Rockwell College helped mould our patriots and presidents

Michael Heverin


Michael Heverin

Rockwell College helped mould our patriots and presidents
Rockwell College, one of the foremost educational establishments in the country, boasts a glittering array of past pupils who have been moulded and nurtured within the walls of the Tipperary school.

Rockwell College, one of the foremost educational establishments in the country, boasts a glittering array of past pupils who have been moulded and nurtured within the walls of the Tipperary school.

They include two Presidents of Ireland, Eamon de Valera and Paddy Hillery; three Attorneys General, a signatory to the 1916 Proclamation, Thomas McDonagh; a host of Irish rugby internationals, and two double winning Epsom Derby jockeys, Walter Swinburn and Joseph O’Brien.

And as Tipperary County Council chairman Michael Fitzgerald quipped about himself last week when he hosted a civic reception for the college, the first chairman of the unified Tipperary council as well!

Welcoming school principal Audrey O’Byrne; head of the Spiritans (formerly the Holy Ghost Fathers), Fr Marc Whelan; other members of the Order and past and present staff members at Rockwell, Cllr Fitzgerald had a special welcome for Muriel McAuley, grand-daughter of 1916 leader Thomas McDonagh, the only Tipperary signatory to the Proclamation, who was in Rockwell from 1892 to 1901.

He congratulated Rockwell College on 150 years of learning and its immense contribution to Tipperary, Ireland and the world in the way it had prepared so many young men - and girls since 1985 - to go out in the world.

“We are all very proud of Rockwell College, and Tipperary is a better place because of it”, he stated. “It is one of the most prestigious schools in the country based on the excellence of its academic, sporting and cultural achievements and has stood the test of time over the last 150 years”.

The motion to accord the civic reception was seconded by Cllr Roger Kennedy, who spoke on behalf of the Fianna Fail party, as well as Cllrs Mary Hannah Hourigan (FG); Fiona Bonfield (Lab); Martin Browne (SF) and Andy Moloney (Independents), all of whom congratulated the college on its remarkable milestone.

CEO Joe McGrath said Rockwell was not only a renowned centre of learning but had contributed to every aspect of life in Tipperary and across the world. “We are very proud you are in our community and amongst us”, he stated.

Principal Audrey O’Byrne thanked the County Council for honouring them and said everyone involved with the school shared the pride at the sense of accomplishment since its establishment in 1864.

Ms O’Byrne said the New Inn school had moulded the minds of so many well known people who had contributed so much but had done the same for so many more who were less well known.

The ethos for all who had studied there was a sense of faith, a respect for education and a generosity and willingness to help others, she remarked.

It was an approach cultivated initially by the Holy Ghost Fathers when they set up the college to prepare priests for the missions and those influences had been carried on over the generations and still maintained today by the teaching staff.

She also linked Rockwell College to the framing of the Irish Constitution in 1937. Eamonn de Valera and Archbishop John Charles McQuaid, who was also Holy Ghost Fathers-educated in Dublin at Blackrock College, may not have been regarded as very liberal, but they had a significant input to the Constitution which was liberal, tolerant and accepting of differences at a time when other countries in Europe were clamping down on differences.

“In my mind, the magic of Rockwell has always been that its history reflects the development of Ireland as a state. Its origins are at the time of land agitation, missionary endeavours in Africa and around the world, the formation of the GAA, the establishment of the state through initially rebels such as Thomas McDonagh and later Eamonn de Valera. When you look at all these things you see that Rockwell College is a microcosm of national growth and change. While promoting a broad and high quality education, Rockwell sowed the seeds for generations of young men and latterly young women who made significant contributions to Tipperary, to Ireland and to the wider world”, she said.

Ms O’Byrne added that the college today remained at the heart of its community, and that in addition to its teaching staff, it employed forty local people, while it also carried on business and trade in the local area.

Head of the Spiritan Order in Ireland Fr Marc Whelan, said they were very proud of the honour bestowed on them by the council. He said that through its missionary work across the world, the Order “educates people of all faiths and none because we believe in a God who likes to spend time with everyone”.

Cahir student Brian McKenna, chairman of the Students Representative Council, spoke of the importance of the Past Pupils Union and remarked that he was already a member as he just finished his Leaving Certificate earlier in the day. He remarked that the education he had received in Rockwell College, both inside and outside the classroom, had prepared him to live a fulfilling life as the values imparted in the school were so important.