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Pรกdraig Faulkner, T.D., Minister for Education, chatting with pupils after the formal opening of Crescent College Comprehensive in October 1972



This is not a history of Crescent College. For that

school’s achievements and strengths rather than probe

to have been ready for 2009 planning would have

for shortcomings. This publication is accordingly

been needed five or more years ago. Crescent’s self

more eulogy than exposé. The skeletons will have to

–perception then as now was possibly too modest

await a future historian.

for the school to think that it should commission

The book does not cover all Crescent activity.

a history of itself. It is to be hoped that this jubilee

There are omissions and lacunae. No reference is

will trigger the writing of such a study, because there

made to the school’s contribution in the area of adult

is a good and interesting story to tell. Limerick is a

education. Crescent College Comprehensive belongs

complex place, and the religious, social, cultural and

to that elite band of schools that can boast a Young

educational interaction of the Jesuits, the school and

Scientist of the Year, but there is no treatment in these

Limerick society is a potentially fascinating topic.

pages of its strength in the teaching of science and

This then is a miscellany, not a history, some

mathematics over many years. There is little reference

snapshots of Crescent past and present and some

to debating, an activity which is a characteristic

reflections on the experience of attending school

of Jesuit schools, and which has a long tradition

there. Apart from teachers current and past, all the

and a record of competitive success in Crescent. In

contributors are past pupils. Their span covers the

considering the history of the Jesuits in Limerick only

period from the 1940s to the current decade. It had

fleeting reference is made to nearby Mungret College,

been the intention that the publication should allow

which operated as a boarding school and apostolic

the school to be portrayed ‘warts and all’. Neither

school (minor seminary) for the ninety two years

instructions nor guidance were given to contributors,

from 1882 to 1974.

and in the main they have chosen to celebrate the

Unlike other Jesuit schools Crescent College 9

Comprehensive does not publish an Annual nor does

product or the editorial judgments, but their advice

it have a thriving past pupils union. Accordingly data

and assistance is most gratefully acknowledged.

on its past is elusive. Denis Leonard volunteered for

At Crescent College Comprehensive I wish to

the role of kamikaze pilot when agreeing to write an

thank the Board of Management who commissioned

article on the school’s past pupils. Without a database

the work and, most particularly, the chairman,

any choice of what counts as special achievement has

Richard Leonard, whose wisdom and support has

to have an element of the arbitrary. His suggestion for

been invaluable and unflagging. My thanks also go

a roll of honour is a good one which could be pursued

to headmaster Nicholas Cuddihy, Chris Cullinan,

via the school’s website with a facility for past students

Dudley Herbert, Diarmuid Mullins, Máire Murphy,

to update their own entries.

Sean O’Callaghan and librarian Mary Lynch. A

Denis’ article details the achievements of some

most profound debt of thanks is owed to Dermot

of the school’s more distinguished past. What it

Cowhey, who has been the school’s liaison with the

cannot capture is the significant contribution made

project. Apart from his own written contribution to

locally, nationally and internationally to workplaces,

this publication, he identified potential scribes and

professions and a host of voluntary, religious and civic

provided much of the background information and

activities. The thousands of solid citizens who are and

photographic material. Without him quite simply

have been Crescent alumni and alumnae cannot be

there would have been no book.

acknowledged individually, although they are more representative of what the school has achieved.

Paula Nolan and Tríona McKee at the Messenger Office have been the guiding hands in bringing

In the preparation of this book there are many to

the book to production, with Paula’s design skills

whom I am indebted. For photographic material,

being largely responsible for this being such an

background information and other support I wish

attractive publication. They have been a pleasure

to acknowledge the contribution of Noel Barber SJ,

to work closely with, and their professionalism has

Bevan Cantrell, Des Cross, Marie Cummins, Father

contributed hugely to the quality of the end product.

