Rockwell College 1921-1922

Rockwell College Annual 1999-2000, pp 132-136


The first entries in the Community Journal in September 1921 give information on the members of the Community and Staff. Fr. J. Byrne is the Superior and Fr. J. Cotter is his First Assistant. Fr. J. N. Muller is the organist. Fr. J. McGrath is the Dean of Studies. As well as fulfilling the post of Bursar, Fr. J. Kingston also teaches some classes. Other teaching members of the Community include Frs. C. Schmidt, M. Colgan, P. Brennan, L. J. Ward, P. J. Meagher and D. Leen. Fr. Leen was also Dean of Discipline. Fr. P. McAllister is the Prefect of Worship. The Junior Scholastics have Fr. J. McCarthy as their Director. He also takes singing classes in the College. Fr. J. O'Neill is the compiler of the Journal. 

The new Prefects were Messrs Mullane, Danaher and Mackey. Mr. Danaher was in charge of Junior discipline while his two colleagues were in charge of study. Mr. Mackey also assisted with the singing classes. 

Mr. Mansfield, who had been a prefect the previous year, came back as a member of the lay staff, but curiously still dressed in the soutane. The other lay teachers were Messrs. Harte, Gallagher, Twomey, Nagle and O'Shea, the last-named taking up the position of Science Master. Two lay teachers from the previous year, S. O'Neill and M. J. Ryan, did not return. The former was in prison for I.R.A. activities. The following January he was to pay a visit to the College. He was released from prison in consequence of the amnesty following the ratification of the Treaty by the Dail. 

Also gone from the previous year was Miss Byrne who had been in charge of the dairy. Brother Eusebius was also absent. He was currently a patient in the St. John of God Hospital in Dublin. However, he made an unexpected. appearance in Rockwell three days after the re-opening of the College for the new school year, having absconded from the hospital three days previously. However, his sojourn in Rockwell on this occasion was brief. He was sent back to the hospital. T. Enright was the farm steward and Miss Marrinan was the nurse. 

The boys started returning on September 6th. By the time they had all returned, they numbered 124 boarders, 36 Junior Scholastics and 15 dayboys. A week later, the Intermediate Prize List arrived. Rockwell received four exhibitions, six prizes and four composition prizes. The results arrived on September 19th and a free day to mark the achievement was awarded. The average of passes was practically double the All-Ireland average. In Middle Grade, 30 passed out of 32. The boys went to Athassel Abbey, near Golden, on a picnic. Fr. O'Neill and three of the lay teachers cycled to Killusty and scaled Slievenamon. 

Political Disturbances

There are numerous entries in the Journal concerning the I.R.A. and their presence in the neighbourhood. On September 25th, some LR.A. officers brought to the Superior's notice the fact that one of their number from an outlying area had exceeded his powers in presuming permission to remove some chemicals from the science laboratory four days previously. The individual at fault agreed to restore what he had taken. The following day we are informed that a section of the I.R.A. army took up their quarters in Carrigeen. 

Frs. Byrne, Kingston and Healy went to Kilfeakle for the Mass for Sean Tracey on October 16th. To mark his death, a business holiday was ordained by the I.R.A. in the South Riding of the county. However, Rockwell had class as usual. 

We are informed on November 9th that a college servant, named Brophy, was arrested by the I.R.A. for shirking his volunteer duties. He was detained for fatigue duty in Carigeen and had his rather luxuriant locks shorn. On the 25th of the same month, the College had a visit from Messrs. Robinson and James Flynn of the LR.A. The latter was a recent past pupil. 

On February 16th, a Journal entry tells us that Mr. Bradley, father of one of the students, was seriously wounded in the anti-Catholic pogrom in Belfast. Two days later, we learn that Mr. Shine, father of another of the students, was wounded by the I.R.A. for expostulating with a pitchfork when they came to distrain his cattle in penalty for his refusal to pay the I.R.A. levy. 

On St. Patrick's Day, Eamon De Valera came to spend the night in the College. He was accompanied by his secretary, Sean McBride, and by Cathal Brugha, who was Fr. Kingston's brother-in-law. De Valera said a few words to the boys and got them a free day. According to the journalist, "He was dreadfully hoarse and haggard-looking." On the following day before his departure, De Valera signed scores of autographs for the boys. He did some vaulting (sic) by way of exercise and had some revolver practice with a Colt automatic. He and his party, accompanied by Joe McDonagh, T.D. and a past pupil, left soon after 11 o'clock to hold an anti-Treaty meeting at Killarney. 

