Ireland’s most storied and most famous school, Blackrock College has been the premier choice for the sons of Ireland’s professional elite since its foundation as the French College in 1860. Established in the grounds of Williamstown Castle looking out on Dublin Bay, Blackrock offers boarding and day places to boys from 12 – 18 and day places to boys over the age of 6 at the Willow Park School.
Blackrock College is a voluntary day and boarding school located in south County Dublin, 7km from Dublin city centre. The school was founded by a French Spriritan priest, Jules Leman, in the Victorian era, as a place of education and instruction in the classics for young Catholic men. The school maintains the Spiritan ethos to this day and is one of several leading schools managed by the Spiritan Education Trust (including sister schools Rockwell College, St. Michael’s College (previously a feeder school to Blackrock before becoming an all-through school), St. Mary’s College and Templeogue College). The school was established to cater to the emergent catholic middle and professional classes with a view to instructing young men for entry into the civil service and business administration. In this endeavour, the school once operated a civil service training college training young men for direct entry into government and foreign service.
Blackrock, or Rock as it is often known, is more than a school, it has become an iconic symbol of Ireland’s emergent Catholic upper classes and is often used as a moniker to refer to a privileged elite. Indeed, it is no surprise that when author Paul Howard sought to create the famous character Ross O’Carroll-Kelly – a caricature of the D4 stereotype (Ireland’s answer to the preppy subculture) he chose to have his protagonist attend the fictional Castlerock College (a portmanteau of Castleknock College and Blackrock College. In fact, even the character’s initials spell out “Rock”. Few schools carry the same cache in Ireland, even if others may be better known overseas.
The school is much more than that, however: it has an extremely strong track record as one of the country’s top performers for exam results and university placements; it is the most successful school in the history of Irish rugby, a member of the Big Three (alongside Terenure College and Belvedere College) and the Super Seven, having u a great many household name rugby internationals; and so too has it given Ireland more famous names in politics, law, media and the arts then, arguably, any other school.
Blackrock traces its history back to 1860 when a French missionary opened a school to prepare young men for a life in the missions. Father Jules Leman C.S.Sp. (better known as Père Leman) was an accomplished educator, whose own parents had managed a boarding school in Nothern France close to the Belgian border. He entered the priesthood in 1951 with the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers (the Spiritans). Father Leman was highly regarded within the Spirtian community and was swiftly appointed to the role of schoolmaster at a Spirtian school in Brittany before being appointed, in 1858, as director of a training centre for Spiritan priests in Langonnet, Brittany. In 1859, the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers asked Father Leman if he would lead a new initiative recruiting missionaries in Ireland.
Arriving in Ireland with no English, Father Leman quickly put himself to work. Upon arrival, he promptly surmised that Ireland would not provide the ready supply of missionaries that the Spiritans had initially hoped. Indeed, he determined that the Great Famine had taken such a toll on the Irish psyche that it would not be a fruitful cause attempting to inspire young men to take on missionary work in Africa and the New World. Instead, he identified a need to improve the education of young men with the intent to prepare such men for the clergy and, ultimately, for the missions.
He and his colleagues were granted the right to use a former Carmelite Convent in Blanchardstown Village in West Dublin. It was there that the Spiritans first began to practice, however, they did not believe that the premises would be adequate to establish the school that Father Leman envisioned. In 1860, the Spiritans were able to acquire Castledawson House in Blackrock. Castledawson would prove to be the perfect facility for such a school having already been used as such by the Church of Ireland previously (and as a finishing school seminary for young women before that).
So it was that the Spiritan school was founded, in 1860, with the aid of the College’s first lay teacher, Mr Rigney, two boarding students and six day pupils. The school would use the French system of education to which the Spiritans were accustomed. Mr Rigney was the only non-French member of staff and, as such, French was the dominant language of the school and the language of instruction. The school quickly became known as “The French College”. Leman also insisted on a school uniform largely inspired by the soldiers of the French army under Emperor Napoleon III. Locally, Blackrock boys became known as “Boney Boys” in reference to this uniform.
