The Patricians in Galway
Bishop Daniel Delany established the Religious Brothers of St. Patrick in the little town of Tullow, Co. Carlow, on 2nd February 1808. His object was to provide religious and secular education for the children of the parish. Because of the great poverty of the time and the absence of State aid it was essential that the Brotherhood should be self-supporting, and for several years the Brothers worked as tradesmen to supplement the tiny income from their pay schools. Galway city was the first, and for some time, the only exception to the rule.
In 1823 a community was established at Clarenbridge in south County Galway. As Bishop of Kilmacduagh Dr. Edmund Ffrench came to know the Brothers and, being also Warden of Galway, he invited them to take charge of the Male Free School at Lombard St. in the city. Bros. Paul O'Connor, Anthony Redmond and a postulant named James Walsh were the first Patrician Brothers to come in January 1827. On the day they opened their monastery and school their total funds amounted to just one shilling, less than five cents in today's money. The Lombard St. School came to be the largest National School in Ireland and during the Great Famine provided a free breakfast for up to 1,000 pupils each day, besides distributing clothing. This charitable work continued until well into the 20th century. A self-governing religious society or confraternity for young men, the Aloysian Society, was established at the same time as the Breakfast Institute and for several decades was the largest and most influential grouping in Galway, with branches in other towns. With the growth of church sodalities the society declined and went out of existence in 1905.
Because there was no Catholic Intermediate School for boys in the city, Bishop John McEvilly asked Bro. Paul to open such a school and St. Joseph's Seminary was established at Nuns' Island in 1862. Because of the bishop's close connection and active support the Seminary was generally referred to as "the bishop's school" and to this day is known in the city and county as "The Bish." Publicising his new enterprise Bishop McEvilly wrote a pastoral in which he stated:
"For many years we have had excellent schools for the lower orders at the Mercy Convent, Newtownsmith, and the Monastery School at Lombard St. The higher class of boys are catered for at St. Ignatius' College, the girls at the Dominican Convent. Now, at last, we happily have a school for the middle class at St. Joseph's Seminary, Nuns' Island."
When the school was established the word seminary had no ecclesiastical connotations-there was in fact a "Seminary For Young Ladies" further down Nuns' Island, by the 1930s the word had come to mean a college for the training of candidates for the priesthood, and at the express desire of Bishop Michael Brown the Brothers changed the name to "St. Joseph's College", and in the 1970s Bro. Valerian Whelan inserted the word Patrician in the title.
In 1899 a National School was opened to cater for the Junior Classes at the Seminary and it too came to be known as "The Bish". In 1930 the Brothers acquired the bonded store belonging to Persse's Distillery, renovated it and transferred the seventy Intermediate pupils across the road. The National School took over the rooms vacated on the original site and continued in operation until 1954 when it and "the Old Monastery School" were replaced by St. Patrick's. Two well-rehearsed chansons died with that amalgamation. One had been: "Up the Mon and down the Bish; that's the way to catch the fish"; the other went more lamely: "Up the Bish and down the Mon; that's the way we carry on." To alleviate the rivalry somewhat Bro. Majella Tobin organised The Patrician Hurling and Football Leagues in which pupils from both schools and the junior classes at The Seminary took part, forming teams representing, St. Nicholas's, Newcastle, Salthill and the West. The matches, played for the most part on The Swamp or in The Plots, were more keenly contested than the Galway Senior Championship itself. Renmore and Mervue were then unproductive farmland. The Seminary (always known as The Bish) was perhaps the premier rugby school in the county and province and had friendlies against St. Mary's, the "Jes", St. Flannan's, Garbally, Galway Grammar and the Royal School at Athlone. The Connacht Senior Schools Cup came into existence about 1916 and Bro. Louis O'Sullivan proudly claimed to have led the campaign to have Gaelic competitions for the schools, at least in the city.
THE PATRICIAN BROTHERS (www.patricianbrothers.com)