History of Our School
Compiled by Aisling Grier
Arrival of the De La Salle Brothers to Castlebar
The reputation of the De La Salle Brothers spread far and wide through out the world. In 1888 Canon Patrick Lyons P.P. V.F. of Castlebar invited the De La Salle Brothers to come and educate the children of the town. The Brothers accepted this offer and the Canon secured a site from Lord Lucan for the new school building. St. Patrick’s National School was built on Chapel Street and opened on the 3 September 1888.
The first principal was Brother Michael who was reputed to be a cultured gentleman of wide experience. He was accompanied by five other Brothers:
Brother John, Brother Anastatuis, Brother Henry, Brother Vincent & Brother ?
When the school doors opened on the 4 September 1888 there was 189 students present. There was a growing interest about the Brothers through out the parish and within the first few months they had numerous Episcopal visits including one from the Archbishop of Tuam Dr. McEvilly on the 26 September 1888. It is also recorded that the Earl of Lucan and his son the honourable Francis Bingham visited the school in 1889.
There was quite a few surprises in the subjects covered in those days. Here is a snippet of just a few:
In August 1889 St. Patrick’s School had their first visit from the inspector of the National School Board. This inspection lasted four days and every single subject was examined. One of the Brothers teaching in the school at that time noted down the questions asked by the Inspector.
The children had to know:
6th Class: England, Scotland, Wales
5th Class: Geography of Ireland in detail, All the Counties and their principal towns and industries
4th Class: Geography of Ireland, Islands , Headlands, Chief towns
3rd Class: Asked to point out principal towns, mountains and rivers on the map of the world
Meanings of words.
Agriculture (4th,5th & 6th)
They were examined about agriculture orally and in writing.
It is important to note that the teachers were paid according to the results of their class and if a pupil failed any of the subjects then the teacher’s salary was lowered accordingly. The first record of salaries is from April 1889, six months after the Brothers started in the school. The entry indicated that the salaries of 5 Brothers amounted to £105:9:10 for the period 4 September 1888 to 31 March 1889.
Problems Encountered in the Early Days
An interesting fact to note is that when the school first opened in 1888, it was not compulsory and parents were not obliged to send their children there. There was a reduction in attendance of pupils in 1896 which coincided with the introduction of "The Compulsory Education Act" parents kept pupils at home in protest of this new Act. It is said that this lasted nearly a year because in October 1897 one of the Brothers wrote " The Compulsory Education Act is a Complete and signal failure". By 1898 everything went back to normal and classes were once again full.
The school had to close on a few occasions and for a variety of reasons:
Outbreak of typhoid - Closed January 1934
The Big Frost- Closed for two weeks in 1947
The school fire- Closed from 28/2/57 to 3/4/57
Burning of the Old School
The alarm was raised at around 3a.m. during the night of the 28 February 1957, a fire was raging through the building burning the contents of the school. It was not until the following day that the true impact of the inferno could be assessed. The building was destroyed and much to the delight of the pupils classes did not resume until the 3 April 1957. There are, however, accounts of some pupils who went back to school the following week in another building up by Pavilion Rd.
One of the few surviving items was the school bell. It was slightly damaged and was repaired and used again up until the 1990’s.
The exact cause of the fire was never officially known but speculation suggested an electrical fault.
A new site had to be found for the school and on the 3 April 1957, the school was temporarily transferred to the Military Barracks, Blocks G and H.
In 1959, building commenced on the new school located on a sight overlooking the remains of the old and it was officially opened on the 9 November 1961.
One Brother who attended the school in 1922 shared a few memories that really show how things have changed throughout the years.
They had the less fortunate lads seated near the fire and the well heeled on the outside.
The average contribution for the turf was 2/6 for the poorer lads and £1 for the better off.
In 2nd Class the classroom was heated by means of a stove and when the wind blew from a certain direction they were smoked out and the classroom had to be vacated.
When the school first opened they mainly used slates for writing.
There were numerous principals throughout the last 111 years and it is only in the last years that a lay principal was employed.
Brother Michael 1888-1896 8 years
Brother Stanislaus 1896-1900 4 years
Brother Joseph 1900-1915 15 years
Brother Felix 1915-1916 1 year
Brother Michael 1916-1921 5 years
Brother Albeus 1921-1927 6 years
Brother Florence 1927-1933 6 years
Brother Patrick 1933-1937 4 years
Brother Thomas 1937-1941 4 years
Brother Nicholas 1941-1950 9 years
Brother Cassian 1950-1957 7 years
Brother Augustine 1957-1969 12 years
Brother David 1969-1975 6 years
Brother Ailbe 1975-1989 14 years
Brother Stanislaus 1989-1995 6 years
Dr. Vincent McHale 1995-2012 17 years.
Mr Joe Carty 2012- today
Centenary of the De La Salle Order
In 1988, the town celebrated the Centenary of the de La Salle Brothers arrival to Castlebar. The people from the town thanked the Brothers for their hard work and dedication in the education of the young people.
The school has since bulit on an extension to accommodate the rising numbers of pupils attending. At present, there are 480 pupils, 36 teachers and 10 Special Needs Assistants in the school. The first lay principal Dr. Vincent McHale was appointed in 1995. It is interesting to note that, to date, he was the longest serving principal ever in St Pats, serving in the role for seventeen years. Congratulations, Vincent.