Boarding school for boys to shut doors after 166 years

 

One of Ireland's oldest boarding schools, Castleknock College in west Dublin, is to close its doors after 166 years. The fee-paying school run by the Vincentians is closing because of "a decline in interest among parents in boarding as an option", said a spokesman for the order yesterday.

The college will begin phasing out boarding this September and, subject to negotiations with parents, will cease all boarding by June 2004. Castleknock day school, which caters for more than 400 pupils, will continue. It has been open since 1987.

The school has produced an impressive array of past pupils in areas as diverse as politics, the law, business and journalism. Among them are the former Taoiseach, Mr Liam Cosgrave; a former justice minister, Mr Patrick Cooney; a former defence minister, Mr Patrick Donegan; businessmen Mr Richard Barrett and Mr Johnny Ronan (both of Treasury Holdings); barrister Mr Michael Collins and journalist Vincent Browne.

The school's stated mission is to develop "the whole person in a Christian atmosphere which encourages involvement in a balance of intellectual, cultural and sporting activities". Its main sporting activity is rugby, fielding 15 teams during the winter months. Former rugby international Alan Duggan is a past pupil.

The boarding school traditionally catered for boys from outside Dublin, often from prosperous families. Its pre-eminent position in Ireland was signalled as long ago as 1900 when Queen Victoria and her royal party paid a visit.

While the Vincentians have spent £10 million modernising the school and installing up-to-date facilities over the last decade, junior boys still sleep in open dormitories and house masters still monitor the behaviour of boys and check on their academic progress.

According to the college's website, parents who send their child to Castleknock can enjoy peace of mind. "Parents are only too well aware of how young people are constantly exposed to unsavoury distractions, and to influences that are conducive neither to study nor to the proper development necessary for their future," it says.

However, the order's spokesman said yesterday that times had changed, and the day school was proving a more popular option. He said the Castleknock area would gain 40,000 new family homes in the next few years, and parents wanted educational diversity.

Fees for boarders are £4,895 annually which will rise to about £5,000 in September. Fees for day pupils are £1,895, rising to £2,225 in September.

Yesterday Vincent Browne said rugby was an important part of school life, but pupils were encouraged to pursue other interests, too. He said one teacher used to joke that Castleknock educated the creme de la creme of Ireland, "rich and thick".

While boys had to go to Mass and say the rosary every day, religion was not "overbearing", and pupils were allowed to enjoy themselves.