Martin Daly, David Deighan, Deirbhile de Paor, Joe

I am profoundly grateful to my wife, Marian, and

Donnellan, Jennifer Egan, Brian Flannery, Ronan

my daughters, Barbara and Philippa, for being so

Geary SJ, Noel Harris, Fiona Hurley, John and Terri

tolerant, patient, kind and helpful while the editorial

Hurley, Kelvin Leahy, Denis Leonard, John Leonard,

process overwhelmed various aspects of family life.

Ivan Morris, John O’Brien, Eddie O’Donnell SJ,

Gratitude goes above all to the contributors. For

Daithí Ó Gadhra, David O’Mahony, Don Reddan, Pat

some it came easily, for others the birth pangs were

Rickard, Jim Roche, Monsignor Tom Stack, Brendan

painful. Sincere thanks to each one for their valuable

Staunton SJ and Michael Wallace.

reflection and output. If I am to single out an article,

Damien Burke at the Jesuit archives in Leeson Street

it is that of Father Morrissey, the longest in the book.

was especially helpful, as were Mary Glennon and her

In the past forty years the momentous happening

staff at the library of Milltown Institute. Bruce Bradley

in the life of the school has been the transition

SJ, Patrick Claffey, Jim Corkery SJ, Amanda Dillon,

from Sacred Heart College to Crescent College

Martin Foley, Peter Fuller, John Harty, John Hayden,

Comprehensive. This was a major challenge for

Daniel Maddox, Jim Moran SJ and Marian White read

the Jesuits and particularly Tom Morrissey, who as

some or all of the material and made many helpful

headmaster from 1970 to 1982 led from the front in

comments. They bear no responsibility for the end

this great experiment. At this stage it is fair to judge


Bishop Henry Murphy leaves Sacred Heart Church after Pontifical Mass, Centenary Thanksgiving Day, March, 1959

that the grafting of the enormously rich and expansive

was rooted in the Ignatian spirituality of finding

tradition of Jesuit education on the comprehensive

God in the world. Today the Society’s thinkers have

ideal has been a success.

formulated the purpose of the educational enterprise

Many of the contributions here testify to this; there

as one which aims to enable students to become

is an affection and enthusiasm for Crescent College

men and women of competence, conscience and

Comprehensive which, if anything, is even more


effusive than what existed at the old Crescent. This

The Jesuits are the largest religious order in the

achievement is something of which Tom and his Jesuit

world. Their growth in this generation however

confreres can feel very proud. Getting there was not

has not been in economically advanced Western

a matter of straight linear progression, as his article

countries. Their numbers are dwindling there. As

testifies. For his input alone this publication will have

Leonard Moloney mentions in his article, the last

to be revisited by any future historian. For his quite

Jesuit vocations from Crescent were Peter Walpole

extraordinary contribution to his old school, we can

and Leonard himself from the class of 1973. Since

only express our profound thanks and admiration.

the time of Pedro Arrupe as General the Society has

Exegi monumentum aere perennius.

increasingly faced the issue of how it can transfer

More than two million students attend Jesuit schools and universities in over seventy countries

its unique and valuable educational tradition to lay hands.

annually. Crescent pupils belong to a culturally rich

This is now the challenge facing Crescent College

and potent international operation and tradition. The

Comprehensive. To date the evidence is that it has

Jesuits have a secure place in the history of Western

been met successfully. It has to be our prayer that the

education. The strength of the method and operation

school will continue to be successful in promoting

of Jesuit education is acknowledged even by those

this rich and powerful tradition among future

who have no sympathy with the Society’s mission and

generations. It is to be hoped that this book will give


some flavour of how that quest has been pursued to

Those of us who were through it were fortunate to be exposed to a system where the quest for quality and excellence was part of the DNA. Ultimately it

date in our city and county of Limerick.

Anthony White August 2009 11

A la récherche du temps perdu Patrick Glynn

I was a Crescent man in every sense of the word.

the college. The decade produced several prominent

I lived in the Crescent across the road from the

rugby internationals, such as Paddy Reid (who was a

church and college for about forty years, and I was in

member of the Grand Slam winning team of 1948),

Crescent College for the years 1941 to 1950 inclusive.

