Collegiate School CelbridgeA Social History: 1909 -1973
Collegiate School Celbridge A Social History: 1909 -1973
by Lorna Sixsmith.
If any of your family members are known to reminisce in glowing terms about their good old school days in ‘dear old Celbridge’, then this is the book for you; and more importantly it also the book for them. Many of these reminiscences are of the rose-tinted ‘life back then was wonderful’ variety, but it must be admitted that there may also be some of the ‘it was cold and I missed home’ variety. Within the covers of this finelywritten and well-illustrated book you will have an opportunity to check out your household’s oft-repeated story against the facts; or at least one person’s recollection of the facts. Your relative may appear in this book, not only on the list of the former pupils of the Collegiate School Celbridge (CSC), which is interesting in itself, but they may also be recorded as the heroine of some fondly-remembered academic, sporting or artistic achievement.
This 151-page volume recites the social history of the CSC in the period from 1909 to 1973. The school, founded in 1730 was initially financed by the legacy of William Connoly, MP and speaker of the Irish House of Commons, reputedly the richest commoner in Ireland, and the builder of nearby Castletown House. CSC closed in 1973 when it merged with Kilkenny College and since then this co-ed college has become a powerhouse of Irish education. This is consciously a ‘social history’, and so the focus is on stories of daily life in CSC including memories of the diet, sports events, school trips, the college magazine, school plays and concerts. The teaching staff, curriculum and educational standards also come in for some comment.
Notwithstanding that it is not an institutional history in the traditional sense, historians of education in general, and Protestant education in particular, in twentieth century Ireland will find much to interest them in this book. The text provides not only anecdotal or colour pieces but also gives a sense of daily life, concerns and attitudes in the relatively private world of a Protestant girls boarding school in twentieth century Ireland. The sources for this book have been twofold; firstly and most importantly individual reminiscences by numerous former “Celbridgites” and also by extracting details from the school archives, and in particular from the long-running in-house magazine The Celbridgite.
The book is written in a lively chatty style by Lorna Sixsmith, a veteran observer of modern Irish life with numerous publications to her credit including, An ideal farm husband and Would you marry a farmer. Finally it must be acknowledged that the production of this book would not have been possible without the indefatigable dedication of Freda Yates. Freda taught in CSC and was headmistress of the school from January 1970 until its closure in June 1973. Freda’s dedication to her vocation as a teacher is legendary, as is her Christian charity and her devotion to bible study and its important role in ‘a loving devoted family’. This book constitutes another and enduring part of her already magnificent legacy.
This keenly priced volume appeals, not only to former Celbridgites and their relatives, but to anyone with an interest in local history, history of education, and in particular an interest in Protestant education in Ireland in the twentieth century.
Dr. Brendan Twomey
Copies are available at a cost of €15 plus P&P from Kilkenny College or privately from Valerie Twomey
Contact: Murt Larkin, Kilkenny College, Castlecomer Road, Kilkenny (tel. 056 7761544)
Contact: Valerie Twomey (née Horan), Castleknock, Dublin 15 (mobile 087 6383070)