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Blackrock College
Blackrock College

Blackrock College (Irish: Coláiste na Carraige Duibhe) is an independent day and boarding Catholic secondary school for boys aged 13–18, in Williamstown, Blackrock, County Dublin, Ireland. It was founded by French missionary Pére Jules Leman CSSp in 1860 as a school and civil service training centre.

The college, 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) from Dublin city centre, is just in from the sea, and is self-contained, with large boarding and teaching facilities in 56 acres of rolling parkland. It accommodates approximately 1,000 day and boarding students.[1]

Now run by a lay foundation in trust, it maintains academic standards and requires all pupils to participate in non-academic activities, and it has a strong sporting tradition. The missionary tradition continues with charity programmes, especially at Christmas.


The college was founded by the Congregation of the Holy Ghost in 1860, the first of the Order's five schools in Ireland. The founder is listed as Fr (Père) Jules Leman, a French missionary with the Holy Ghost Order. Leman had a dual aim, namely to train personnel for missionary service in the Third World and provide a first class Catholic education for Irish boys. It was originally known as the French College by the locals. A successful civil service training and university department (where students were examined and had degrees conferred by the Royal University of Ireland) were run for over forty years, until University College Dublin grew, and the school focused more on the second level curriculum.

Although never a seminary, some ordinations have taken place in Blackrock. The first ordination at Blackrock College was on 22 April 1900 when Mgr. Emile Allgeyer CSSp (a former student in Blackrock and first to be made a bishop), ordained Joseph Shanahan who later became a bishop, and has a House named after him within the school.[2] From 1924 until 1933 the Holy Ghost Fathers studied Theology at Blackrock Castle, before returning to Kimmage Manor.

The crest of the college is the third creation, dating back to 1936 and explained in the 1937 College Annual as being:

On 30 April 1926, Fr. Leen at a sports day speech encapsulated the words Fides Et Robur which henceforth became the Rock motto. In 1928, a new College Crest, bearing four emblems around a blue cross was hurriedly officiated, primarily to show off the Fides Et Robur motto over the College's especially built new front gates. Not everyone was happy with this design and possible variations of a new design may have been experimented with; evidence exists that both in crest and in uniform, by reason of fault or debate, and most likely between 1928 and 1936, a distinctive crest had been "with nine rays descendant, Or". In 1936, Dr. McQuaid instigated a new and distinctive crest that to this day is in continual use (unchecked variations and wayward deviations are contracted into stores by stationery and uniform suppliers). It was adapted on blazers that year and a heraldic description of the arms of the College was published (though not officially registered) in the 1937 Blackrock College Annual. It was commissioned into stained glass in 1938, presumably in its true and intended likeness and survives today at the end of one of the house corridors, though its conformity to the true heraldic interpretations are not accurate; "a Lion Rampant of the second" would correctly reveal only a blue silhouette of a rampant lion, that is, minus any fine caricature details so apparent in the existing variations.[3]

Status and operation

Blackrock is now run by the Congregation of the Holy Ghost in close co-operation with a dedicated group of lay personnel.[4] The annual fees for students in 2011 were € 6,300 for day boys, €17,250 for boarders and €18,250 for overseas borders.

The college and its sister schools in Ireland are today held in trust by the Des Places Educational Association,[5] which, as the College's Patron, aims to maintain the Spiritan ethos in all five schools – Blackrock, Rockwell, St. Mary's, St. Michael's and Templeogue – conducted by the Congregation of the Holy Spirit in Ireland.

All students within the college are divided into six houses - DeValera, Duff, Ebenrecht, Leman, McQuaid and Shanahan - that compete through each of the years in inter-house competitions and a points system. The members of each house are chosen in second year by the captains, and a student remains within the same house throughout his time at the school. There are two house captains who lead each house in each year, except transition year in which there are three captains per house. They act as leaders and one from each year is chosen to represent the year on the student council. The captains are elected democratically every year by members of their house. They lead house meeting and make sure everyone in their house partakes in the school's various inter house events.


The curriculum offered is broad, covering all common subjects in the State Examinations including Latin, German, Art, Music, Business, Materials Technology Wood, Science and History. Inspections by the Department of Education found exemplary standards of teaching and learning.[6] The Irish Times placed the College in the "Top Ten" schools in the state, based on the proportion of students who accept a place in Higher or Further Education.[7] There are dedicated facilities for Home Economics and Materials Technology.

College buildings

The college consists mainly of two buildings, the junior cycle and transition year building and the more modern senior cycle building. These two buildings are connected via the central St. Patricks Corridor and the entrance corridor. Several other wings contain community facilities as well as other classrooms and subject specific rooms. The quadrangle or "quad" is a large green area surrounded by the senior wing, the chapel and St. Mary's Corridor. The campus is 0.25 square kilometres (62 acres) and contains nine rugby pitches, a cricket lawn, an athletics track, an indoor swimming pool, a gym, six tennis courts, basketball courts, hammer throw field and indoor halls.