Paddy Berkery and Gordon Wood among others.

When I went to the Crescent I had already done a

During my time I appeared in school productions

year at the Model School, and therefore started in

(not in any kind of a leading role) when Dickie

Bun Rang a Dó, which was also known in those days

Harris and Terry Wogan were also in the cast. I have

as “Rudiments”.

one very funny memory of the school production of

I suppose that we all think that the years when we

Maritana by Vincent Wallace. In those days, Laurel

were at school were the golden years, and anything I

Hill was both a day school and a boarding school, and

have to say therefore cannot be taken as being totally

for some reason we were invited to bring Maritana

objective. I think, however, that the 40s and early 50s

for a performance for the edification of the young

were golden years for a number of reasons. During

lady boarders in Laurel Hill. The hit tune in Maritana

my time at the Crescent there was a marvellous cross-

was a song called “Scenes that are Brightest” which

section of people, from the sporting to the intellectual.

was sung by our leading voice, that of the late Frank

I would think it fair to say that the sporting was the


most remarkable, as during the late 40s and early 50s

By an extraordinary coincidence or whatever, as

the school won three Munster Senior, and a Munster

Frank Lawlor was just beginning the second verse of

Junior, Schools Cups. This was remarkable in the sense

“Scenes that are Brightest”, suddenly, by accident or

that these achievements were a first in the history of

design, all the lights in Laurel Hill, or certainly the


Back Row, L~R: Louis Nestor, Des White, Ivan Harris, Tom Morrissey, Goff Spillane, Tom Hayes, Michael Collins, Jim Roche Seated, L~R: Gerard Power, Michael Fitzgerald, Paddy Berkery, Dermot Moloney, Michael Keane Ground, L~R: Richard Harris, John Leahy


ones in the theatre, went out. I need hardly tell you

descendant of the High Kings of Ireland, and I recall

that it was a scene of total confusion, as naturally

the Reverend Malachi Martin, one of a number of

the good nuns were very worried about the safety of

famous brothers; he eventually “leapt over the wall”

their boarders, particularly when you had the likes of

and became an extremely controversial writer on

Harris and Wood and several other similar worthies

the Catholic Church in the United States. I also have

up on stage. The lighting was eventually restored,

fond memories of Father Mortimer Glynn, who was

while the young ladies were safely shepherded into

extremely musical and whose main claim to fame,

some kind of preserved enclosure.

apart from his musical ability, was that he “dry

I had a lot of connections with the Jesuit Church,

smoked cigarettes”.

because being one of the nearest pupils I was always a

I had a quite lengthy connection with the Cecilian

Mass server. I remember that at one time there were

Musical Society during the early years after I left

seven confession boxes in the church, and at Easter

the Crescent; from the Cecilians, Fathers Bates,

and other important times all were occupied and did

Kavanagh and MacMahon all contributed strongly to

very brisk business. I was one of the few pupils who

the musical life of Limerick in the 50s and 60s. I also

had breakfast in the refectory at the Crescent. There

recall Father Oliver O’Brien, who was unwise enough

used to be a Forty Hours devotion at which Mass was

to form a multidenominational choir in Limerick at a

said at 2.00 a.m., and all the mass servers were given

time when it was neither fashionable nor acceptable.

some breakfast before they went home to bed. In the

Naturally, the Jesuit establishment dispatched the

late 1940s this was quite something.

poor man to Australia for his troubles, and Limerick

There was a succession of priests during my term

suffered huge cultural loss. People who are used to the

at the Crescent, and while many of them stand out

wonderful work being done by Father Peter McVerry

I would certainly say that primus inter pares were

and some of his other Jesuit colleagues would scarcely

Father Gerry Guinane and Father Frank Finegan,

understand that this was the John Charles McQuaid

two whom I remember with a lot of affection. Father

era, when anything non-traditional was frowned

Guinane died during my time as President of Old

upon throughout the establishment.

