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First published in 2010 by

Messenger Publications, 37 Lower Leeson Street, Dublin 2 www.messenger.ie The material in this publication is protected by copyright law. Except as may be permitted by law, no part of the material may be reproduced (including by storage in a retrieval system) or transmitted in any form or by any means, adapted, rented or lent without the written permission of the copyright owners. Applications for permissions should be addressed to the publisher. Copyright

Š Gonzaga College SJ

Design: Messenger Publications 2010 Typeset in Calibri and Adobe Caslon Pro Printed in Ireland by Brunswick Press Ltd


Acknowledgements Since this project was first proposed to me by Fr Joe Brennan SJ and Kevin Whirdy, I have been greatly encouraged by their help and guidance. My sincere thanks to them both. I want especially to acknowledge the support and advice given to me by Triona McKee and Paula Nolan, Manager and Designer respectively of Messenger Publications. Irene Hickey’s assistance in tracing contributors and identifying photographs has been invaluable, as has the research done by Siobhan McNamara. Both of them have readily diverted their attention From other pressing tasks to be of help. The pressures put on the school’s IT department are huge and extend far beyond the school day and the academic year. I cannot sufficiently express my thanks to its sole representative, Suzanne O’Hare, for making archive materials electronically available, and for providing instant assistance at one late moment of near catastrophe. There are many staff contributions in the volume, including the photographic contributions made by Mark Earley, Daniel Lynch, Siobhan Keogh and Fiachra Etchingham. The willingness of colleagues to collaborate with the project has been a great support to me. It is testament to the professional enthusiasm of the staff as a whole and the loyalty that is felt towards the College. Finally, in the course of soliciting copy or information From the Past, I have met with nothing but courtesy and good will, and in many cases renewed old Friendships. The willingness of the vast majority to speak or write about their school with affection and pride speaks for itself. I wish to thank in particular David Fassbender for collating and explaining a considerable number of photos; and Charles Lysaght for allowing me to reprint a previous memoir, as well as providing many insights.


JCT versus Castleknock 2010: Theo Behan sets the back line in motion


Contents Editor’s Note................................................................................................ 11 College Crest................................................................................................ 12 Foreword..................................................................................................... 13 Gonzaga History.......................................................................................... 14 Reflections, Peter Sutherland...................................................................... 26 Magis: Capturing the Essence..................................................................... 30 Memories of the 1950s, Charles Lysaght..................................................... 46 The Gift of Speech, Philip McDonagh.......................................................... 56 Thoughts from a Distance, Peter MacMenamin.......................................... 60 Gonzaga Occasions...................................................................................... 64 A More Equal Ireland, Niall Crowley............................................................ 74 Service Scrapbook....................................................................................... 76 Faith Commitment, Gerry Whelan SJ.......................................................... 82 Daniel McNelis............................................................................................ 86 Prep Scrapbook........................................................................................... 92 The Classics, Myles Lavan.......................................................................... 100 Experience at Home and Abroad............................................................... 104 An Spailpín Fánach, Manchán Magan....................................................... 108 An Education That Asks ‘Why?’, Brendan Donlon..................................... 112 Chess......................................................................................................... 114 Rhetoric..................................................................................................... 122 Sixty Years of Drama.................................................................................. 132 Gonzaga Writers........................................................................................ 146 ‘Because It Passes’, Brendan Connellan..................................................... 150 Careers in Science and Maths................................................................... 154 French........................................................................................................ 162 History....................................................................................................... 164 Art............................................................................................................. 166 Music......................................................................................................... 178 Sport.......................................................................................................... 188 Rugby...................................................................................... 192 Tennis...................................................................................... 212 Cricket..................................................................................... 220 Staff v Sixth Years.................................................................... 228 Swimming................................................................................ 230 Hurling..................................................................................... 234 GAA......................................................................................... 235 Golf.......................................................................................... 236 Prayer: St Ignatius of Loyola...................................................................... 237


Goethe’s Faust: Sixth Year Play 2009: Jack Gleeson (left) as Faust and Michael Fitzpatrick as Mephistopheles


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Gonzaga at Sixty: A Work in Progress