It may have been a repercussion to this visit but a political argument developed over dinner about a week later. The entry reads: "Over the veriest trifle, there arose at dinner one of these unpleasant disputes, now fortunately very rare." 

There are a couple of further entries in the Journal for April. On the first day of the month, we read that all sorts of rumours were afoot concerning some shots fired from a motor car near the gate by the I.R.A. We are told that a drop too much was the key to the mystery. Maybe it was the day that was in it! Two days later, some of the servants were summoned to an I.R.A. meeting at New Inn. The men there refused to take the oath to the new anti-Treaty executive. 

On April 12th, we learn that a former dayboy, W. Luddy, was buried with military honours. He had been arrested during World War I and his incarceration in Pentonville Prison undermined his health. The boys were unable to return after the Easter holiday because the trains were not running. By wayof protest against Rory O'Connor's militarism and against interference with the people's freedom of speech and with the liberty of the press, the trade union movement had ordered a general stoppage of work from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

The entry in the Journal for May 2nd gives a personal viewpoint. It states that the Republicans were besieging Free State troops in the R.I.C. Barracks at Annacarty. Two of the College servants were acting with the besiegers. The journalist goes on "Shall we ever learn from the past and can there be no centripetal force for us save hatred of England?" 

The letter from the Bishops of Ireland on the state of the country was read at the Community Mass on the first Sunday in May. It condemned gun rule, affirmed that the only correct and moral course was to follow the people's voice as expressed for the time being in the Dail and later in an election, and it finally counselled acceptance of the Treaty. 

The Bishops' letter fell on deaf ears. Two weeks later we read that two of the college servants, Bill and Tom Meehan, were taken from their beds and beaten by the I.R.A. The year ended with plenty of political trouble. Trains stopped running, with lines being ripped up in several places. Trouble was brewing all over the country. 

Lighter Moments

All was not gloom, however. As early as September 15th, we are informed that a shorthorn heifer, belonging to the College, took first prize and a cup at Tipperary Show. While the boys were on retreat from September 28th to October 2nd, some of the lay teachers went for a holiday to Lisdoonvarna. On October 27th, an elocutionist, Valentine Voubden, gave a number of clever character sketches from 8 to 11 p.m. His fee was five guineas. The evening concluded with a "pithy speech" from the Superior and the singing of the Soldier's Song. The community had punch on two consecutive days in December in connection with the visits of distinguished people. On May 13th, Fr. McGrath and Mr. Mackey went off to Dublin with a "Galaxy" of ten prizewinners. They stayed at Blackrock College overnight and went to the hurling final at Croke Park the following day. They did not return until the 15th and spent the forenoon in Cashel. That was a free day, which the Archbishop had given a week earlier during a visit to the College. Fr. McCarthy took the Junior Scholastics to Athassel for a picnic. The boys, on their own initiative, got up an impromptu sports, which were quite a success. 

The students had reading during meals, one book for breakfast and a different one for dinner, They started the year with "The Priest on the Mission" by Oakley for breakfast and "Literary History of Ireland" by Douglas Hyde for dinner. When the latter was finished, "My Life in Two Hemispheres" by Gavan Duffy was begun. 

Changes and Innovations

On September 30th, Frs. Kingston and Colgan went to Dunne's in Clonmel to see about purchasing a motor lorry but no deal was done. Early in October, the lay teachers began donning the academic cap and gown. In December, we learn that stones and mud from the farmyard were being dumped on the lakeside walk near the sluice by way of tarmacadam. In January, a Belfast engineer came to fix the furnace and the heating apparatus near the bootroom. The job lasted three weeks and the engineer was accomodated in the infirmary during his stay. Fr. Leen paid £35 in February for a billiard table with an assortment of cues, balls etc. It was bought from the British Army Barracks in Cahir when the troops were evacuating the town. In the same month, there is a rather cryptic entry : "We have been killing our own mutton of late. Economically, it may be an improvement, but it can hardly be called a gastronomic one." The lorry was never bought and in March, Fr. Leen went to Clonmel to hire one to take 60 boys to Limerick at the end of the month. In the same month, some gravel was put on the avenue, "a little more lavish than Fr. Cotter's annual 'pinch of snuff'." In April, repairs were carried out to the "Castle" in the Rock. The idea was to raise a pedestal of masonry inside the castle. However, the foundation proved unsound and the project was abandoned. Instead, a girder-supported floor was built on the top storey and a pedestal raised from that floor. The purpose of the pedestal was to carry the statue of Our Lady, which was swung into place on the last day of the month. A photographer from Keoghs in Clonmel came to the College in the middle of May to take group photographs of the students and staff. On June 22nd, one dynamo and an oil engine arrived from Middleton. They were intended to light the house with electricity. Brother Dalmas went to Portarlington to see after a steam engine that might be of use for the College sawmill. 

