Rockwell College 1919-1920

Rockwell College Annual 2001-2002, pp 153-157


When the boys returned on September 4th, they were greeted with major re-construction on the bathrooms. They had been "cleaned up, wainscotted and cemented." The old system of steam-heating had been replaced by a tap that supplied hot water direct to the baths. There were now only two bathrooms for the boys instead of three but the new hot water supply ensured that the two baths worked "more expeditiously than three did heretofore." Gas had been laid on in the bathrooms. The third bath was to be installed in one of the dormitories. Later, on November 28th, there is a related entry in the Journal: "Our plumbers were busy setting up a second hot water tank. This one is for the parlour bathrooms." 

The Superior of the Community and the President of the College was FatherJohn Byrne with Father John Kingston as Bursar. The Director of the Juniorate was Father P. Walsh, the Dean of Studies Father J. McGrath and his counterpart in Discipline, Father D. Leen. Fr. J. N. Muller was in charge of music and Father P. McAllister took charge of Liturgy or, to use the term in use at that time, was "Prefect of Worship." Father J. O'Neill looked after the Journal. The position of Librarian was vacant due to the departure of Father M. Meagher and the position was not filled until October 24th, 1920 by Fr. J. McCarthy. 

The other members of the Community were Fathers Cotter, Schmidt, Colgan, Peter Meagher, Egan and Meyer. Two other priests, Fathers Gogarty and Cleary, spent some time in the Community during the course of the year while they were home on vacation from overseas missions. The prefects were Messrs. Heelan, McCarthy, Egan, Finnegan, Mansfield, White, Liston, Neville, Maguire and Butler. It is interesting to note that the latter group numbered a future College President and two Bishops among their number - Father Andrew Egan, Bishop Daniel Liston (Mauritius) and Bishop Eugene Butler (Mombasa). 

There were changes among the lay teachers. Messrs. Curran and Friel "have had their services dispensed with. We are not given any reason." In contrast, Mr. O'Neill, who was suspended the previous year for republican activity had returned. The others were Messrs Ryan, Harte and Gallagher. Later a Mr. McGinnity came as a Science Professor. His predecessor in that post, Father John English, had gone to Trinidad where he spent the rest of his life, apart from a three-year period (1939-1942) as President of Blackrock College. He was from New Inn and died in 1959. 

According to the Journal, "the Brother are as last year, except that Brother Eusebius is with them and helps to clean the Chapel and Sacristy. For the moment, Brother Canice is acting as mason repairing some walls, his place in the Fathers' Refectory being taken by a servant." It is reported on October 4th that Brother Canice had finished the badly-needed repairs to the wall bounding the CashelCahir road. 

The boys returned in dribs and drabs. Initially, there were 140 boarders and 35 Scholastics but the number of boarders had climbed to 1902 by September 12th. They were gradually introduced to classes. On the first day back, there were six 10-minute classes and full class did not resume until Monday, September 8th. 

The Junior Grade Pass lists arrived on September 12th. "Very good. Rockwell's percentage is 80 as against all Ireland's 51." A week later, the Prize List arrived. Rockwell won 13 distinctions which included 3 exhibitions, 2 composition prizes and 8 book prizes, 'an advance on last year's", according to the writer of the Journal but not as good as they used to be and he refers back to 1911 when a total of 39 Distinctions was achieved. The boys' Retreat was given by Fr. Sylvester. It started on September 17th and continued to September 21st. When Fr. Sylvester departed on that day, the boys gave him a "parting cheer." 

After the rigours of the Retreat and the success in the exams, the boys were given a free day on September 22nd. It was rather cold and showery. "The boys after lunch went for a picnic to the Rock where they dined. They went to the cinema pictures 4 till 6 and came home for tea. There was a soiree later." 

A matter of concern at the end of September was the great Railway strike in England over the standardisation question. There was fear that it might extend to Ireland and with public transport so dependent on the railways this would have been disastrous. In fact, there a was a spin-off. We read on October 6th: "Mr. Heelan left to take up duty in Blackrock but missed his train at Goulds Cross. There was none in Cashel, as train service was curtailed owing to coal shortage resulting from strike." Fortunately, the strike came to an end the previous day. 

There was a death in the community towards the end of October. Brother Gontran Meehan, a Donegal man, was 70 years of age and had spent most of his life in the various communities of the Irish Province. He was declining for some time and eventually expired on October 24th. There was a Solemn Requiem Mass offered the following day for the repose of his soul and he was buried in the Community Cemetery a day later. 