Editor’s Note This book is not a history. The history of a school should probably be written when it is a lot older than sixty, and its production will require a lot more time than has been available for the publication of this volume. A history of Gonzaga will finally bring together detailed accounts of the school’s foundation and development, and more extended biographies of the many individuals who have served, or simply passed through, the College. It will have more to say about Gonzaga’s position in, and contribution to, Irish society. The present book may well in time be a source of some detail. While preparing this book, however, it has become obvious to myself and to others that, in the interests of any prospective history of the College, there is urgent work to be done to preserve some of the earliest memories. Readers will quickly find missing names and significant omissions of detail. I hope the book contains a sufficient mixture of personal recollection and evocative photography to reflect the past for those whose principal interest lies there. The purpose of Gonzaga at Sixty: A Work in Progress as we have conceived it is different, however. The book aims to reflect, and reflect on, the direction Gonzaga has taken; in particular, the extent to which it has fulfilled or still continues to fulfil the educational aspirations – academic, personal, spiritual and religious – of its pioneering foundation. The main thrust, therefore, of many of the contributions by the Past (some of them now writing as members of staff) is a consideration of their education in Gonzaga and its effect on them. In other respects, this book is a celebration of the immense vitality and variety of a hugely expanded school; of the many who have served the College as members of staff and whose contribution has not received recognition in previous publications; and of the strong sense of community that connects all who have played a part in the sixty-year life of Gonzaga. Michael Bevan September 2010


The College Crest In response to a question concerning how the Gonzaga Crest has developed, Patrick Potts (Headmaster, 1990-2007) wrote: ‘In 2005 one of our senior past pupils, who had been in Mantua and visited the Gonzaga archives, brought back details of the Gonzaga arms From the official heraldry of Italy. From this information I corrected the arms as they appear over the main door of the College: increasing the black bands in the escutcheon to three, causing the eagles to have outstretched wings and face centre and so on. This brings them into line with the arms used, in whole or in part, by other Gonzaga or Aloysius colleges worldwide. The magenta arms (with just the Mantuan escutcheon and a truncated Cross of Cong) were a cool ’70’s version selected by Dermot Murray SJ. I had hoped to replace them on the tie and sweater (the tie was also a new version of Dermot’s doing – replacing what is now the prefects’ tie) as well but ran out of time. The official colour for the College is Magenta (the colour of the earliest blazers and skull-caps) but the arms have always been red. The patriotic O’Conor Don (responsible for adding the Cross of Cong to the Gonzaga arms) was responsible for the decision to have the boys play rugby in “Ireland Green” – though Ireland seem to have moved to a dull watery version for copyright and sales reasons. I had also hoped – on prodding From Kennedy O’Brien – to add a crest (of a lion rampant as found in the escutcheon and on the rugby jerseys) but time and money both ran out. C’est la vie.’


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Gonzaga at Sixty: A Work in Progress

