Seventy Years Ago - Rockwell College in 1925-26

Rockwell College Annual 1996, pp 191-194


The first edition of the Rockwell Annual appeared in 1926. At the time the annual fee for students was £50 and, in the case of brothers (no sisters allowed in these days) attending together, a reduction of £2 for the second and £4 for any other was allowed. On top of that the student contributed ten shillings a week for games, five for the library, ten shillings per quarter for laundry and he could have meat and eggs for breakfast at market prices!

According to the Prospectus the student was expected to bring at least two suits of clothes, an overcoat, six day-shirts, three night-shirts, six pairs of stockings, six pocket-handkerchiefs, twelve collars, four towels, three pairs of boots, one pair of slippers, two pairs of sheets (8 feet by 5), three pillow cases (24 inches by 18), four napkins, a napkin ring, a knife, fork, dessert-spoon, tea-spoon, a dressing case, a College cap (which may be procured at the College), one pair of football boots and a rug. Apparently no blazer and no underwear! 

The Reason for an Annual

In a two-and-a-half page editorial in the new publication we are told why Rockwell is to have a College Annual. It was undertaken at rather short notice at the demand of the founders of the new Rockwell Union. In the previous December the Union was formed 'to strengthen the bonds of affection between us and our Alma Mater; to render more effective, through organisation, the feeling of loyalty to old comrades which should characterise the alumni of any great institution; to afford opportunities of renewing old friendships and of forming new ones; to render, as the opportunities arise, that mutual aid so profitably exercised by similar Unions in every sphere of life. ' The first President was Dean Innocent Ryan, P.P., Cashel. Eamon de Valera was elected vice-president. Joint Secretaries were Dr. J. P. Brennan of Dublin and Jack Sewell of Killarney and the Treasurer was Frederick T. Byme of Rathmines, Dublin. Among others the committee included Dr. Paddy Stokes of Fethard, W. J. Moloney of Thurles and Michael Ryan of Cashel. 

Inspired by the founders of the Union, the Rockwell Annual made its first appearance in the summer of 1926 and it was intended for the present students and for the past: 'The present will recognise therein many a scene in which they were, themselves, the actors or of shich they were the interested spectators. The past will see their long-lost youth live again. The college traditions they knew, they will see continued. The old haunts they can revisit. The old associations, revive, and old familiar faces see once more. It is meant to be a link between today and long ago.' And, there was much more in the same vein.

Outstanding Achievements

One of the purposes of a college annual is to highlight achievements and the first issue of the Rockwell Annual had something to shout about. There were a number of students who got first places in Ireland in the national examination. M. V. Duignan came first in history and won a Dublin City scholarship worth £60 and tenable for three years. Another student, J. Ryan, got first place in English. J. J. Kelly got first place in chemistry, second in mathematics, first place in the Limerick County Scholarship and an entrance exhibition to U.C.C. However, MichaeI D. McCarthy outshone them all. He got first place in Ireland in mathematics, second place in chemistry, second in English, second in French and fifth in Latin. On top of that he secured first place in the Cork County Council scholarship, first place in the Honan Scholarship, U.C.C. and first in the entrance scholarship to U. C. C. The pictures of these achievers and others, surrounded by ornate scrolls, illuminate the pages and make an impressive introduction to the first annual. 

Teaching Staff

The number of students attending is not given but from the pictures given of juniors, seniors and scholastics there would appear to have been about one hundred and sixty. Fourteen priests are listed on the teaching staff. Fr. John Byrne was the President and other familiar names included Fr. Crehan (presumably he of architectural notoriety) and Fr. Dan Murphy, who was with us until not so long ago. There were seven prefects and the lay staff were John Gallagher, Michael Nagle, P. J. Hanlon and M. Cremin. John 1.Buckley was to start in 1927. 

The annual reported the academic distinctions of June 1925 but it didn't mention a sad fatality which occurred in the same month, when a fifteen year old boy was drowned while bathing in Rockwell lake. His name was John Joe Bourke and was the eldest son of John and Mary Bourke, Cloone Cottage, Goold's Cross. The inquest revealed that the youth had died from heart tllilure. A large number attended his funeral and burial at Glankeen, Borrisoleigh.


The Annual reports on high-class theatrical and musical entertainment on St. Patrick's Day The proceedings commenced with an Overture of Irish Airs played by the College Orchestra (40) under the baton of Rev. Father Muller, C.S.Sp. This was followed by the side-splitting comedy, Heaps of Money, which was produced in an accomplished fashion by Fr. McCarthy. The actors could hardly be improved upon, so thoroughly did they portray the various characters. The program was interspersed with some very pleasmg vocal and dancing items in addition to instrumental trios and duets.

The Rockwell Union. which had been formed in December, held its first annual meeting in May. It already numbered 150 and, as a result of its deliberations during the year, had agreed to put up a General Excellence medal. This was presented to Richard A. Molloy for all-round excellence in the various departments of College life. The recipients was the choice of the students and their choice had been confirmed by the staff 

Another development in 1926 was the revival of the college sports and they were held on the same day as prizegiving. The sports were a great success and the whole program worked smoothly under the supervision of Fr. Heelan. The distribution of prizes took place in the Study Hall and were presented by Dr, Crehan, 'vho had taken over as Pesident from Fr. Byrne. In the course of his remarks, the Dean of Studies, Fr. Dan Murphy, welcomed the new developments in education, namely the new leaving and intermediate certificates. He had only one criticism. Whereas the leaving certificate papers included honours and pass, the intermediate had only one level. He would advocate that there be two levels in the intermediate as well. 

The month of June also brought good news for one of the brightest boys to leave in 1925. It was reported that Michael McCarthy, who had achieved so well in his final examination in Rockwell, continued to excel. He got five first places with first-class honours in the first University Examinations in UC.C. His successes were in Irish, Mathematics, Mathematical Physics, Experimental Physics and Chemistry. 

And, The rest of the World!

And, while these momentous events were happening in the world of Rockwell, how were matters in the rest of the universe! The founder of the Olympics, Pierre de Coubertin retired as head of the International Olympic Committee. Peter Sellers was born. The Charleston was becoming a hit. Mein Kampf was published. G. B. Shaw won the Nobel Prize for literature. The first 'motel' was opened by lames Vail in San Luis Obispo, California. John Logie Baird transmitted the first television pictures. There was an attempt on Mussolini's life by Violet Gibson, the daughter of an Irish peer. Queen Elizabeth was born. The first general strike began in Britain. Finnish athlete, Paavo Nurmi, sets a new world record for the 3,000 metres. Marilyn Monroe was born. De Valera came in from the cold and founded Fianna Fail. 

Finally, if you went to the cinema in Hungary during 1925-26 you would be greeted with a sign which read: 'Kissing in the dark prohibited.' The order, from the Hungarian Minister of the Interior, provided that a policeman be present at all movie performances. He had the right to turn on the lights at any moment and cast an eye over the assembly. Anyone attempting to spoon (sic) or even kiss under the cover of darkness would be promptly arrested. The order was issued following an earlier episode in a cinema in Budapest. When the lights were suddenly switched on a lady, belonging to the most aristocratic society was discovered in a kissing act with a man not her husband. There followed a duel and a divorce suit. The Ministry, by its order, wanted to prevent a reoccurrence.