October was a dry month. On October 21st, we read that the lake was almost dry. A week later, the entry reads: "Fr. Colgan has been taking advantage of the lake's being almost dry and has been busy scooping out the alluvial deposit of years." The job was left unfinished. An entry for March 2nd reads: "Piles of alluvium dug up from the lake bed during the drought have been lying on the bank ever since. They have begun carting it away now." 

There are not many references to the farm but on November 12th, the Journal records that "an Inspector from the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction came to watch the threshing of some of our grain which had been grovn in demonstration plots, ie., for which the Department had supplied seed." Towards the end of the year, we are informed tha Fr. Kingston, the Bursar, went to Cork to secure the services of a dairy-maid. She arrived on June 4th and "she is to be housed in Keogh's". The entry for May 11th tells us that a new fowl-house and hen-run were completed and good stock of white Leghorns "put in possession". 

The Christmas exams began on December 15th and finished at 11 a.m. on Wednesday but there was no rushing home. The boys packed their trunks that afternoon and had tea at 6 p.m. Then they assembled in the study for the results, which were read out at 7 p.m. A soiree in study followed until 8.30. Then bed." The following morning the boys left for the holidays. 

The Community prepared for Christmas. The crib was completed on December 22nd but did not please everyone. 'It is very artistic, except for the falling snow effect,  and "Fr. McAllister departed for the North, leaving word that the crib snow storm was be put an end to." There was High Mass at 9 a.m. on Christmas morning. Following dinner, there was Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament at 3 p.m. "The evening was spent in pleasant homely fashion around the parlour fire, with songs galore, an with de Valera's health to wind up the proceedings." 

The writer of the Journal changes to Irish from December 27th until January 11th. One the entries refers to a Church Door collection on January, 4th for the starving childern of Europe. It realised £7 2s 6d. 

There was news of a disaster on January 16th. Information came of the foundering of "L'Afrique" in the Bay of Biscay. The community's worst fears were confirmed a few days later with the news that seventeen members of the Congregation, a bishop (Msgr. Hyacinthe Jalabert, ten Fathers and six Brothers) as well as an agrege had perished in the tragedy. The Journal said that "it recalls the tragedy of  the eruption of Mount Pele, Martinique. R.I.P.' - a reference to the volcanic eruption on the Caribbean island in 1902 when many members of the Congregation lost their lives. 

On Father Libermann's Day, February 2nd, there was a conference of Fathers, Brothers, Prefects and Scholastics in the Billiard Room. The main speaker was Dr. Edward Leen (brother of Father Dan Leen, Dean of Discipline in Rockwell and Archbishop James Leen). In his paper, he drew a parallel between St. Paul and Fr. Libermann. "A fine conference, though perhaps in parts too much charged with metaphysics and ascetic theology to suit the grasp of all the audience." 

There was an unusual development in early February - a strike by the boys. The entry in the Journal for February 4th reads: 'The boys, in protest against the cutting down of their allowance of sauce ('jollybowl') at dinner, went on a hunger-strike at tea-time. There was no disorder, however, and study went on as usual 8-10." The boys' protest did not last long. The entry for the following day is curious: "The boys took breakfast as usual and after it stated they were content. One boy, W. Ryan, publicly announcing that he was discontented, was there and then expelled." However, the strike must have had an effect. The final entry reads: "The allowance of sauce was increased." 

On February 7th, Fr. Leen, the Dean of Discipline, went to Mallow, to arrange the Harty Cup hurling ties. Rockwell was drawn against Thurles. This game was played at Cashel on March 21st. Rockwell won a good match by 5-7 to 4-4. The semifinal, against Christians of Limerick, was played at Thurles on April 25th. "They had hard luck in being defeated by 4 goals 1 point to 2 goals 4 points. Seemingly quickness and intelligence in play stood to the victors." The entry for the following day is "The boys were rather depressed over yesterday's defeat." 

There was a lot of tree-felling in February. It began in the front of the kitchen and refectories. It continued for a couple of weeks and finished with a bang on March 4th. "The last of the trees to be felled in the front came down today, smashing the cross-cut and a fine ornamental shrub in its downfall." 