Foreword It gives me great pleasure to write these few lines about Gonzaga College as it celebrates its 60th anniversary. The college occupies a special place in my affections as it was in its halls that I took my first faltering steps as a novice teacher. I was sent there in February, 1981 to teach history, Latin and Religious Education for a six-week period as part of the novitiate formation programme. Some of the readers may remember the mistakes I made. I remember the stimulation of contact with eager young minds and the considerate kindness of the teaching staff that took me under their wing and gave me encouragement aplenty. The pain of parting was bitter when I had to return to the novitiate on March 16th. These subjective recollections have to be placed in the context of a bold experiment in education pioneered by the Jesuits in the early 1950s. It set out to be a broad approach to learning, not hemmed in or restricted by overmuch preoccupation with examinations and syllabi which were too tightly defined. Changes in the Irish educational landscape brought the experiment to a close less than twenty years after it was inaugurated. Thereafter the college endeavoured to provide a rounded education working within the confines of the examination system but trying not to be too limited by it. In my years in the Society, I have come to associate Gonzaga with articulate debating, creative drama, concern for academic excellence, well executed liturgical singing on college and sometimes Jesuit occasions, and feisty determination on the rugby field. My brief time teaching there coincided with the Stardust Disaster, which shocked the nation with the loss of so many young lives. I recall the entire college community gathering for Mass and the hushed silence among the students as they walked From the classrooms to the chapel. The loss of so many young people, many of them close to the boys in age, raised very profound questions about life and what it meant and the awful reality of death and how one could come to terms with it. Students and staff were conFronted with questions which could only be answered in the light of the Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ. I also think of students of the college who have worked with the Society of St Vincent de Paul and who have participated in the Dublin Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes. Such openness to faith and willingness to serve others remains long after high grades have been forgotten and the final whistle in the game has been blown. It is my hope that the Gonzaga of the future will help its students to identify their talents and to use them well in the service of others, especially those most in need. Long ago St Irenaeus told us that the glory of God is to be found in the human person fully alive. Gonzaga creates an environment which facilitates that. He also told us that it was the life of the human person that is the vision of God. He was saying that there is a hunger in the human heart which only God can satisfy. Nothing else can. It can be hard to say this in our time. May Gonzaga continue to remind itself, its past and its future of this great truth. I end by expressing my appreciation of Michael Bevan who has edited this volume and to all the contributors for reminding us of so many riches in the school’s history. Tom Leyden S.J. Provincial


Gonzaga history Noel Barber SJ


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Gonzaga at Sixty: A Work in Progress

60 Years in the Making Looking around Gonzaga today one feels that the school is at ease with itself; it has a strong sense of identity and with this there is an equally strong sense that there are social obligations going with a Gonzagan education; it has a first rate teaching staff, very strong sporting and cultural activities, a superb building with matching facilities, situated in gracious parkland on the edge of the city – a veritable educational paradise for which there are so many applicants for every place. Was it always thus? Many reasons have been given for the foundation of Gonzaga in 1950 but the most likely seems to have been the perceived need on the south side for another Catholic School or just Belvedere on the south side some said. It was small and perhaps a little precious as it attempted to forge a distinctive educational philosophy. It thought of itself as different: it was not to take the Department of Education examinations and so did not follow the Department’s courses and was Free to create and follow its own curriculum. The only public examination taken was the National University matriculation in 5th year and a mere five lowly passes in that examination opened all university doors. The 6th year was devoted to a broad pre-university course with no final examination. The school’s liberal philosophy shunned a narrow utilitarian view of education geared to the passing of examinations. It saw the purpose of education in the educational activity itself which developed skills and attitudes that had value in themselves independent of their utility. It was predominately a literary education that enshrined the skills of writing and speaking at the heart of the curriculum. Excellent though Gonzaga’s educational philosophy was, it was narrow. It gave limited scope to science and initiation into science is a central element of a liberal education; neither music nor art found a prominent place, much less the technical and practical subjects. It overstated the intellectual and cognitive and underestimated the aesthetic, the scientific, the practical and the technical. It viewed the person as a knower and hardly at all as a doer and a maker.

The Early Years

First Prefect of Studies, Fr William White

The school was blessed in its first Prefect of Studies, Fr William White, who being totally devoid of ego himself was ideally suitable to manage those who were not similarly bereft. Indeed, I believe that the success of those early years was due far more to Fr White than is usually acknowledged. He had a unique relationship with staff, parents and students. With the staff, his support, encouragement and enthusiasm brought the best out of talented people, enabling the creative ones to blossom and the average to attain above their ability. His relationships with pupils was characterized not merely by keen discipline but much more so by his extraordinary concern for each and every one of the boys and his no less extraordinary knowledge of them and of their family backgrounds.