Some Deaths

News came in October of the death of Joe Geoghegan in a motor accident in California. He left Rockwell in June 1920 and studied at the National University of Ireland for a year before going to the U.S. The news turned out to be false. An entry at the end of January related how news of his tragic death was false. He had, in fact, survived the accident. Brother Silas died on February 8th, aged 83 years. An entry in November stated he had been laid up for the previous month and was very troublesome and noisy at night. Most of his life had been spent in Rockwell as a commissionaire and then as a shoemaker. He was in charge of the building of the science room wing, often called "Silas' House". 

There are not many references to games. A Gaelic football team went to Cahir in the middle of October and defeated the local team in a rather "scraggy" football match. There was a return game in December and the College again was successful by a point. The Cahir side grumbled about the refereeing of Mr. Nagle, a member of the lay-staff. At the end of March, the hurling team motored to Limerick for the final of the Harty Cup and were beaten by one point by St. Munchin's There was disappointment over the result "but it was mild compared to what it would have been in the rugby finals. Neither we nor Blackrock hold any Cup this year. Rather a record!" Fr. Leen attended a G.A.A. meeting at Limerick Junction on April 8th and he was a Munster delegate to the G.A.A. Congress a week later. The final of the medal hurling matches was played on May 7th. A few days later, the school sports were completed with swimming. In the course of one of the swimming competitions, Mr. Mullane jumped into the lake in his soutane to rescue W. O'Brien who had got into difficulties. 

Athletic Success

The end of the year brought some athletic success. On May 27th, Fr. Leen took a team of nine to Dublin to compete in the intercolleges sports at Croke Park. The Irish Independent reported on May 29th that "the most successful of the Colleges were St. Finnian's, Mullinaar and Rockwell. The latter, as well as "winning several senior events, also took the senior relay." The team included W. Byrne , T. F. Moloney, J. Scanlon and T. lee. The last-named, from the Glen of Aherlow, was undoubtedly the star of the Rockwell success story. He came first in the 200 metres, the 400 metres, the Long Jump, a well as being a member of the winning relay team. He also came second in the 12 lb. Shot. In all, the College won nine firsts, three seconds and nine thirds. 

Other items of note during the year included the information that Rockwell adhered to true Greenwich time during the summer and did not put the clocks forward. This was a cause of embarrassment in May when the Archbishop, Dr. John Harty, paid a visit. He arrived at 3 p.m. "summer time" and was expected at 3 p.m. "Greenwich time". The result was that the boys were not out to receive him with a Guard of Honour. 

On May 25th, it was recorded that O'Connor, a fitter, who had got a temporary job in the house, took Fr. O'Neill's bicycle without leave some days previously and left it badly damaged. He also took Fr. Colgan's. Fr. O'Neill recovered his machine in the barracks in New Inn. However, no trace had been found of either O'Connor or Fr. Colgan's bicycle up to June 14th. The previous October, Fr. Schmidt had his bicycle smashed by hitting a stone on the road as he rode home from Clonmel. 

There were at least four visits from inspectors during the year. One of them, Mr. Ensor, who came in April "simply spent a few moments in the exam hall." During the Easter holidays, the boys who did not go home and the Junior Scholastics went to a matinee at the Kinema (sic) in Cashel. There was a piano concert for the boys in May and, according to the journalist, "it was good but rather too classical and monotonous for the boys." 

No reason is given but after June 29th, 1922, the Journal entries are in Irish and continue in that language until the end of July.