A new Education Bill, which did not find favour with the Church, was published in March. Cardinal Logue directed that a Novena be offered. The Novena began in Rockwell on March 8th with Rosary, Litany of the Saints and Benediction. The prayers continued with an hour's Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament after Mass on Passion Sunday, March 21st. After the Mass, the parents signed the following resolution: "We, the undersigned parents of the parish, emphatically deny the right of the British Government to foist upon an unwilling people an irreligious Education Act which is manifestly opposed to all Catholic Irish ideals." The prayers worked as an entry of March 28th testifies: 'News came that the Education Bill is dead. The Novena then was not in vain." 

This was the time of payment by results in Irish education. As a consequence of the Intermediate Certificate results, the Capitation Fees were paid out. The amount of £460 arrived on December 19th and was much less than would have been the case "in old times". According to the writer of the Journal, "The scale of Capitation Grant is being whittled down steadily year by year." Another entry on March 27th, gives us further information on contemporary grants to Irish education. "The Duke and Birrell Grant came and brings our total grant from Intermediate sources up to £1,500." 

The supply of sugar, was precarious. In the middle of March, the supply ran out for the first time since the war began "but only for a day and a half." Another entry for March 30th reads "Sugar supplies again ran out." 

In April the Transport Union declared a general strike in support of the Mounjoy prisoners. The latter, to the number of 104, went on hunger strike on April 8th to protest against their being imprisoned without trial and being treated, not as political prisoners, but as criminals. The Government declared they would not yield and that the strikers might kill themselves if they wished. The entry in the Journal for April 13th is as follows : "No second post nor papers. The Rockwell labourers did not go out." Matters had changed by the following day "No mails today. The Rockwell labourers had to join the strikers." 

The strike made an impact. The entry on April 15th is as follows: "The Government surrendered last evening, seemingly through dread of the strikes spreading to England. The prisoners were released unconditionally. Postal delivery resumed in the afternoon." 

One strike was no sooner ended when another commenced. The entry for April 19th is as follows: "Owing to a Creamery labourers' grievance our hands were called out on strike today. An arrangement was come to at midday on the basis of outdoor labourers getting 40 shillings a week an indoor 21 shillings. The men returned: work at 12. They had arranged to milk the cows and fodder the cattle in the mornings even if the strike continues.'

There was still another strike that had an impact on the College. Early in May notice was given of a general strike by lay Secondary teachers to enforce their demand of 140% advance on pre-war salaries. The entry for May 8th reads: "Our lay-professors are perfectly satisfied but they must act with their Union. Mr. McGinnity is the only non-Union lay-professor." 

The strike was averted by a compromise arrived at in Dublin between the Catholic Headmasters' Association an' the Assistant Lay Teachers' Association. "As regards our staff, it amounts to an increase of 340: viz. £75 of gross increase but keep is reckoned at £65 instead of £30 per annum. Christian Brothers did not consent so their lay-teachers went on strike." 

There were many entries relating to bad weather during the year but it eventually came good towards the end of May. The entry for May 25th is encouraging. "The weather was superb. The boys had their first swim yesterday. One of them, E. Delaney, got into difficulties and had to be fished out. The Galaxy of ten boys, with Dr. E. Leen and Fr. M. Meagher, went in two motors to Melleray." The Galaxy was to have gone a week before but the plans fell through owing to the motor cars' failing to turn up. 

The end of the year arrived. On June 14th, the non-Intermediate boys to the number of 115, of whom 15 were scholastics, departed leaving behind 86 boarders and 19 scholastics. One of the lay-professors, Mr. Ryan, left to take up superintending in Wesley College. There were two examination centres in the College, as against three the previous year. "We are not having a Matriculation Centre here this year. The boys will sit their Matric at Dublin, Cork, Limerick etc." The Matric. Scholastics went to Blackrock. 

A few other entries to round off the picture of the year:

September 13th: "Mr. Harte had a nasty haemorrhage from the lung. luckily it proved neither obdurate nor recurrent. September 14th: "Fr. Schmidt gets word that he is no longer an enemy alien, but simply an alien and is free to go where he likes for any period not exceeding 3 months. For some months back, Co. Tipp for a radius of 15 miles from Tipperary town has been a military area. The whole county is now under martial law and all fairs, markets and assemblies are prohibited." September 28th: "Summer time ends tonight. The whole country is now keeping standard Greenwich time." February 9th: We began to read in the Refectory : "Two Centuries of Irish History" by R. Barry O'Brien. May 23rd: "News came that a past student, John McCormick, was mortally wounded in a duel in the Argentine. He had been expelled in connection with the strike in 1911."