The Patrician Brothers' Schools

In 1790 The Rev. Augustine Kirwan, Catholic Warden of Galway established the Galway Charity School near the Shambles Barrack, for the education of poor boys, who were to be "carefully instructed in reading, writing, arithmetic, and the principles of their religion. The school and the funds were administered by a president, vice-president, treasurer, and secretary, who were elected annually, under the patronage of the Catholic Warden, vicars and parochial clergy of the town. The institution was supported by the receipts from charity sermons, annual subscriptions, and occasional contributions. The number of children at the time of its establishment was limited to 150; 100 of them were clothed and 12 apprenticed to trades. The original foundation rules read:

"That as many boys, from the age of eight to twelve years, as the funds will bear, be admitted, when previously recommended and approved of by the committee; that they are to be supported by their parents, and sent to the school, at appointed hours, washed, cleansed and combed; that they are to be instructed in reading, writing and arithmetic, and supplied with books, pens, ink and paper at the expense of the society: and, as emulation is the great spur to the infant mind, premiums shall be distributed among the deserving; and such of them as shall pass three years at said school, without breach of moral duties, shall be apprenticed as soon as the funds shall admit; the incorrigible to be expelled". Hardiman states: "The school is under the care of Mr. Ulick Burke who is not only what the rules require the master to be, 'a sober, moral man', but also a well-informed, religious individual, whose care of the education and manners of the children entrusted to his charge is entitled to the highest praise. "

The system of dual control which, in theory, appeals to be its freedom and elasticity, failed because the merchant and the professional classes in Galway did not honour their obligations. Subscriptions dwindled, the better off classes took little personal interest in the school, and there was mismanagement. There was a lack of competent teachers, "the refuse of other callings" condemned in later years by Macaulay, was another contributory cause of the failure of the Galway Charity School. The school had definitely failed because 36 years after its establishment the Warden had to apply to Dr. James Warren Doyle (J.K.L.) Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, for a filiations of the Brothers of St. Patrick.

The Brothers of St. Patrick, or Patrician Brothers, had been founded in 1808 in Tullow, County Carlow, by Dr. Daniel Delany, Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin. After the Relief Acts of 1782-1792, many Catholic landlords established schools on their estates and among those who made educational provision for their tenants was Christopher Redington, the proprietor of Kilcornan. About 1817 he founded a monastery and a boy's school, under the charge of two Patrician Brothers, at Clarenbridge. The Warden of Galway aware of the work being done on the Redington estate, invited them to take charge of the Galway Charity School. In his letter to the Superior in Tullow he writes: "... by a meeting of the subscribers and committee of the Male Schools, Market Street, held on Sunday the 22nd inst. (October 1826), I am directed to request that you will have the kindness as soon as possible, to send some young man to undertake the concerns of the school at Kilcornan, pro tempore, in order that we may have the services of Brother Dawson until yourself arrive". Brother Paul O'Connor was sent to take over the school, which had in the meantime been changed from near the Shambles Barrack to a disused barrack (its present site) in Lombard Street. He was joined by Brother Dawson and the other Brother from Clarenbridge - the Redington School was placed in charge of the Sisters of Charity, who had charge of a Girls' school.

Brother Paul records: "January 15th, 1827. - On this day N.N. and I entered our new monastery after having recited the "Te Deum" in thanksgiving to the Almighty for this new proof of his love...; we commenced our labours in the school ...Cash in hands on entering the monastery, 0 is. Od. (one shilling")". Social conditions at the time in Galway were, as in other Irish towns and cities, bad. A printed document preserved in one of the school registers makes this clear: "As the main end and design intended by this school is to preserve a few of the growing generation from the horrid vices of blasphemy, drunkenness, and dishonesty, the boys admitted to it are to be carefully instructed in Christian principles by a clergyman appointed for that purpose". Before the school had been a year in operation, the improvement in the youth of the city was so evident that at a public meeting held in the school the thanks of those present were voted to the teachers "whose zeal, attention and excellent arrangements had produced such happy results".

The curriculum and organisation may be summarised; In the first or lower school, the children were very young and were taught merely the alphabet and words of two syllables, prayers and the small catechism; in the second, the children were taught words of three syllables, and progressively to read the catechism, and to write. In the third, they were taught spelling, reading, writing, and the elements of arithmetic; and in the fourth, the same course was pursued with the addition of English grammar, book-keeping, navigation, algebra and geometry. Some of the boys were 18 years of age, and there were a few sailors still older who were taught navigation. Reeves'sHistory of the Bible was read in the third and fourth schools. The children were chiefly of the class of tradesmen, labourers, servants and clerks. The school opened at 10 o'clock in the morning; and "the Masters seldom have recourse to Corporal Punishment".

In 1831 the school came under the control of the Board of Commissioners of National Education in Ireland. In 1834, Brother Paul O'Connor reported to the Committee of the school;

"As a member of a Religious Community, I have always felt it a humiliating reflection that the schools in connection with the monastic institution of Ireland should, for any consideration, be subjected to the control of a Board of Education - one of whose rules is, that the Teachers are liable to be dismissed at the beck of the Commissioners on the suggestion of a prejudiced Inspector ... The National System refers not exclusively to any one establishment it extends its influence over the length and breadth of the land; the rising youth of the country will be imbued with its principles; these early impressions will give a character and complexion to their religious sentiments in after-life... From these reflections an important question arises; whether it would be advisable, on account of the grant made by the Board and the toleration of saying our prayers when we like, to continue the connection of this school with the Board, when that connection would, in all probability, be looked upon as a guarantee to the minor establishments of the country that nothing insidious against the faith of the Catholics of Ireland was contemplated in the National System; ... So far as this school is concerned, there is little danger now that the faith of the children will be endangered by our nominal connection with the Board of Education. "

In a letter to a friend in Rome, under date September 16th 1835, Brother Paul writes "We have two schoolrooms, each 100 feet long by 30 wide, usually attended by five or six hundred pupils. By the bounty of the kind and benevolent, we are enabled to give a daily breakfast to about 150 of the poorest of these poor children. We give public religious instruction in the parish chapel on Sundays ... The parish chapel is but one street distant from us". The Fiftieth Annual Report records that in the years 1847 and 1848 nearly 1,000 poor boys received a daily breakfast; and from the friendly aid received from the people of Galway, from America, Australia and New Zealand, the Brothers were able to provide food and clothing for all who required it.

A definitely higher education than the ordinary National School was given by the Galway Model School erected at Newcastle Road in 1849-50. Its aim was to promote "united education", to exhibit the most improved methods of literary and scientific instruction to the surrounding schools and to train young persons for the office of teacher. This school was managed by the Commissioners of National Education and subject to the same regulations as ordinary National Schools and gave what may be termed an intermediate education. After a time it aroused the antagonism of the Catholics and Catholic children were forbidden to attend it, as they were also forbidden to attend the Grammar School. The Bishop of Galway Dr. McEvilly, seeing the great need of Catholic intermediate education requested the Brothers to open a secondary school "to provide for the educational wants of the boys of the middle classes of Galway". On the 8th December 1862, the Seminary of St. Joseph was founded at Nun's Island. The course of instruction was classical, literary and scientific. The prospectus set out, inter alia,

"Throughout the course of the several departments, religion will be the living, moving and permeating principle of the instruction imparted in the Seminary; the language and history of our beloved fatherland will be encouraged and cultivated. Care will be taken to prepare the pupils for the respective positions which they are known to be intended for in after life and with the general advancement in view, the study hall and class rooms will be furnished, on a comprehensive scale, with the necessary appliances for accelerating the progress of all, and rendering the pursuit of learning light, interesting and agreeable. "

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