That same year, Leman would support an invitation to the Sisters of Cluny to establish a presence in Ireland. He introduced Mother Pichet and her team and offered them use of the Blanchardstown building before they too outgrew the site and established Mount Sackville Secondary School in Chapelizod. The two schools maintain a close relationship as a consequence of this early partnership.
The French College’s expansion was rapid and Castledawson House was insufficient for accommodating its numbers. An extension was commenced in 1861 to build dormitory housing for boarders. The school would later acquire the neighbouring Williamstown Castle to be used as a preparatory school. It is now used as the school’s boarding house.
The school’s primary functions from the outset were to instil in young Irish men a strong Roman Catholic ethos, identity and education and to prepare them for a life dedicated to missionary work on behalf of the Spiritans in Africa. In later years, the school would expand with the addition of a Civil Service training centre and college wherein degrees would be conferred by the Royal University of Ireland. This department would exist for forty years before the decision was made to close the university college as it could no longer compete with the larger University College Dublin. As was once common to Catholic schools, two Sodalities existed at Blackrock College, especially active during the years that the school operated an attached university institute. These sodalities, effectively fraternities for young men who aspired to the priesthood, were the Sodality of the Children of Mary and the Sodality of the Holy Angels. They were governed by Prefects and Vice-Prefects – the term referring exclusively to elected officers of the Sodalities.
Throughout much of Blackrock’s history, it was a decidedly Middle-Class school, catering to the professional classes, civil service and emergent Catholic merchant classes. Its fees were considerably lower than that of rival boarding schools, including Clongowes Wood College, Gonzaga College, Glenstal Abbey and Castleknock College. The school also operated two feeder schools under the Spiritan Education Trust, namely Willow Park and St. Michael’s. Willow Park still remains attached to Blackrock whilst St. Michael’s has established itself as an all-through school in its own right and, as a consequence, has become Blackrock’s fiercest rival.
It wasn’t until the mid-20th Century that Blackrock’s reputation as an elite school began to develop. A reputation that owes its foundation to the future notoriety of a former Rockman, Éamonn De Valera. Better known as “Dev”, the man who many consider the founding father of the Irish Republic, was a pupil at Blackrock between 1898 and 1900. He was a seminal figure in the Easter Rising and served a long life in public office including stints as President and as Taoiseach. Another instrumental figure in the establishment of Blackrock College as an elite school was Headmaster John Charles McQuaid who would become Archbishop of Dublin. In 1932 he hosted a welcoming event for Cardinal Lorenzo Luri, the papal legate, on the grounds of Blackrock College, with a coterie of distinguished guests from Irish Catholic society, including Éamonn De Valera, then President of the Executive Council of the Free State of Ireland.
In the years since, Blackrock has produced a number of famous graduates and earned a reputation amongst many in Ireland as the elite school. The school is, perhaps, best known as a Rugby powerhouse having won the Leinster Senior Cup 70 times (nearly 6 times more than any other school) and having seen many old boys representing the Irish national team and other international teams.
The Spiritan ethos remains strong at Blackrock and faith plays a daily part in the lives of all pupils at the school, both boarders and day boys. Mass is said in the chapel every morning and on special occasions on the College calendar. Blackrock seeks to instil its core values and virtues in all facets of school life:
- “Be caring;
- “Be there;
- “Be respectful; and
- “Be grateful”.
The school maintains a number of traditions and borrows from the British Public School model. A House system, with houses named for influential figures in the school’s history, plays an important part of school life and all boys are assigned to one of these competitive houses. The houses engage in a variety of intramural competitions and boys accumulate points for their houses in academic and athletic and in the normal course of school proceedings.
THE HOUSES OF BLACKROCK COLLEGE
Named for former pupil and future President of Ireland, Éamonn De Valera. “Dev”, as he was nicknamed, was a pivotal figure in Blackrock’s history and helped thrust the school to the forefront of Ireland’s elite boarding schools. The House is commonly referred to as Dev by the Blackrock community.
