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by Tom Kenny

One hundred and sixty years ago, in 1862, the Jesuits opened the doors of St. Ignatius College on Sea Road for the first time. They also opened a Community residence and a church at the same time. To take on such an ambitious building project at a time when the economic state of the country was so bad took courage and vision.

The move to Sea Road was a success, attendances at mass and ceremonies grew rapidly, confessions sometimes went on until midnight. The College, however, was more of a challenge. The numbers at first were as expected, grew steadily to 90 in 1865 and reached 110 in 1874, but they began to fall thereafter and were inconsistent from year to year. In 1899 there were 49 pupils in the school. Numbers were low but academic standards were high. Things improved a little in the early 1900s but social, economic and political challenges in the 1920s saw a new decline in numbers and by 1924 there were only 67 boys on the rolls. Two years later, it was decided to close the school.

As a result of sustained representations from various organisations and citizens, the College reopened in 1929. A lot of reflection and deliberation had taken place about this time in planning the future of the College. In the wake of independence, there was a growing support for Irish culture and the Irish language revival and so the school was now called Coláiste Iognáid. In 1931, it became an all-Irish medium school, Scoil A, pursuing creative ways of promoting and learning the love of Irish.

In 1959, a science laboratory was built, in 1969 a major extension known as the Griffin Building was constructed and in 1971, a new primary school known as Scoil Iognáid was built. The numbers continued to grow, there were 10 scholars in the 1961 Leaving Cert class, but by 1982, as you can see from our 3 photographs, there was a huge increase. In 1982, the O’Reilly building was added, housing science laboratories, a Home Economics room and a Woodwork room. In 1984, it became the first fully co-educational secondary school in Galway. Since then, the College has been extended even further and today, it is a major institution of learning which has contributed so much to the quality of life in Galway. At a 50th anniversary class reunion some years ago, there was a lot of discussion on the Jesuit ethos in the school which was finally topped by Jim Cradock who described it as “that place where they taught us confidence, competence and compassion”.

Our photographs today are of the Leaving Cert Class of 1982 who are gathering together on the weekend of July 22nd for a 40th anniversary reunion. Proceedings get underway with a mass in the church starting at 6.30. Niall Rooney is the chief organiser and he can be reached at 087 2482 639, or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The class was divided into three streams. Our first photograph shows the G stream, the Gaeilge group. They are, back row, left to right, Éanna Ó hÓgartaigh, Martin Feeney, Elaine Shannon, Eoin Parsons, Ronan Fitzgerald, Anne Scully. Middle row; Isbéal Mac Aodh, Declan Rafferty, Phelim Donnelly, Emer Madden, Gabriel Allen, Bríd Breathnach, Conall Stafford. In front are Fr. John Ward, Fr. Paddy Greene, Bernie O’Connell and Frank Canavan.

Our second image is of the X group, the Xavier class. They are, back row; Tim Hernon, Eoin McCambridge, Joe Coughlan, Aidan Higgins, Danny Cummins, Michael Holland, Paul Hardigan. Fourth row; Niall Rooney, Ger McMenamin, Eoin O’Donnellan, Kevin Moore, Mike Healy, Nelius Egan. Third row; Michael Regan, Pádraic Cunningham, Conor Browne, Seamus Hill, Donal Coyle, Conor Clifford, Joey Kennedy. In the second row are Brendan Wilkins, Rory Coll and Rory Griffin. Seated are Fr. Murt Curry, Fr. Paddy Greene, Fr. Billy Greene and Frank Canavan. Missing that day were Gary Silke and Michael Cahill, Austin McMurrough, Turlough Moore and Paul McNicholas.

Our third group is the L class, Loyola. Back row; Peter Mohr, Eugene Garvin, Pádraic Keaney, Brian Coll, Conor Thunder, John Lally, Gearóid Joyce, Bernard Woosten. Third row; Ernesto Antonio, Billy Mulqueen, John O’Grady, John O’Neill, Alan Hernon, Seán Carney, Seán Forde, Jim Ward. Second row; Redmond O’Brien, John Hannon, Cormac McCann, Peter Rocca, John O’Beirn, David McDonagh, Ian Vahey, Brian Molloy. In front are Dee O’Brien, Fr. Paddy Greene, Fr. Billy Greene and Frank Canavan. Missing on the day were Mark Harrington, Eoin Moore, Paul Morrissey, Joe Lawlor and Stephen Small.

Our thanks to Paddy Lydon for his help with the above.

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