Rockwell College 1918-1919

Rockwell College Annual 2002-2003, pp 156-159


The entries in the College Journal for September 1918 concentrate on returning staff and returning students. 143 boys returned on September 12th. A Solemn Votive Mass of the Holy Ghost was offered the following day and class began under a new Dean of Studies, Fr. McGrath, who replaced Fr. Kingston. The latter became the new Bursar, replacing Fr. Cotter, who had resigned after eighteen years in the job. "He had been through 'four reigns', beginning with Fr. Nicholas Brennan in 1900." Fr. McAllister became the new Prefect of Worship in succession to Fr. Charles Meyer who resigned. 

Poor weather was a major topic for the year. The first reference is on September 27th when it is stated that in spite of the bad weather, "the College succeeded in saving the crops because of their own machinery." The College Journal continues "The tractor and threshing-mill bid fair to pay for themselves by their work this year alone." Later, on October 8th, we read that it is very wet, "the wettest six weeks in the memory of men." A week later, the entry reads, "Very heavy rain all this evening, up to 10 p.m." 

By September 28th, most of the students have returned and they number 224. The number is divided into 182 boarders, 27 Junior Scholastics and 15 dayboys. Later, after the students return following the Christmas vacation, we learn that there are 15 new students, and that the fee is £40 per year. 

The boys' Retreat begins on Octo 2nd. It is given by a Redemptorist priest, Fr. Cagney, who spoke a good deal of Irish during his lectures and taught the boys several prayers and aspirations in Irish. Later, at the end of the month, the writer of the Journal begins to make his entries in the Irish language and continues in this vein until the beginning of March. 

In October, we get the first mention of the Spanish Influenza. This epidemic, which hit the world in 1918-1919, is estimated to have accounted for the loss of about 20 million lives. The entry for October 22nd reads: "Spanish Influenza is reported in Bansha and Golden and seems  to be spreading." The Community Council met immediately and decided to make inquiries and then act according to information gathered. As a result of these  inquiries, it was learned that there were seven mild cases in Golden. It was decided to send the day-pupils home the following morning and that they remain at home for fourteen days. 

Three days later, the Journal entry reads: 'We have so far been spared from Influenza, which is raging in many districts and has appeared, they say, as near to us as Camas." As a result of the threat the College is isolated, On October 27"" there is an announcement that nobody is to go in or out of the College, even parents, for a month. Public Mass for the following Sunday was cancelled. It was hoped that this isolation would protect the College from the 'flu. 

However, all is not blue. As early as September, we read that Fr. Daniel Leen, the Dean of Discipline, took two teams of boys to Dublin for the G.A.A. Schools Sports at Jones' Road, Croke Park. They performed well, winning the Challenge Cup and seven medals. Later, we learn that Fr. Leen "buys and sets up a billiard table in the boys' Library". A Debating Society is also formed. 

The 'flu continues to dominate the entries in the Journal. One student, Michael Lucey, fainted on November 3th. In this case, it was not the 'flu but suspected meningitis. We learn that there is only one doctor on his feet in Cashel. On the following day, young Lucey's condition is reported to be much worse and his mother is summoned to take him home. 

On November 7th, it is reported that the disease has hit Templenoe, within a mile of the College. Apparently, someone went to Dublin and became infected with it there and in turn infected others on his return. The Journalist refers to this individual as "Amadfm fear búiodheadh e." A few days later, we read that the anti-'flu vaccine has been obtained but nobody had much faith in it. The College authorities requested permission from the parents before it was administered to any student. 

Other matters impinoge, but not as much as one would expect. The end of World War I (November 11th) does not receive a mention until four days later. When it does come up for mention, the emphasis is on the continued unrest in Europe. The earliest mention is on October 7th when the entry in the Journal reads ; "The first serious rumours of peace." On October 17th, the Journal says "Conscription seems dead. It was still-born, in truth, never had more than a mechanical life or movement." 

There are brief references to the General Election in December and to the rise of Sinn Fein. Everything seems well for the new political party. On the day of the election, all the priests went to New Inn to cast their votes" ar son soirse agus Poblachta na h-Eireann." The writer of the Journal regretted to say that two of the Brothers did not go to cast their votes. 

Christmas arrives and the boys sit their end-of-term examinations. Five boys are kept back for a day because the had not worked during the term and had consequently performed badly in their exams. Because of the restrictions on access to the College because of the 'flu, there is no Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. 

The disease, which was kept at bay since November, breached the barriers in January, understandable in the light of students returning to school from many different parts of the country. A novena of Masses, to preserve the College from the disease, was begun on January 16th. Ironically, a day later the disease struck. Quite a number of staff members, both religious and lay, went down with the 'flu. Two days later, it is reported that forty are confined to bed, but that they are all out of danger. A day later, a decision is made to send home the healthy children. Then, as the sick ones recovered, they too were sent home in order that the College could be fumigated properly. The school did not open until February 25th, after which the students returned in dribs and drabs. Not until March 9th was there reading at meals. This had been discontinued during the threat of the Spanish 'flu. The readings from J. M. Stone's "Reformation and Renaissance." 

The danger of the Spanish Influenza occupied the minds of the College authorities to a major degree during the months of its existence. Great efforts were made to prevent it but, once it struck, all the effort was transferred to containing it. Tucked away in the Journal for the period is a page taken from a contemporary issue of the British Medical Journal, containing an article entitled "Prevention and Treatment of Influenza". Two sentences that are underlined are worth quoting. The first states : 

"From what we know as to the lack of enduring protection after an attack, it might in any case be assumed that no vaccine could protect for more than a short period." And, "In the uncertainty of our present knowledge considerable hesitation must be felt in advising vaccine treatment as a curative measure." No wonder then the scepticism expressed above about the vaccine provided! 