1950-51: THE WHOLE SCHOOL: THE FIRST SCHOOL PHOTO Back Row (L to R): A. Plunkett, C. Robson, M. McWeeney, D. McFeely, P. Dempsey, T. Eustace, D. Carton, R. O’Loghlen, G. Devitt, K. Walsh, C. Mangan, K. Hurson, D. Strahan, B. Kirby. Third Row (L to R): A. Donovan, D. Owens, T. Bieler, D. Gallagher, P. O’Conor, G. McEnroe, G. Shanley, J. Feighery, D. Feighery, D. Maugham, B. Davy, I. Delany, M. Hunt, O. Brady, J. Richardson. Second Row (L to R): J. Delany, M. O’Donovan, J. Liston, Fr W. White SJ, Fr Charles O’Conor SJ, Fr J. Murphy SJ, Fr T. Hamilton SJ, B. Walsh, L. Little, J. Mulhern, D. Carroll. Front Row (L to R): M. Woods, F. Dowling, B. O’Loghlen, G. Brady, R. O’Kelly, A. Clare, J. Murphy, E. Darcy, J. Lennon, D. Coyle, D. Robson, T. Webb, W. Harnett. Absent: G. Miley

LEFT: GONZAGA 2010, MORE THAN 550 STUDENTS

Next to Fr White in importance in the early years was its first Rector, Fr Charles O’Conor (the O’Conor Don), who could trace his lineage back to one of the last high kings of Ireland. Highly intelligent but not an intellectual, he was gracious, elegant, and holy with rather grand mannerisms which went with a genuine humility and simplicity of life. He strove with much success to imbue the school with a familial rather than an institutional ethos. Fr Joe Veale, who came to Gonzaga in 1954, became an icon for many Gonzagans. As teacher of English and Religion, he honed his pedagogical skills, sharpened his vision and developed his philosophy of education. His commitment to excellence in thought and expression, his insistence


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Gonzaga at Sixty: A Work in Progress

on the highest standards, and the breadth and depth of his intellectual interests made him more than a memorable teacher; he was a profound educator. In those years he won many life-long admirers and Friends. In the interest of honesty it must be said that his style alienated a few and he left a casualty or two on the sideline. He founded and was in charge of the Gonzaga debating Society, An Chomdhail. The standard of debating was remarkably high. Participation in the society was an education in itself. He exercised a national influence on the teaching of English and was largely responsible for reshaping the English curriculum in Secondary Schools. His widely influential article in Studies in 1957, Men Speechless was a masterpiece in which he made the moral case for Rhetoric and distilled in princely fashion his philosophy and vision of education. I say ‘his’ view because while he applied this to his teaching of English, it was never the philosophical basis of the curriculum. Fr Veale was not great diplomat and never managed to engage the staff, much less coax them; he pronounced loftily and this did not meet the approval of many who did not appreciate his patrician ways. Furthermore, while in high seriousness he was without equal, many on the staff were more than his equal in intellectual sharpness. Although he is associated with the quality, tone and philosophy of the college, it was the liberal educational philosophy of the school, the excellent teachers going their own way and, as I have already indicated, the exceptional gifts of Fr White that gave the school its character. There were excellent teachers: Fr Keane, an outstanding classicist, Fr Stephen Redmond, with a great love of history that matched his scholarship, Fr Jack Hutchinson, who instilled a love of Irish in a surprisingly large number, Mr John Wilson, soon to be joined by that educational entrepreneur Mr Raymond Kearns. Then there was a little Italian fantasist, Signor Volpi, who entertained the boys with his incredible tales and Fr Kavanagh whose control of the boys did not match his mastery of French.

Crisis and the Coming of Fr Murray Under the tranquil surface and seemingly strong thread of continuity within Gonzaga in the 1950s and ’60s there were rumblings of which few were aware at the time: the ethos of the 1960s, the Second Vatican Council and the impact it would have on the Jesuits, the incipient secularisation of Irish 1956: Laying the foundation stone of the first school development: the hall, clock-tower and new classrooms


THE O’CONOR DON SJ Each morning he would meet the Mathews brothers At the piggery near Saint Francis Xavier’s garden On their way to serve the half-past seven Masses. And he would hand them two hard orchard apples, Lacquered on the wing of his black soutane, And tell them the Latin for cooker and for pippin And which was the Fruit in the Garden of Eden. They would sink their teeth in them after Communion On the pillbox dome of the school Bomb Shelter, A half-way house between pig swill and Pentecost. He was Church and State, their own father told them, Broadswords and breviaries in his blue bloodstream. Yearly the Times would publish his birthday: “The O’Conor Don, the last descendant Of the High Kings of Ireland, is today aged —.’’ When he consecrated, a wolfhound barked twice, Once for the Host and once for the chalice. But unless he eloped with a child-bearing bride To beget a royal republican Don, His line would end in a limbo forever, An apple-core fed to the prodigal swine.