Apart from classrooms and three study halls, there are nine science laboratories, a woodwork room, a radio studio, three computer rooms, a digital communications and graphics room, an art room, a choir hall, a multimedia room and a home economics kitchen. The college also contains a refectory, chapel, creative arts and digital learning centre, lecture halls and stage which hosts student-run dramatic productions. The college is undergoing an extensive modernisation programme, currently the pitches are being transformed and roads around the school rerouted.

Boarding school

The boarding school is housed in Williamstown Castle (known by students as "The Castle"). Williamstown Castle was built around 1780 on lands rented by the Fitzwilliams, later Pembrokes, to Counsellor William Vavasour. It resembled other spacious houses in the area including Willow Park and Castledawson, but a later owner, Thomas O'Mara, extensively redeveloped the building and its surrounds, adding the castellated finish, hence making it into a 'castle'. O'Mara had acted as an election agent for Daniel O'Connell, who dined in the Castle on occasion, and for years a portrait of O'Connell adorned the room which is now the oratory.[8] Niall MacDermott is the Director of Boarding in the college. The Boarding School contains around 100 students. Boarding is available from first year up to sixth year. Some day boys join the boarding school in 6th year in preparation for their Leaving Certificate. Boarders are allowed to leave the castle with permission.

Extra curricular activities

Sport is viewed as an integral part of a boy's education and each pupil is expected to participate in some activity.[9] The principal sport in the college is rugby, with Blackrock having won the Leinster Schools Senior Cup 69 times. It has also won the Leinster Schools Junior Cup 51 times. Blackrock won the inaugural Cup competition held in 1887 and have been consistently the most successful team, winning the Cup at least three times in every decade since.

Retired Blackrock rugby union players include Fergus Slattery, Niall Brophy, Hugo MacNeill and Brendan Mullin (all playing before rugby union was professional), former British and Irish Lions, Ireland and Leinster captain Brian O'Driscoll, Shane Byrne, Victor Costello, Luke Fitzgerald, and the current Leinster Rugby Head Coach and former Irish international Leo Cullen. Current professional players include Bristol and Ireland's Ian Madigan, Leinster and Ireland players Garry Ringrose and Jordi Murphy, Munster and Ireland's Andrew Conway and Joey Carbery, Sale Sharks and US Eagles' AJ MacGinty and multiple others around Ireland and the world.

Gaelic football is played in 4th year in the college. Past pupils Mark Vaughan and Niall Corkery are forwards on the Dublin Gaelic football team. The school also has a hurling team for 2nd and 3rd years. Five members of the All Ireland Club Championship winning Kilmacud Crokes team of 2008–09 were past pupils of Blackrock College. The college has a soccer team for its senior pupils in 4th, 5th and 6th year. The soccer team's greatest success came in 2003, when, captained by Steve Dillon, they won the Leinster and All-Ireland U-17s schools cup.

The college has a strong swimming team, which combines 1st to 6th year. Currently the team has six training sessions per week. The college competes in Leinster Senior Schools and has won the senior relay cup multiple times, most recently in 2017, and the Irish senior schools, regularly making finals and achieving gold in 2017. The college has a strong record of inter-schools galas also. The school has two 25-metre (82 ft) swimming pools on the grounds. The junior school Willow Park also has a successful swimming team. The college has teams in other water sports such as water polo and 4th years participate in rowing.

Table tennis is another one of the colleges sports with many of its students participating. Many players come from 2nd year with older years fielding less numbers. 2010 saw the Blackrock Senior A team retain the Leinster Schools Senior Cup, won for the first time in 2009, while the seniors also won the Leinster Senior League for the first time since 1968, as well as reaching the final of the Senior All Irelands for the first time. 2010 saw the junior team reach the Junior Cup final for the 3rd year in a row, however in 2008 and 2009 the Blackrock Junior A team completed the Leinster double, with victories in both Junior Cup and Junior League, and also reached the final of the Junior All Irelands in both seasons. In 2010, the Senior A team competed in the World Schools Championships for the first time. It is currently very successful at schools level, completing a 'Treble-Treble' of Leinster League, Leinster Cup and All-Ireland Championship for the past three years

The college has its own basketball team run by teachers as well as professional coaches. Basketball has flourished when it comes to numbers and is also successful. The basketball programme produced Irish and inter provincial school boy representatives in the 1970s such as John and Noel Williams. The college has three outdoor basketball courts and different indoor basketball courts on the grounds. One indoor basketball court is in Willow Park gym, and one in the Jubilee Hall while the introduction of the new sports hall provides a professional basketball court and spectator area.