The boys had to "pay" for their extended time at home. On April 7th, the President announced that there would be class all through Holy Week. A holiday at Easter was put out of the question by the enforced closure of the College earlier in the term from January 22nd to February 25th. 

The funeral of Pierse McCann is mentioned on March 9th. "Father Superior and Fathers Kingston and Egan drove to Thurles to take part in the funeral of Pierse McCann, M.P. Fathers English and O'Neill joined the funeral cortege near Dualla, the place of burial. Last May on the eve of his wedding, Pierse McCann was arrested for alleged complicity in the bogus "German Plot" and, without trial, was confined since in Gloucester Prison. While there, in December 1918, he was returned by an overwhelming majority as the Sinn Fein member for our division, East Tipp. Contracting influenza a fortnight ago, he developed pneumonia and, enfeebled by his unjust incarceration, he speedily succumbed. Another martyr in Ireland's cause. God rest his soul" When a Requiem Mass was offered for the repose of his soul at New Inn on March 26th, eleven members of the Rockwell Community. attended. 

Fr. Muller, from Germany, was Mr. Music in the College at the time. On the same day as Pierse McCann's funeral, Dr Dowling came out from Tipperary and held a consultation with Dr. Cusack about Fr. Muller, who was very ill. Their verdict was that the case was one of hopeless lung trouble. As the knowledge of his imminent demise sank in among the community, the question was raised as to how they would manage for music without him. The possible doomsday scenario did not come to pass, however, and we learn a week later that Fr. Muller was up and managed to play the Chapel organ. To have the strength to do so, he had made a Novena to the Venerable (later Saint) Oliver Plunkett. About a month later, on April 13th, we learn that he grows stronger. 

There is also news of the boys. There was hurling practice on March 12th to pick a team to play Thurles CB.S. in the Harty Cup. The match was played a week later and Rockwell, the defending champions were beaten by 6-0 to 4-1. According the Journal, "the interruption due to 'fIu had of course shortened our time training for the contest." A couple of weeks later, the College has a half-day on account of a visit by the UCC Hurling team. Rockwell won by 6-1 to 3-1. Also we read that Fr. McAllister went to Thurles to see the hurling match between Toomevara andTubberadora. 

Hurling activity continued. On April 13th, a team from Boherlahan was expected to come to Rockwell but Dr. Cusack had the match cancelled because the flu' was prevalent in Boherlahan. Early in May there was hurling competition for the Ryan Cup between the Scholastics, Seniors and Juniors. On June 1st, the Scholastics defeated the Seniors to win the Cup. 

There was also a place for Gaelic football There is a reference to football training on May 15th in connection with the Munster Football Cup Final against Fermoy. There were only two teams in the competition and the Final took place two weeks later. No result is given but, it would appear Rockwell won. Swimming for the boys began on May 22nd. One of them, James Flynn, got into difficulties. Jack Reidy and Matt Walker "pluckily went to his rescue and kept him afloat until the arrival of the boat." Handball was also played. On June 4th, the boys "began a handball tourr:ment for medals." 

"New Time" came in on March 30th "Rockwell did not adopt it, but adhered to "Old Time", that is, true English Greenwich Time, which it had been keeping, since uniform United Kingdom time was introduced. Accordingly, we have three different times in Ireland: 12  Noon Standard Irish Time is 12.25 p.m. Standard Greenwich Time and is 1.25 p.m. Standaard New Time or Standard Summer Time. Rockwell goes by the second of these." 

There was also a student death during the year. It was reported on April 10th, that a young aspirant for the Congregation, Pat O'Connor, from Kerry, was very ill, probably meningitis, possibly typhoid. A week later, we read he has recovered somewhat and had received the Religious Habit as a Scholastic. However, he died on the 21st of the month and was buried in Tarbert. 

The school had a number of inspections. On April 4th, a Mr. Nicholls, an inspector with the Intermediate Board, arrived and examined some of the Irish and Mathematical classes. He returned three days later to finish the inspection. On April 9th, Science exams were conducted by Messrs. Dixon, Twinbull and Ingram, inspectors under the D.A.T.I. Mr. Ensor, Intermediate Inspector of Classics, English and French arrived on May 23rd to inspect the classes. 

Tension within the Community is suggested in this entry for October 8th. "Superior said Community Mass and preached. It's getting monotonous now listening to same preacher, Sunday after Sunday." 

The June entries record the end of the year. We get the only mention of the lay teachers: "Messrs. Friel and Curran, lay professors, said goodbye to Rockwell today. Mr. Ryan went to Limerick to act as an Intermediate superintendent. Mr. Harte left for holidays." 

The exams began on June 10th. The boys rose at 6.40 a.m. and the exams began at 10.00 a.m. Summer Time. The Intermediate exams began with Greek and Trigonometry. There were three exam centres - two in the Refectory and one in the new library. The glass hall served as a refectory pro tern for the boys, the Prefects taking their meals in the Senior Reading Room. 

Class continued for non-Intermediate students. By June 14th, most of the boys had finished their exams. About twenty boys from the neighbourhood went home. According to the Journal, "in general the papers this year were reasonable. They were set by the Inspectors who understand what a boy may fairly be expected to know." 

On June 16th, most of"the boys left for home. A few remained for Science and Commercial subjects. The Matriculation exams were held from June 19th to 23rd. Three boarders were still left on June 26th. There is a mention of the Peace being signed on June 28th. After that there was the usual summer dispersal of the Community, with the exception of Fathers Muller and Schmidt, who as German nationals, "had to remain, as the wartime restriction of their movements had not been removed."