De La Salle Brothers in Waterford
In 1887 the Brothers were invited to take charge of a school in the poorest part of the city of Waterford. In Stephen’s Street there had been a boarding and day school that was supported from annual grants from the city. In 1862 the grants were withdrawn and the school was placed under Waterford Corporation. Bishop O’Brien took over the premises under a lease for seventy- five years and opened an intermediate school for day- boys. It was named the High School of the Catholic University of Ireland. The school ceased to function in 1886. Father Phelan with the permission of Bishop Egan invited the De La Salle Brothers to staff the school that was now a national school. The invitation was readily accepted. The school was a three -story building with two large classrooms on each floor, with an entrance from Bachellors Walk. Beside the school was the house of residence where all the community lived. Classes commenced on October 8th, 1887 for students that ranged in age from eleven to thirteen.
In late 1887 permission was sought to transfer the scholasticate from Castletown, Co. Laois. Newtown House, which stood on approximately six acres, was deemed to be most suitable as it had accommodation for thirty people. Before the purchase was considered the project was discussed with Bishop Pierce Power. He was informed that the young men who had completed the canonical novitiate and who were following a course of studies in preparation for their profession of teaching be afforded in the year preceding their examination, the opportunity to teach in and manage a large important school. As Castletown was no longer acceptable to the National Board and as St. Stephen’s Street was, the logical solution was at hand. Bishop Power gave the project his blessing. TheNewtown property was purchased for the Institute for £1,700 from Samuel Le Haut Hobson. The Brothers got possession of the property on the 20th June 1888. Six months later additional accommodation was needed and a third story was added to Newtown House. John Hearne was the contractor and the cost was £850.
De La Salle College Waterford
The establishment of a Training College was discussed with the Board of National Education in 1886.
In 1890 Br. Justin McMahon the Provincial started preparing the way for a Training College in Waterford. He first had to obtain the support of the bishops in Ireland. Dr. John Egan Bishop of Waterford supported this new venture. On the 1st November 1890 Brother Justin made a formal application for the Training College in Waterford adding that “the students of the said college to be comprised of members of our society and other Roman Catholic Queen Scholars”. The bishops consented to allow secular students to be admitted when they were made aware that the Chief Secretary, Arthur Balfour, would withhold registration unless secular students were also enrolled. Bishop Egan notified the Commissioners of National Education of his willingness to fill the office of manager of the Training College and on the 11th May 1891 he was accepted for the position.
Rather than ask the government, the institute agreed to advance the money for the building of the College so that its autonomy would be preserved. Brother Justin wrote to all managers of national schools whom he knew asking them to send candidates for training. Brother Severus Harvey was appointed first principal of De La Salle College but unfortunately he was killed in a train collision while travelling in the United States. Brother Thomas Kane succeeded him
During 1881 plans for the new college building were prepared. They were put out to tender and that of Mr. George Nolan was accepted. On 16th July Bishop Browning of Ossary performed the blessing and official opening of the new college building. Mass was celebrated by Bishop Sheehan and the Preacher Rev. T Finlay stated that the work which the college had undertaken was in unbroken communication with the work of the founder 200 years before. De La Salle had first shown his countrymen how to form Christian teachers; his disciples were showing the people of Ireland how the same work could be done.
Over the years many teachers who were to have a profound influence on thousands of students throughout the length and breath of Ireland were trained in De La Salle College.
In 1932 the Minister for Education, professor O’Sullivan stated that he was willing to sanction the establishment of a new school for boys in the unused portion of the buildings and premises of the Waterford Model School. The Brothers had been looking to set up such a school for some time. On the 3rd October, St. Declan’s was opened in part of the Model School that was built in 1859.
In May 1939 the government decided that one Training College would be adequate to provide training for all the young men in the country. St. Patrick’s, Drumcondra was to remain open and De La Salle College was to close. Brother Philip Healy appealed to the Taoiseach, Mr. Eamon de Valera, to keep the College open but to no avail.
In November the Minister for Education made one concession. Instead of closing down the College completely, the training of Brothers would be allowed to continue.
For the next ten years, De La Salle College, Waterford was used for the teacher –training of young Brothers. The College was a huge drain on the Institutes resources. The grant allowed for training was totally inadequate and no provision was made for the payment of lecturers or the upkeep of the College.
Since 1923 a Secondary School was in operation in St. Stephen’s National School. It operated with commendable success but the accommodation was totally inadequate. A new Secondary School was needed to cater for the boys attending St. Stephen’s and St. Declan’s. This school was temporarily housed in St. Declan’s School. In October 1939 it was transferred to premises purchased from the Newtown Quaker’s School and was known as St. Patrick’s School. As St. Patrick’s was inadequate for the numbers requiring secondary education in the city and surrounding countryside and as
De La Salle College was a drain on the Institutes resources a solution was at hand. Brother Lawrence O’Toole decided that it should be turned into a secondary boarding and day school. On the 9th September 1948 the College was officially opened for secondary education.
Over the years the College was becoming better known. In 1954 there were 111 boarders and 150 dayboys. In 1968 there were 230 boarders and 420 dayboys. A classroom block was built in 1955. In 1958 Upton House was purchased to accommodate extra boarders.
Because of the increase in student numbers it was deemed necessary that a new wing be added to the College. New science laboratories and woodwork rooms were provided. The wing was completed in 1974.
Further expansion of De La Salle College was deemed necessary in recent times. A new floor was added to the west wing. A new technology block was built which caters for the multitude of students doing Construction Studies, Technology Wood and Technical Graphics. New Science Laboratories and preparation rooms, a modern Computer Room, an Art Room and a Business Studies Room were some of the specialist rooms that were provided. New Changing Rooms were built and the Gymnasium was completely remodelled and refurbished. The College itself was completely redecorated. In September 2001 the College expansion and refurbishment was complete. A new generation can now make use of a modern College with a rich tradition
For over 120 years the De La Salle Brothers have been at the centre of education in Waterford. Today the Lasallian ethos lives on in the biggest boys school in the country.