This House is named in memory of past pupil, Frank Duff, who founded the Legion of Mary in 1921. The Legion of Mary is the largest lay-member apostolic organisation within the structures of the Catholic Church.
Father J.M. Ebenrecht is celebrated in Blackrock College history. He oversaw the design and construction of the College’s chapel, the jewel in the crown of Blackrock’s campus. It was his first architectural project and he is remembered with this House that is named for him.
A House named in honour of John Charles McQuaid who served as Headmaster of Blackrock College. He was an instrumental figure in improving the fortunes and standing of the school. He would serve as the Archbishop of Dublin, the Catholic Primate of Ireland. The House is sometimes referred to as “Mickey” by Blackrock boys.
Named for Père Leman, the priest who brought the Spiritans to Ireland and who founded Blackrock College.
This House is named in recognition of Father Joseph Shanahan, the first priest to be ordained at Blackrock. He would later embark on a missionary life becoming a Bishop in Nigeria and fulfilling Leman’s true purpose in establishing the school. The House is often shortened to the nickname “Shano” by boys at the school.
The school offers a range of academic and sporting programmes to students and has a number of student-led clubs and co-curricular initiatives to augment the educational experience and cement the school’s status as one of the best schools in Ireland. It has three prominent choirs, the Corless, Leman and Libermann choirs, two of which are nationally recognised and have achieved honours in various national competitions. Students are able to participate in competitive chess and games clubs, Model United Nations, Global Citizenship Clubs or undertake the Gaisce award. Blackrock also participates in the global F1 Paddock Club engineering and design initiative and regularly fields pupils to participate in the Young Scientist award. The school also has its own radio station and arts and design facilities to support technical and creative outlets for pupils. Furthermore, Blackrock College has an active and celebrated debating programme which has seen alumni competing and winning on a global stage. Blackrock maintains a strong charitable ethos and regularly liaises with sponsored schools in Asia and Africa through exchange visits, fundraising drives and various other student-led initiatives. The school has long supported missionary-run schools in Kenya, particularly. Blackrock’s charitable ethos heavily shapes school life with some of the biggest fixtures on the calendar being the Duck Races and Shoebox collections to raise funds for the Society of Vincent de Paul (VDP)and to support families in need. So too does the school’s famous Christmas Tree Project, which sees pupils selling and delivering Christmas trees in order to raise monies for the VDP. In addition, Blackrock pupils engage in a weekly “Soup Run” supporting homeless shelters in Dublin. Pupils from across the school (including from Willow Park Junior School) are encouraged to join Pastmen of the Willow Wheelers cycling club and to participate in an annual charity cycle.
The school’s strong co-curricular and academic programmes are augmented by one of the best athletic offerings of any school in the country. Aside from the extremely strong rugby teams (with rugby being compulsory for first and second-year boys), Blackrock also has a strong track record in Association Football (Soccer); Athletics (Track & Field); Badminton; Basketball; Cricket; Cross Country; Gaelic Football; Golf; Table Tennis; Tennis; Sailing; Swimming; and Water Polo. Many of these sports are represented at the varsity level and Inter-House competition. A big fixture on Blackrock’s sporting calendar is the Swimming Gala in which boys compete against one another to win the Principal’s Trophy and the President’s Trophy. Many Blackrock boys have been awarded Colours at the two leading Irish universities or have achieved national (and international honours in their respective sports.
The best performers at the school are recognised in the annual Prize Day event in which awards are given to those who have excelled in sport, academia or extra-curricular pursuits and who have contributed to the school’s development. An annual Literacy Day also celebrates the literary arts and encourages creative writing submissions from the student body.
Blackrock has a significant boarding community, albeit most pupils attend on a day basis. Boarding life begins at age 10, through the Willow Park Junior School. Blackrock College’s first-year pupils are also based at Willow Park, moving to the upper school campus in the second year.