Crescent Rugby Club, but Father Finegan, at the age

I had a great connection with the Crescent apart

of one hundred, is going strong and has still got his

from being at school there, because my late mother

wonderful handwriting.

had a shop around the corner in Hartstonge Street,

Recollections tend to become a bit jumbled, but I

which was the official catering establishment to my

certainly remember during my time at the Crescent

generation of pupils at the College. Going through

that the Jesuits had a Visitor. Anyone who has seen

some papers when she died in 1984, I found a red

the play The Strong are Lonely, or the film The Mission,

exercise book in which she recorded payments

will understand what a Visitor from Rome is entitled

which were due for one and two cigarettes from all

to do; I suppose it would be equated to inspectors

sorts of prominent Crescent pupils, among them

calling to a bank to check on the way that things were

Dickie Harris, Ted Curtin (subsequently a racehorse


trainer), and several others whom I will not presume

I also recollect that the Provincial of the Jesuits in

to mention.

Ireland, at some stage during my involvement with

She also supplied groceries to the Jesuit residence

the Crescent, was the Reverend Charles O’Conor,

during the war. The older among you who read this

the O’Conor Don, who would have been a direct

will remember that this was a time of rationing, but


1949-50 Leaving Certificate Class

Back Row, L~R: R. Hurley, T. McRedmond, J. McNamara, M. O’Donnell, F. Coleman Centre Row, L~R: J. Geary, J. Ringrose, B. Gubbins, A. Piggott, T. Creagh, M. Spillane Front Row, L~R: H. Hayes, M. Cunneen, L. O’Callaghan, T. O’Brien, O. Brawn, T. Dundon On Ground, L~R: N. O’Flynn, P. Glynn. Absent: J. Whelan

Winners of Limerick City Senior Schools Cup and Limerick City Juvenile Cup 1943-44 Back Row, L~R: Don Reynolds, David Reynolds (Interpro), N McNeice, M Curtin, J Harris (Interpro), M Curtin, M Quaid Centre Row, L~R: J Healy, S O’Dea, G Keane (Vice Capt), T Manahan (Capt), E Hassett, W O’Neill, D White Front Row, L~R: N O’Neill, B Fitzgerald, M O’Doherty, L Byrne 15

Excursion of Altar Society to Killaloe ~ 1945

Back Row, L~R: T. Curtin, J. Lloyd, P. O’Meara, A. Grant, B. Fitzgerald Third Row, L~R: D. Reynolds, M. Larkin, B. Walsh, F. Moriarty, L. Nestor, J. Leahy, T. Hayes Second Row, L~R: D. Brilly, Rev. Patrick Cusack SJ, P. Berkery, L. McRedmond, P. Doherty, A. O’Halloran, F. Donnellan, D. Moloney, R. O’Connell, G. Murphy, Rev. Richard Brenan SJ, A. O’Leary, Brother James Priest SJ Front Row, L~R: J. Ringrose, T. Lane, J. Flannery, J. McNamara, R. Crowne, J. McNamara


my mother always managed to find something in the

residents in the Crescent now, but in my young days

way of tea, or sugar etc., for the Jesuit community. I

the Moloneys, the Corboys and the Tynans lived at

recall her getting a letter at the end of the War from

my side of the Crescent; all has now changed, changed

Father Robert Stevenson, who was the Minister at


the time, thanking her for her efforts at keeping the

It is also sad to see the theatre at the Crescent no

Jesuit community alive during that period, when even

longer in use; it was built during my time at the school.

bread was rationed, as well as tea, sugar, butter and a

Apart from the Cecilian Musical Society there was

lot of other food items.