The school has a tennis team divided between minors, juniors and seniors. They practise and play their home matches on the colleges four tennis courts. 1st years in Willow Park also play on the colleges tennis teams. The college also has teams in other sports such as cricket, golf, rowing and Judo. Cricket has been played since the foundation of the school in 1860. There has been a renaissance on the cricket pitch in the last 10 years since the building of the new sports hall which is fully equipped with 2 full sized practise lanes. This investment in cricket has helped the college to win its first Junior Cricket Trophy since 1964 and reach their first Senior Cup Final since 1961. Other sports such as rowing, badminton and a full athletics programme is also available to name a few.

Blackrock College and Willow Park share a cycling club called the Willow Wheelers, run by Christy McDaid. The club has an annual trip abroad to either France or The Netherlands each Easter, recently in Cap D'Agde. It also has hostel trips to Clare and Donegal at the end of the school year. The club has an annual 160-kilometre (99 mi) cycle for charity which has raised around 150,000 euro in the past few years. The club cycles every Sunday to varying destinations around Dublin.

The college has a very successful athletics team. The college encourages participation in both track events and field events. The college also has a strong cross country team who compete regionally, with a successful history. The school organises the annual Blackrock College Invitational, inviting top athletic schools (CBC Monkstown, St Gerards School, St Michael's College, Dublin and The King's Hospital to compete as a preliminary to the annual provincial and national competitions.

The athletics team participates in the East Leinster, Leinster and Ireland Athletic championships at under-14s to under-18s annually.

Each year, opera productions are staged in conjunction with Mount Anville (Senior Musical) and Loretto Abbey, Dalkey (2nd and 4th Year Musical), two nearby schools for girls.

Debating is a tradition dating back to the school's founding in the 1860s. There are separate clubs for junior and senior pupils. One of the college alumni, Shane Murphy (now a Senior Counsel), won the 1985 World University Debating Championship at McGill University, representing the Honourable Society of the King's Inns.[10] The college holds gold medal debates for every academic year giving the students the opportunity to win the medal on prize day if they win the debate. The gold medal debates are used in sixth year to select an eligible Valedictorian for the year, who give his address at both the graduation mass and again at prize day. The college's debaters participate in many competitions including the L&H debates in UCD.

The college has two main choirs: the Leman and the Libermann choirs. The Leman choir has members from 2nd, 4th, 5th and 6th year. The best of the senior members of the Leman choir are accepted into the Libermann choir. In 2013, a group of students from the college's Leman choir reached the final of the All Island Choir Competition. The College has a choir for boarders and another for parents. The College has a successful youth orchestra. Each year, all the choirs and the orchestra host the annual Leman Concert in the National Concert Hall.

A transition year program to set up and maintain a radio station, broadcasting to the surrounding south Dublin area, is undertaken annually. All of the administrative work, promotion and content-creation is the labour of transition year students. The station also allows programming submissions from other schools to be broadcast. It's the only second-level radio project that broadcasts nine and a half hours a day (8:00 am to 5:30 pm), five days a week. The station has a mix of programmes from its current affairs programming to its guest programming. Blackrock College Radio has featured many famous and influential guests including Enda Kenny, while in office as Taoiseach, Neil Flynn, Ryan Tubridy, Eamon Gilmore, Leo Cullen, Mary Hannifin, Micheál Martin, Ruairi Quinn, Brent Pope, David Norris, The Heathers, Bobby Kerr, and Denis O'Brien.[11][12][13]

Each year a Seachtain na Gaeilge (literally, "Week of Irish") is organised to promote the Irish language in the school. The Irish department organises events each year to mark this occasion including ceili dance, pioc fada (Longest hit) and screens Irish films. This co-curricular activity was particularly commended in a Department of Education inspection, which also recommended its further development.[14]

Social work

The school donates most of its funds raised during the first term (September to October) to St Vincent De Paul and in the second and third terms the focus is mainly on Goal, Aidlink and the Willow Wheelers humanitarian projects; all of which provide international aid.

Up until 2017, the Transition Year students organised the annual St. Patrick's Day Badge appeal which raised large sums of money throughout Ireland for the Irish charities GOAL and Aidlink. The students collected on the streets, sold the badges to overseas clients and to businesses across the country. Goal organized a trip to India in both 2012 and 2013 to the Transition Year boys, inviting them to see the projects which they helped fund through their Badge campaigns. The trip was centred around Kolkata were Goal's Indian office was situated. The St. Patrick's Day project is estimated to have raised over €5,000,000 for charity.

