Tuesday, January 05, 2016


Seomra 1916 - The 1916 Room
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There was no talk of any 1916 room when I was in Coláiste.

In fact, I never knew that there was any physical connection between the school and the 1916 Easter Rising.

I left in 1963 and I suspect that the 50th anniversary celebrations in 1966 made people more aware of these sort of connections. Sean O'Donnell, who came in 1965 and left in 1971, tells me that his class were made very aware of the connections and of the room.

One of the school buildings in Dublin's Parnell Square (No. 25) had been the headquarters of the Gaelic League (Conradh na Gaeilge) and the League allowed one of their rooms to be used in September 1914 for a meeting between those organisations which were working towards the ending of the British presence in Ireland

Extract from Seán T O'Kelly's witness statement.
Click on image for a larger version

That room contained the Gaelic League's library and was also the office of Seán T O'Kelly, who was the General Secretary of the League at the time. You can read his full account of the meeting in his witness statement to the Bureau of Military History.

The extract illustrated above is the critical paragraph relating to what ultimately became the 1916 Rising.

Steven Powell has drawn my attention to this article which fills in some further background.

1966 Commemoration Plaque

The above plaque was not on the school's front wall in my day. As I said we were oblivious to the 1916 connections. It was put there as part of the 1966 fiftieth year celebrations. In fact, in that year the whole geography of Parnell Square North changed with the opening of the Garden of Remembrance directly opposite the school.

Joe Ó Muircheartaigh and Pádraig Yeates checking out
a picture of those purported to have been at the meeting.

I had tried to get access to my former school some time back for purely nostalgic reasons. My intention had been to take some photos. Anyway, I was refused entry and that was that.

Sean O'Donnell & Pól Ó Duibhir in Seomra 1916
recalling memories of the Coláiste for posterity.
Photo: Shelagh Honan

Until today, when Joe Ó Muircheartaigh, who is compiling a feature on the school in the context of its connections with 1916, invited me and some other past pupils to come in to talk about our experience in the school.

I was very taken aback at the state of the place. I knew the school had moved out many years ago when the building was found to be unsafe. But I had passed it many times since and in more recent times, following the decision to relocate the central city library there, I had assumed that people had been beavering away inside and that the place must nearly be ready for occupation.

In fact it is falling apart and absolutely nothing seems to have been done with it since the school left in 2003 except for a few very minor safety precautions.

Looking out on the Halla at the rear.

I took the opportunity to have a look around while others were being interviewed and I have to say it was a sad perambulation indeed.

Not that the place had ever been in great nick or looked in any way classy, but it had been relatively clean and functional.

At the moment it would put a squat to shame.

The Halla - magnificent school theatre

The Halla (Hall/Theatre) was built soon after I left. In my time we had our annual school concerts/pageants in various halls around the city but mostly in the Francis Xavier Hall in Sherrard Street.

I don't know how this building fits in with the current plans but it would be a shame to see what was such a magnificent achievement for the school bite the dust.

The Clós - school yard

The yard is a mess. The area top right used to house the science building but I gather it eventually proved a problem for the Hugh Lane Gallery next door and was demolished.

Looking towards the former small hall
& access passageway to the main hall.

The photo above is looking towards what was the (small) hall in my day where we did drill and dancing and viewed films. The area above it, added after my time, is presumably the passageway which connected the existing hall directly to the front door in Parnell Square.

The Séipéal - former chapel

I thought I'd check out as much of the Mainistir (Monastery - Brothers' Residence) as I could get at while I was there, starting with the séipéal (chapel). I suppose I should not have been surprised to see that it had apparently been turned into another classroom. The number of brothers in the school towards the end of its stay in Parnell Square must have been rapidly diminishing and giving way to the vast majority of lay teachers.

Have a look at the two chapel windows above and spot the difference.

Well, it's just under the star. I had noticed, when passing outside over the years, that one of the windows was actually broken. I then noticed that it had been sort of fixed to the point of not being too noticeable just before Queen Elizabeth's visit to the Garden of Remembrance opposite.

Broken séipéal window 2007

It's amazing how noticeable the break was, particularly in bright sunlight.

As I entered the next room, the one with the wallpaper, a word shouted at me from somewhere deep in my subconscious - An Parlús.

The Parlús - parlour

This was the parlour, into which illustrious visitors, including parents, would be ushered by the brother in charge. Your whole life could change as a result of one of these visits.

Pasáiste - corridor

The school consisted of a series of joined up Georgian houses. You can get a sort of an idea of it looking down the corridor from the Mainistir towards Seomra 1916.

I had been warned not to go up any stairs, and having had a look around the ground floor, I decided that was good advice and I heeded it.

Still, I took a peek from below and it might give you some idea of the place's former "glory".

And then when I saw this, I decided that it was time to go.

Google map 3D view of area for development
Click image for a larger version

And before I leave you, a bit of good news from Parnell Square CQ via Twitter.

Coláiste Mhuire 2007

Hope they invite me to the opening if I'm still around then.

Related post: Coláiste Mhuire

Update 7/11/18: the planning application for the new central library has now been submitted and you can view it here.


Colm O'Muircheartaigh '63 said...

Post an-mhaith, a Phóil! Bhí se an-dheas na pictiúirí den Choláiste a fheiscint, cé go bhfuil droch-chuma ar an áit. Cuireadh an ruaig orm fhéin cúpla bilan ó shin nuair a dheineas iarracht dul isteach lá amháin go raibh an príomh doras ar oscailt.

Unknown said...

Gur a maith agat Póló. That's an extraordinary reportage, especially poignant for those who spent all or most of their schooling at the Coláiste. I spent a relatively short time there (Meánteistiméireacht onwards) , but even still it's shocking to see the state of the place. Your sad photos spoke to me as dilapidated hauntings that stirred sub-conscious schoolboy memories. Diarmuid Peavoy

Eoin said...

An-spéisiúl é seo a léamh agus na pictiuirí a fheiscint. Bhi mise i gColáiste Mhuire freisin (d'fhág mé i 1977)... bhi mé ag iarraidh do bhlag a 'leanúint' ach is cosúil nach féidir é sin a dhéanamh. An féidir? Tá blag agam fhéin freisin - Scéalta Ealaíne - ag https://emacl.wordpress.com/
slan go fóill, eoin

Póló said...


GRMA as a bhfuil thuas. Sár bhlag é sin agat.

Maidir leis an blag seo a leanúint, d'athríos an creat le déanaí agus dhearmadas an nasc le Feedblitz a bhreith liom. Ceartóidh mé sin go luath.

GRMA as é a thabhairt chun m'aire.