Roscrea CBS ‘The Last Frontier’

Speaking at the recent launch of the book ‘Lest we forget’ by Liam Doran on the fiftieth anniversary of the Christian Brothers’ establishment in Roscrea, former Minister Michael Smith stated that ‘it is striking how this native religious order struck such deep roots in the southern half of this island, the southeast being the heartland.

Speaking at the recent launch of the book ‘Lest we forget’ by Liam Doran on the fiftieth anniversary of the Christian Brothers’ establishment in Roscrea, former Minister Michael Smith stated that ‘it is striking how this native religious order struck such deep roots in the southern half of this island, the southeast being the heartland.

The Christian Brothers derived a great deal of their strength from the growth and self-confidence of urban and rural middle classes in the 18TH and 19th century and from other sections of the population. It was a time when the State did not foster education. The State was a patron to education for the elite.

Another striking feature of the development of the Christian Brothers was that it was a ground up organisation. This dynamic establishment grew quickly and spread northwards. The ethos of the Christian Brothers was shaped in a period when the Catholic Church was reasserting its importance both locally and nationally and when separatist political and cultural movements like the Gaelic League and G.A.A. were seeking to redefine and create a distinctive Irish identity. It was a time also when famous movements like the Land League were dealing a final blow to the estate system. One is not as certain any more of some aspects of this heritage but there is no doubt that the Christian Brothers generally have a deep and abiding impression on Irish life and shaped many of us in a much more profound way than perhaps any of us can imagine. In a world which sometimes forgets too quickly, this anthology ‘Lest we forget’ will be a constant reminder of the magnificent contribution that the Christian Brothers made to Roscrea and its hinterland over thirty eight years.

We owe a deep debt of gratitude to Liam Doran for his tireless work, his careful research and for the opportunity he gave to so many to remember times past and share this experience with all of us. Many congratulations to Liam.

Carrick on Suir CBS was established in 1805, Thurles 1816, Clonmel 1844, Nenagh 1862, Tipperary 1868, Cashel 1869, Templemore 1933, and Roscrea, the last frontier in 1961. When one considers that there were no State grants for building these schools and many had to raise the funds locally, this advance of the CBS in these areas is all the more commendable.

Many families became very interested in education, were highly motivated and innovative, and were prepared to provide funds and personnel to the religious orders. In the immediate Roscrea area 11 boys joined the Brothers in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Four of these Brothers emigrated to Australia, one to New Zealand, one to South Africa, one to New York and four remained in Ireland in the teaching profession. Two in particular, Brother James Mathew Quinlan and Brother Hugh Sixtus Boylan played major roles in bringing the school to Roscrea. Brother Quinlan was Provinical Bursar at the critical time for Roscrea and Brother Boylan wrung a promise from an old classmate of his Danny O’Meara, that if he ever sold his lands on the Dublin road he would give first preference to the Christian Brothers. The price for this land was £6,000. This was in 1952 and seven years later this promise was fully honoured. The school was built for £35,000 and opened in September 1961.

Brother Jim Scully Superior and Brother Collins stayed for two and half years in Coughlans at £4.10 a week. The cottage on the school site was occupied by Mrs Lawerence, now in her eighties. Brother Scully remarked that while they did nothing to hasten her demise, they were happy when she went to her eternal reward. The Brothers then took up residence in this renovated cottage.

Brother Scully, a new dynamic man is described by Raymond Hughes as a man not to be trifled with, fierce energy, gifted with the art of exam prediction, ambition for his charges and a fierce disciplinarian. He was my superior during my time in Templemore CBS and he met those qualifications and more. It is said that a carthorse goes to the very last inch and then stops and that a thoroughbred goes to the last inch and then goes further. Brother Scully wanted the extra step, that extra mile and he knew we were capable always of a little more. Roscrea was lucky to have him for the birth of the CBS.

The School had many academic, sporting and other successes. A number of students – Michael Sharpe, Simon Keane and Ger Scully came first in Ireland in the Leaving Certificate Honours Maths, Accountancy and History respectively. The school was very proud when Tadhg O’Connor returned as a past pupil with the Liam McCarty Cup in 1971.

From small beginnings, the Christian Brothers overcame opposition from the INTO and unhelpful arrangements from the local administrator Revered J Meehan, to give the people of Roscrea and parts of Laois and Offaly a sound education to prepare them for their future. The Brothers together with the lay Teachers take a bow.’