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A Brief History of St Mary's College


St. Mary’s College was founded in 1861, by the Very Reverend John Leterrier, S.M. He came from Lyons for the purpose, at the invitation of Dr. Kieran, P.P., and with the cordial approval of the then primate. There was no second level school in the town for Catholic boys at this time and Dundalk was the site of the first Marist school in Ireland.


The Society purchased a building, which had previously been known as Church Hill House. This house is still part of the school where the offices are situated. The school was opened on the 17th of September with twenty-five day pupils. Dean Kieran’s recollection was that the school “was for the sons of merchants and shopkeepers”.


Although the house then in existence was large, an addition had to be made in 1863, at a cost of between £2,000 and £3,000. So as soon as the new buildings were ready for occupation a limited number of boarders were taken. The demand for admission increased rapidly, and in 1874 it was found necessary to make a still further extension, at a cost of £3,000. In 1881, several small houses in the vicinity were purchased, and fitted for classrooms. The Superiors of the Order, who desired to make an important centre of their work in Dundalk, raised all the money spent on improvements.

The school was opened on the 17th of September with twenty-five day pupils!

In 1880, a small convent was added, in which resided a few nursing sisters of the Order of Bon Secours. These ladies looked after the health of the pupils in what was known as ‘The Infirmary’ and then as ‘The Red House’, now it is where the priests live and is called ‘Cerdon’.


 At this time St. Mary’s College took students from every part of the country, and even some from the most distant British Colonies. The fee for boarders was £25. By 1885 over a thousand students, boarders and day pupils, had passed through the school. The acquisition of ‘Major Brown’s Meadow’ resulted in a considerable addition to the grounds. Handball, football and cricket were played.


For the next hundred years, the school had a Boarding and Day section with a Primary School attached. The Boarding section was closed in 1983 and the Primary School closed in 1987. In 1990, the first lay Principal was appointed, Mr. Cecil Hughes, and the school was opened to girls in the same year. Fr. John Mulligan, the last teaching priest retired in June, 2000 when there were over 700 students and 44 teachers. The original school building was replaced with our new state-of-the-art building in April 2016.


Copyright St Mary's College 2017