As a private school with a boarding history, Blackrock has developed a selection of words and terms unique to its community, with other words used that are common to the small cadre of elite private schools to which Blackrock begins.
THE UNIQUE SLANG, JARGON, AND TERMINOLOGY OF BLACKROCK COLLEGE
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Campus and Facilities
The school occupies a 56-acre coastal site in the Dublin suburb of Blackrock which it shares with Willow Park, the school’s attached junior school (which offers boarding from age 10). Boarders reside on the school’s grounds in a separate building from the main educational facilities known as The Castle. The school’s grounds include extensive sports facilities and amenities which have bolstered the school’s reputation as a sporting powerhouse. The school has achieved great academic success too, regularly sending boys up to Ireland’s leading universities and ranking at the top of the Irish schools’ league tables.
The school’s grounds are served by numerous Dublin Bus links and the campus is within easy reach of both Booterstown and Blackrock train stations. Dublin Airport is approximately 18km to the North of the College. Casement Aerodrome shares a similar journey time, being located approximately 30km to the west of the school.
Historically, one of Ireland’s major boarding schools, Blackrock College is now predominantly a day school and has announced plans to phase out boarding entirely, following in the footsteps of other famous boarding schools including Castleknock College.
The school operates a non-selective admissions policy but favours pupils who are of Catholic families and/or share a similar ethos to the Spiritan mission. Pupils enrolled at Willow Park are favoured for entry into the secondary school but a number of places are available for pupils from other primary schools. Blackrock College is one of the more expensive fee-paying schools in Ireland, however, scholarship schemes exist for pupils who possess particular talents or abilities and who may not otherwise be able to afford the fees.
Pupils may apply to Willow Park to commence in Junior Infants (ages 4-5) or to Blackrock College from the age of 12. Boarders may commence at the age of 10. The school only accepts applications in respect of boys.
Blackrock occupies a unique place in the national mindset, having become a byword for wealth and privilege in Ireland. Its reputation is due to the extremely long list of distinguished alumni who have achieved greatness and played significant roles in the history of the Irish state. Blackrock’s past pupils include Heads of State, Cabinet Ministers, Bishops, Archbishops, Party Leaders, TDs, Senators, celebrities, and sports stars.
The Blackrock College Union (Rock Union) is the college’s alumni association and it is one of the most active and engaged alumni associations in the country with regular outings and events. It is open to all Old Rockmen. The biggest fixtures on the calendar are the annual business lunch, the golf outing, and the Pastmen’s retreat. The Union maintains close relations with Blackrock College AFC – the old boys’ soccer club established in 1983, Blackrock College RFC – the old boys’ rugby club that dates back to 1882, and the Blackrock College Bridge Club – founded in 1966 by members of the RFC. Many pupils and Pastmen alike join the Willow Wheelers Cycling Club (founded in 1989)and take part in the annual charitable bike ride.
The Blackrock College Union (Rock Union) is the college’s alumni association and it is one of the most active and engaged alumni associations in the country with regular outings and events. Past pupils of the school include a long list of distinguished alumni who have achieved greatness and played significant roles in the history of the Irish state. Blackrock’s past pupils include Heads of State, Cabinet Ministers, Bishops, Archbishops, Party Leaders, TDs, Senators, celebrities, and sports stars. They are interchangeably referred to as Pastmen or Old Rockmen are invited to join the organisation. The Union works closely with the College and with the Past Parents Association. It organises a number of reunion events, the biggest fixtures on the calendar being the annual business lunch, the golf outing, and the Pastmen’s retreat. The Union maintains close relations with Blackrock College AFC – the old boys’ soccer club established in 1983, Blackrock College RFC – the old boys’ rugby club that dates back to 1882, and the Blackrock College Bridge Club – founded in 1966 by members of the RFC. The Union also maintains a small merchandise store for past pupils to support.