The O’Connor Don: Charles O’Conor SJ strolling through the grounds of Gonzaga in the snow

If the dream of a son made him cry in his sleep She could drink his tears to become pregnant. There’d be Fruit of her womb then, a kingly priesthood. No wonder The O’Conor Don SJ Wandered around the farmyard with his prayer-book, Worrying which kind of a Father he should be; Yet still finding time for the likes of two brothers Who would leave this golden autumn for the winter To marry the filth and the flood like the Doge of Venice With Jesus stuck on the train-tracks of their teeth And the smell of pig-shit in their balaclavas. They Freewheel past me still. It is far down the road. Desertion, death, and the closed hospital wards. It is a turning that we turn From in slow-motion, Spellbound by our last sight of the twentieth century Where Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent And a stray went home on all fours to his family. Seminaries silent. Churches sold. Priests in prison. Children impaled. The annihilated father. And all that harvest Fruit preserved now only As pot-pourri in a toilet, an atomised windfall. Holy Saturday 2010 Aidan C. Mathews Class of 1974


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Gonzaga at Sixty: A Work in Progress

society. Its practical problems were readily observable: shortage of space, applicants greatly outnumbering places and with preference given to siblings of students, it seemed to some that the school was becoming too closed; the introduction of ‘Free’ secondary education in the late 1960s left Gonzaga, conscious of its Christian and social role, somewhat uncomfortable; some of its past pupils were articulate in urging the school itself to have a clearer social vision; the Jesuits themselves began to ask if their social role was compatible with a fee paying school; as the qualifications for entry to university rose, the possibility of remaining aloof From the examination system became unrealistic and was abandoned; the economic viability of the small familial school was unsustainable and so the size of the school increased. As these issues were debated a fully fledged crisis developed and the future of the school came into question. Indeed a commission set up to look at the future of the school spelled out five possibilities in 1974: 1. Turn Gonzaga into a comprehensive school for the Ranelagh area 2. Make it a two stream academic school charging realistic fees 3. Enter the ‘Free’ scheme 4. Amalgamate with a girls’ school 5. Close the school. At that time the strong preference was for the first option. The Jesuits had transformed Crescent College Limerick into Crescent College Comprehensive and many thought that this style of school, catering for all classes and levels of ability, was the way to go. This belief took stronger hold as it emerged that the students in Crescent From similar backgrounds to those in Gonzaga did just as well academically as their peers in Gonzaga. However, it is not my brief to discuss

1960-61: Gonzaga community Back Row (L to R): Fr J. Hutchinson, Br. P. Nolan, Fr H. Lawlor, Fr K. Laheen, Fr S. Redmond, Fr J. Veale, Fr J. Kavanagh, Fr W. Lee, Fr E. Keane, Mr N. Barber. Seated (L to R): Fr P. Leonard, Fr S. Hughes, Fr J. McMahon, Fr J. Brereton, Fr W. White