also a flourishing drama group of past pupils, which

I have always felt that there is an extraordinary

produced two very interesting plays about the Jesuits,

love-hate relationship between the Jesuit fathers and

one being The First Legion, an American play, and the

their students. Current and past Jesuit pupils always

other The Strong are Lonely, a German play on which

considered themselves entitled to be extremely critical

the film The Mission was based. I remember Tommy

of the Jesuits but, once any outsider

O’Donnell, Gerry O’Brien (who

tried to do the same, the ranks

was Kate O’Brien’s brother),

were closed and the questioner

Cyril Gallivan, Eoin O’Moore

was summarily dispatched without

and many wonderful actors, a

the necessity of a trial. Somebody

number of whom went on to star

reputedly once commented to

with the College Players, one of

the late William Binchy, who was

the foremost Irish amateur drama

a Barrister at Law and father of

groups during the 50s and 60s.

author Maeve Binchy, “William,

The motto in my days at the

I believe you were educated in

Crescent was Quis Seperabit

Clongowes”. Binchy’s acid reply

Nos (Who will separate us?),

was “Oh no, I went to school at

which is still an excellent motto.

Clongowes and I educated myself ”.

We are difficult to separate.

Nonetheless, I witnessed another

When I was incoming President

occasion when somebody began

of the Law Society one of my

to be critical of the Jesuits in the

duties was to say Grace at the

late William Binchy’s presence. He

Rev. Francis Finegan SJ

annual conference dinner. My

dispatched the party with a rapier-

predecessor and successor in

like thrust, and the critic did not

the office were likewise Jesuit

return to the attack.

day pupils, both from Belvedere. When I got up to

I have not lived in the Crescent since the mid

say Grace, I naturally decided to impress them with

1970s, but because of my professional connections

my knowledge of Latin and declaimed a high table

with Limerick I pass through the Crescent at least

Grace from Oxford. As I was coming down from the

two or three times a week. I find it extremely sad that

podium I heard a voice behind me remark:

the school and the church have both gone; the sight of the church and residence is extremely upsetting personally, as this was a special place which had so many happy memories for me. There are hardly any

“O Lord Jesus, not another one of those bloody Jesuit boys.” I have great memories of being one of those “Bloody Jesuit Boys”. 17

Crescent College in Context: 1858~1971 Matthew Potter

The foundations of the modern education system in

growth of a prosperous farming class. The cities and

Ireland at primary, secondary and tertiary levels were

towns also benefited from the general economic

laid in the nineteenth century, a period which was

upswing, and saw the rise to prominence of a middle

characterised both by Ireland’s absorption into the

class consisting of shopkeepers, and publicans,

United Kingdom (1800-1922) and the development

frequently and derisively known as the ‘shopocracy’.

of an Irish nation in the modern sense of the word,

In turn, the children of this upwardly mobile and

particularly after 1850. Contrary to the traditional

(outside of Ulster) overwhelmingly Catholic rural

view of Irish history, it was also a period of sustained

and urban bourgeoisie formed a new class of Catholic

progress and growing democratisation, which

professionals, such as lawyers, doctors, priests,

resulted in the gradual but continuous empowerment

journalists, teachers, and bureaucrats.


of the Irish people.

The emergence of this successful and ambitious Irish

In contrast to the disastrous Famine decade of

rural and urban middle class was a very important

the 1840s, Ireland enjoyed a period of economic

development, as its members posed a challenge to the

prosperity in the succeeding quarter century (1850-

old regime that was to prove more formidable than

75), and participated in the economic boom that swept

O’Connellism. They were to gain significant political

the Western world in these decades. Agricultural

power in the 1880s, when they fought the Land

prices were very good, fuelled by the demand for

War against the old ruling elite, and provided the

Irish produce in an increasingly industrialised British

mass support for Parnell and his Home Rule Party.

economy. The reduction in population had resulted

Essentially this resulted in their becoming the ruling

in a consolidation of agricultural holdings, and the

class of Ireland outside Ulster in the 1880s when they




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