Accreditations and Affiliations
BLACKROCK COLLEGE C.S.SP
THE BLUE AND WHITE / THE FRENCH COLLEGE / ROCK
BOARDING & DAY
12 – 18
5 -12 WILLOW PARK JUNIOR SCHOOL
1ST YEAR – 6TH YEAR
NON-SELECTIVE. PRIORITY GIVEN TO CATHOLIC PUPILS
SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL NEEDS
TRANSITION YEAR PROGRAMME
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
ROLL NO.: 60030V
LANGUAGE OF INSTRUCTION
FAITH / ETHOS
CONGREGATION OF THE HOLY GHOST FATHERS (SPIRITAN)
PEDAGOGY / PHILOSOPHY
COASTAL / SEASIDE / SUBURBAN
DE VALERA | DUFF | EBENRECHT | MCQUAID | LEMAN | SHANAHAN
FORMULA 1 PADDOCK CLUB
MODEL UNITED NATIONS
SOCIETY OF VINCENT DE PAUL
WILLOW WHEELERS CYCLING CLUB
VARIOUS CLUBS AND SOCIETIES
ASSOCIATION FOOTBALL (SOCCER)
ATHLETICS (TRACK & FIELD)
CONGREGATION OF THE HOLY GHOST FATHERS
SPIRITAN EDUCATION TRUST
PATRON / VISITOR
HEAD OF SCHOOL
MR ALAN MACGINTY (PRINCIPAL)
AVERAGE CLASS SIZE
EUR €7,100 – €19,000 PER ANNUM
ADDITIONAL FEES AND CHARGES MAY BE APPLICABLE
SCHOLARSHIPS, BURSARIES & FINANCIAL AID
ACCESS BLACKROCK BURSARY PROGRAMME (AVAILABLE TO SUCCESSFUL APPLICANTS FROM DESIGNATED FEEDER SCHOOLS)
TRINITY SCHOLARSHIP OFFERS FULL FEES AND BOARD
DOMINICAN NATIONAL SCHOOL, BLACKROCK
HOLY FAMILY, MONKSTOWN
ST JOSEPH’S NATIONAL SCHOOL, BLACKROCK
ST. MICHAEL’S COLLEGE
WILLOW PARK JUNIOR SCHOOL
BOAT CLUB COLOURS
ACCREDITATIONS, ASSOCIATIONS AND AFFILIATIONS
ATHLETIC CONFERENCES & SPORTS LEAGUES
CHRISTIAN BROTHERS COLLEGE, MONKSTOWN
ST MARY’S COLLEGE
ST MICHAEL’S COLLEGE
SISTER SCHOOLS & PARTNER SCHOOLS
FIDES ET ROBUR (FAITH AND FORTITUDE)
“ROCK BOYS ARE WE”
BLACKROCK COLLEGE ANNUAL
CELEBRATED ALUMNI & FACULTY
AJ MACGINTY; ALAIN ROLLAND; ANDREW CONWAY; ARDAL O’HANLON; BOB GELDOF; BRIAN O’DRISCOLL; BRIAN O’NOLAN (AKA FLANN O’BRIEN); CRAIG DOYLE; DAVE FANNING; DAVID MCWILLIAMS; DAVID O’REILLY; DES BISHOP; DYLAN FAWSITT; ÉAMON DE VALERA; GARY RINGROSE; HUGO KEENAN; IAN MADIGAN; JOEY CARBERY; JOHN CHARLES MCQUAID; JOHN O’LEARY; JORDI MURPHY; LEO CULLEN; LOCHLANN QUINN; LUKE FITZGERALD; MICHAEL CUSACK; PAUL DUNNE: RUAIRI QUINN; RYAN TUBRIDY; SHANE BYRNE; VASILY ARTEMYEV; VICTOR COSTELLO
BLACKROCK COLLEGE C.S.SP / ROCK
ROCK ROAD, WILLIMASTOWN, BLACKROCK, CO. DUBLIN A94 FK84, IRELAND