Gonzaga in the Early Days

Corporation Men

My first glimpse of Gonzaga, at the age of eight, was in May 1954 when I walked up the avenue with my mother to be interviewed by the Rector, the aristocratic Fr (Charlie) O’Conor. The grounds in Front were surrounded by low wire fencing and stiles. There were boys happily playing cricket in the nets and I was excited by this. I wore my peaked wine-and-green school cap as I cycled there each day. There were two bike sheds, one at the Park Drive entrance and the other at the end of the avenue. Bikes had to placed in the iron stalls in either unlocked shed; leaving them around the school grounds was not allowed. The priests kept their bikes in an enclosed shed beside the boys’ Park Drive one and all of them cycled with clips holding in their black trousers. I don’t recall any of the priests driving at that time. The Prep classrooms were in the basement, which had poor natural light. Outside the classrooms was the cloakroom where dark and often wet coats hung and added to the gloominess. Each morning the Prefect of Studies, Fr (Wally) White entered the first class and asked in soft tones: ‘Cé tà as lathair?’ and ‘Bainne go tapaidh’ and some of us,who stayed in for lunch, put up our hands to order half-pint bottles of Dublin Dairies milk which arrived in noisy metal crates. As Prefect of Studies Fr White was energy personified and was as versatile as a circus employee. Despite his many duties he was always considerate of us; if you forgot your lunch he would make up some tasty jam sandwiches in the priests’ kitchen. Fr White delivered the biffs in his untidy, paper filled room. Outside his room was a high metal radiator and as you queued you warmed your hands to lessen the impact of the biffs. The lunch break was an hour and boys who lived nearby cycled home to be fed by their mothers. The rest of us ate sandwiches with our Dublin Dairies milk and played sport until classes recommenced. Some boys who were not interested in sport joined what was called ‘the Corporation’; this involved helping Fr O’Conor keep the grounds tidy by collecting leaves and litter into a red coloured wooden cart with long handles. Fr O’Conor rewarded them with apples From the orchard.

We had exams at the end of each term and the school report was posted, with Gestetner print on the envelope, to obne’s father; in those days mothers were not written to. Each year there was a school prize-giving ceremony at which four book prizes were awarded for 1st, 2nd, Most Improved and Religious Knowledge in each class. The first lay teacher, I recall, was Signor Volpi, an Italian who conducted drill (later PE) in the courtyard and who introduced us to the delights of the French language: Toto est petit. Toto ouvre la porte. Signor Volpi told us far-fetched stories From around the world in which he starred as the Walter Mitty hero. He finished his exotic stories with the encouraging words ‘You will go...’ There was great enthusiasm for sports even though we had limited success against other schools. There were twenty-eight in our class and selecting fifteen for a rugby team invariably meant we had a few weak links. Against some of the bigger schools we often played against their 2nd fifteen.. We had a match on either Wednesday or Saturday afternoons. In the early years we had classes on Saturday mornings followed by Confessions in the priests’ house. Team selections were posted on an outside notice board in the courtyard. In those nonecumenical days we did not play against Protestant schools other than when drawn against them in the Junior or Senior Cup. Some of us played soccer on Sunday mornings in the school which involved boys From all classes. This internal competition had three teams: Clonskeagh Dynamo, Sandford Rovers and Syndicate. Many of those playing used go to nearby Milltown on Sunday afternoons to cheer on Shamrock Rovers. After-school soccer was also played and some priests, Fr Harry Lawlor and Joe Kelly then a Scholastic, participated. Cricket was the main sport of the Summer term and some success was achieved. It was directed by Fr Ned Keane. The opening of the season was signalled by the smell of Freshly mown grass generated by Fr Keane as he manoeuvered the sit-on Dennis motor mower around the cricket pitch. We played, it seemed, always on sunny days in the shadow of the magnificent copper beech tree. Nerves used affect most young batsmen and a team score of around 40 was generally a winning total. Fr Keane photographed many of the sports activities and he developed and printed the photos himself. There was an intimacy about the school. Authority was firm but fairly administered. Academic achievement was encouraged, and sport was savoured. Above all, to my recollection, boys liked being at Gonzaga. David Fassbender Class of 1964


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Gonzaga at Sixty: A Work in Progress

