1850 it is stated that the College was opened under very unfavourable circumstances, owing to the smallness of the town population, the pressure of distress through the province, and "the almost total want of schools in it", to which may be added the death of the Very Rev. Dr. Kirwan, the president nominated in the charter, whose place has been supplied by the vice-president. Of the 68 candidates admitted at the entrance examination, 38 were Catholics, 22 members of the Established Church, and 8 of the Presbyterian Church.


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