The school also has a long-standing relationship with The Society of St. Vincent de Paul, contributing large sums of money raised through various projects. For example, the proceeds of the annual sale of Christmas Trees in the college are donated. In 2007, the Christmas Tree project raised € 93,000 and the total amount raised for the Society in that year is estimated to be in excess of € 150,000. Other projects for St Vincent De Paul include the Second and third year duck races, which raise money through sponsorship. Christmas Hampers are also packed and delivered by students and their families in the run-up to the holiday. This provides some families with the necessary supplies of food for the period.

The College supports humanitarian projects in Sub-Saharan Africa, mainly through the college's cycling club, the Willow Wheelers [19] . In 2006, their annual sponsored 160 km (99 mi) cycle raised in excess of € 60,000. The club also annually sends a group of self-funded volunteers to help with humanitarian projects in Africa, most commonly: establishing clean water supplies for villages and constructing schoolhouses, infirmaries or similar institutions. Transition year students who are members of the cycling club are invited to see the club's projects throughout the world, and understand how their raised funds are spent. The students usually visit Ethiopia, and have visited Vietnam.

This an initiative to build a school in Kenya to help educate the country's future leaders. The school's 6th year students have the opportunity to travel to the school every year after the leaving certificate examinations. The school is to be run by the Spiritans, who also run Blackrock College.

Bob Geldof, initiator of the Band Aid and Live Aid movements for famine relief in the 1980s, was a student at the college. Frank Duff, the founder of the Legion of Mary, the Catholic lay movement, is also a past pupil. In his memoirs, Straight Left: A Journey in Politics Ruairi Quinn cites the ethos and "sense of solidarity" with the Third World that was imparted to students, including Bob Geldof, as a formative force. The Holy Ghost Fathers were (and remain) an active missionary order in Africa.[15] He wrote:

Associated primary schools

Willow Park School, a private primary school that acts as the College's principal feeder, is also run by the Order and is situated on the same campus. Until the early 1970s, St. Michael's College in Ballsbridge was also a feeder school for Blackrock College, but St Michael's now has classes up to the Leaving Certificate.

Past pupils

The Blackrock College Union represents former students of the college, organises many charitable events throughout the year, assists the school (e.g., mentoring, management assistance, advice) and organises social events for members. There are branches in Ireland and across the world.

Blackrock's large enrolment and high standards have produced many distinguished alumni through its long history. Early Free State ministers such as Art O'Connor (Secretary for Agriculture 1921–1922), and Éamon de Valera, six times Taoiseach and the 3rd President of Ireland, studied and later taught in Blackrock. Modern politicians include Eoin O'Broin TD, Ruairi Quinn ( a former Minister and Leader of the Labour Party) and Barry Andrews, a former junior Minister. Many prominent businessmen have also attended the school such as David J. O'Reilly, chairman and former CEO of Chevron Corporation, and Dr. Brendan O'Regan CBE, founder of Shannon Airport and proponent of the Irish peace and reconciliation process. Philip R. Lane (Governor of the Central Bank), Ronan Dunne (EVP and Group President Verizon Wireless).

Flann O'Brien, the eminent writer (real name: Brian O'Nolan) and Tim Pat Coogan, the journalist and scholar, were students of the school. Alumni in the fine arts include designer Paul Costelloe, composer Michael McGlynn and visual artist Robert Ballagh. The Holy Ghost Order has a long tradition of missionaries. Frank Duff, founder of the Legion of Mary, is perhaps the best-known. Singer, songwriter, author and political activist Bob Geldof was also a student at the College. Eminent handbag designer Pauric Sweeney also calls Blackrock his alma mater. Radio and TV personality Ryan Tubridy attended the college.

The college places a heavy emphasis on sport. Past pupils include Ireland internationals Brian O'Driscoll former Ireland and Lions captain, Luke Fitzgerald, Victor Costello, a 20-year Leinster, Ireland and Blackrock College RFC veteran, who also represented Ireland in shot putting at the Olympics, Leo Cullen, former captain, now coach of the Leinster Rugby team and Shane Byrne, Leinster and Ireland professional rugby player. The current Ireland international team includes Ian Madigan, Jordi Murphy, Garry Ringrose, Andrew Conway and Joey Carbery, Other Rugby Internationals Include Vasily Artemyev (formerly of Russia), AJ MacGinty (USA) and Dylan Fawsitt (USA)

In other games, Michael Cusack, founder of the Gaelic Athletic Association taught at the school, and played early forms of hurling with the pupils. Golfer John O'Leary (winner of the Carrolls Irish Open), Alan Lee (Ireland soccer international) and Joey O'Meara (who represented Ireland in both Hockey and Cricket), also went to Blackrock. Current Dublin footballer Cian O’Sullivan and golfer Paul Dunne attended the college.

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