Fr Dermot Murray: appointed Headmaster in 1974

these options but to draw attention to the serious situation of the school which then lacked self confidence and a sense of identity. Cometh the hour cometh the man. Fr Dermot Murray was appointed Headmaster in October 1974. His practical and shrewd management of a pretty desperate situation saved the school and laid the foundations for what it is today. He set about building proper facilities, establishing firm discipline, maintaining excellent relationships with staff and managed to retain much of the ethos of the old Sixth Year with the new academic demands of university entrance. In this Fr Alan Mowbray played a crucial role. But it was not only on the practical level that Fr Murray made his mark on the school. He was a scientist by training, and a keen musician. Under him the scientific and aesthetic strands of the curriculum assumed a greater importance and he left the school with a more balanced and humane curriculum. I do not think that one can underestimate the role he played at a critical time. Father Murray stabilised and developed the school and merits the very high esteem in which he is held. However, despite his outstanding work, there were factors affecting the school which indicated that it still lacked a sense of identity. Two issues remained unresolved. On the one hand, it emphasised faith and justice, and on the other, it charged fees; in the eyes of many this was an uneasy fit. The school was not at home with itself. It was a tightly knit community being religiously, socially, and academically selective; the boys were all above or well above average ability and came From families that were overwhelmingly professional and higher managerial which provided them with the support of an educated and knowledgeable home environment. Many questioned if this provided the boys with a sufficiently broad social experience. Certainly one could observe that some were led to an insensitive bias to their own group or class and others were led to a romantic rejection of their own social group. It was argued that the school should earnestly seek ways to prepare young men to take their place in society and to serve as agents of reconciliation, social harmony and justice without which the two previous qualities cannot exist. There was in short a social ideal to be realised. Secondly, the number of Jesuits available to teach in the school was decreasing and the Jesuits were asking themselves if the school could remain Jesuit in these circumstances. I recall having many discussions with my Jesuit colleagues about how many Jesuits were required in a school for it to be a genuine Jesuit school. In fact what was happening was that a ‘family firm’ in which the family retained the control and management and provided the personnel of the ‘business’ was being transferred into a ‘public company’ in which an increasing number of the management and staff was not members of the family. That transition was not without its tension. The question gradually became: Can a school without Jesuits be a Jesuit School?


The early learning environment, and an early prospectus – not that prepared by Fr Veale


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Gonzaga at Sixty: A Work in Progress

However, the diminishing Jesuit presence on the teaching staff did not lead to a dilution of its quality. There was an intake of outstanding teachers among whom were Michael Bevan, in Classics and English, Tom Slevin in Chemistry, David Murray in Irish Denis Cusack in Maths and Physics, Noel Mc Carthy in Irish and Kevin Whirdy, who was to become Headmaster, in PE and Maths. Gerry Murphy gave music a place of significance in the college and with music Chess. I would consider Fr Alan Mowbray played a particularly significant part in ‘interpreting’ staff and management to one another. This role Fr Joe Brennan continued to play on Fr Mowbray’s departure.

The Lay School Fr Rector, John A Dunne SJ, turning the sod at the start of construction of the new sports hall and classroom developments

By the end of the 1980s the future of Gonzaga remained unclear but despite this a lay Headmaster was appointed; Mr Patrick Potts replaced Fr Peter Sexton and remained Headmaster for 17 years. These years saw a great development of the plant; it would be difficult to find a better equipped school in the country; the musical, dramatic and sporting traditions blossomed; debating continued to thrive and experienced new life in recent years; there has been a growth in outreach programmes and fund-raising for charity culminating with building homes in Zambia, and this has inspired parents and past pupils to follow the students’ example and go themselves to AFrica to do similar work. Mr Potts (right) served it with rare commitment and distinction for 17 years during which he won the esteem and affection of staff, parents and students. He oversaw its physical development and, more to the point, strove with remarkable success to enhance its Catholic and Jesuit ethos through his unremitting cultivation of its cultural and religious roots. His commitment to excellence in all aspects of school life, his insistence on the highest standards and the breadth and depth of your own intellectual and cultural interests have made you more than an outstanding educational administrator; he was a profound educator. Gonzaga, Ireland, the Irish Jesuits have all changed greatly since 1951; the culture shaping the institutions and society has changed out of all recognition so we have a lay Jesuit school in a secularised society. One observes that a goodly number of people have quite an extraordinary desire to retain the Jesuit ethos. I am not certain what exactly they mean by ‘Jesuit ethos’ or even if there is a common understanding of the term. I am, however, clear that over the past 20 years Headmasters strove


