St Mel’s College, Longford celebrates its 150th anniversary next year and the celebrations get underway with a gala New Year’s eve ball in the college grounds on December 31.
The College Principal, Declan Rowley, welcomed a group of past pupils and former Principal, Denis Glennon, back to the College recently to launch plans for the 150th anniversary.
Central to the anniversary celebrations will be plans to raise funds to renovate the old, and presently largely disused main college building, which remains one of the most iconic buildings in the town.
The history of the college is closely linked with the nearby Cathedral as the education centre was built only a few years after the Cathedral. Both projects were the basis for two huge fundraising drives and represented an amazing achievement for a doggedly determined community in the aftermath of the great famine, where the population of the county fell from 115,000 to 82,000.
The old college building was modeled on the Holy Cross College in Clonliffe, Dublin and for a time during the 1880s-90s, efforts were made to have the college become a seminary but obviously this didn’t come to pass. As well as its rich legacy as a centre for education, the College also emerged as a powerful force in Colleges Football, winning numerous Leinster and All-Ireland titles.
The history of the school mirrors that of many other diocesan colleges, in that it changed from having a virtual all clerical teaching staff to a position nowadays where the staff is made up almost exclusively of lay teachers. Indeed Declan Rowley is only the third ever lay President at the college.
One of the big catalysts for change at the college was the introduction of Donagh O’Malley’s ‘free education’ scheme in the 1960s and the College’s traditional boarders were quickly out numbered by day-boys. The College no longer caters for boarders.
College Principal, Declan Rowley, is looking forward to the 150th celebrations and says that the college is busy finalising a programme of events for the historic year.
He told the Leader: “Obviously we would like to formally launch a past-pupils association and we are confident that the celebrations will be the basis upon which we can build a vibrant and enthusiastic alumni group.”
Other highlights will include the publication of a unique photographic history of the College in a project that involves Fr Tom Murray and Denis Glennon.
Two very happy men at the recent 150th launch were past students, Derek Sheridan and Joe Flaherty, who on savouring the fayre at the college’s new canteen facility, reported the food on offer to be significantly improved!