mightily to ensure that the characteristics of Jesuit education animated the school’s activities. One could say that the strains and tensions that were there over the years have been largely resolved due to the ability of two Headmasters, Fr Murray and Mr Potts. Even the tensions arising From its being a fee paying school has been resolved in principle. It was determined some years ago that no person would be refused admission to Gonzaga because of the ability to pay the fees. Once a boy is accepted then the fee can be tailed to the financial means of his parents. This means that those who can pay support those who are unable to do so in whole or in part. There have been difficulties in working out the scheme in practice. However, once the principle has been accepted it is a matter of time in making it work. Finally, its basic educational philosophy is that education is not a functional or utilitarian enterprise but that educational activity is itself its own goal in enhancing the personal, intellectual and religious qualities of the person; this was the fundamental philosophy of the founding fathers of Gonzaga and has been elucidated more recently in The Characteristics of Jesuit Education. This philosophy drives the school today as it did in 1951. Noel Barber, SJ 31 May, 2010

Gonzaga Staff 1986-1987 Back row (L to R) Mr M Bevan, Mrs. P. Crosbie, Fr J. Moylan SJ, Mrs. M. Deane, Mr J. O’Briain, Mr D. Murray, Mr.D. Keenahan, Mr D. Cusack, Mr B. Byrne, Mr D. Cefai SJ Middle row (L to R) Mrs. K. Evans (College Secretary) Mr P. O’Súilleabháin, Mrs. K. O’Dúill, Fr W. Lea SJ, Ms. C. Leahy, Fr J. Brennan SJ, Mr G. Murphy, Mr D. O’Connell, Mr B. Regan, Br. J. Barry SJ Front row (L to R) Ms. A. Nevin, Mr J. Walsh, Ms. I. MacConville, Fr E. Keane SJ, Mr D. McNelis, Fr P. Sexton SJ (Headmaster). Mr J. Mulgrew (Deputy Principal), Mr C. O’Gara, Ms. M. O’Kelly, Mr K. Whirdy, Mr T. Slevin. Fr Peter Sexton SJ was Headmaster from 1986 to 1990. Kitty Evans (whose son Hugh was a member of the class of 1963) was College Secretary for some twelve years, retiring in 1988


reflections on

Gonzaga’s

60th anniversary Peter Sutherland


Peter Sutherland and Fr Joe Kelly SJ

I never liked IQ tests and this aversion probably started when I did one to get into Gonzaga. I never understood the result. However, apparently I passed and moved into an environment that certainly greatly influenced my life in many ways. I hope that there was no mistake in attribution that resulted in a deserving boy being declined. I suspect however that there was. In 1954 Gonzaga was a very intimate place. The relationship with teachers was close and continuing in a way that I imagine is not found in larger schools. The ethos was created by Jesuits such as the O’Conor Don, Wally White, Joe Kelly, Frankie Kavanagh, Joe Veale, Stephen Redmond and Jack Hutchinson but its distinction I now think was founded more on the traditions of the Society itself than merely on the great merits of the individuals themselves. More great Jesuits were to follow. Later I have met alumni of various Jesuit schools from different parts of the world. It is clear that there is a shared heritage that has a meaning that is itself a profound expression of the value of our education and the identifiable common elements in our experience. I have been sitting for a long time on a September morning reflecting on what the essence of that heritage actually is. Jesuits after all are not in the least homogenised by their long novitiate. As individuals they remain very different but they share, of course, a common vocation and a remarkable education and training. We were the beneficiaries of their remarkable learning and wisdom. What they shared with us obviously combined a belief in God and in His Church and in its values, but that of course could be said of Catholic education generally. They also gave us a liberal education. Liberalism may have been in the 19th century the great besetting evil for the Church but many of its dispositions, though of course not all, were core and differentiating elements of the Gonzaga ethos and I believe the Jesuit ethos more generally. We were taught to think for ourselves and to question independently the great issues of life and our time. There was something more: the Church was not presented as an authoritarian church. This does not in any way imply an acceptance of relativism but simply the self-confidence to be open to others and tolerant of their opinions. Our reading included some who were more radical in their views than Rome might fully approve. But apart from religion our required reading lists were eclectic and often stretching for our years, as was the teaching more generally. If there was a lacuna in our education, it was shared by virtually every Irish school at the time; namely, the absence of economics and business related subjects (even though this is belied by some illustrious products of the school such as Brendan Walsh).


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