Century of Endeavour
Adare's 1841 Proposal for a Collegiate School
(c)Roy Johnston 2000(comments to email@example.com)
I summarise here a printed document dating from 1841 which JJ had kept in the folder relating to the present writer, his education and progress through his various careers. I first thought it had got misplaced, but then when I examined it I found that it had been prepared by Viscount Adare, together with two other improving landlords (Dunraven, Monsell), two university professors (Todd in TCD and Sewell in Oxford) and an MP (Augustus O'Brien). These were the Founders of St Columba's College, where I was schooled from 1942 to 1946. The document enshrined the founding philosophy of the school. It therefore provides a clue to JJ's thinking when he decided to send me there, which decision he made I believe quite early, perhaps in the early 1930s.
The Preface takes up the aspirations of Bishop Bedell (of Bedell Bible fame, the translation into Irish was done in the 1620s), Robert Boyle ('the father of chemistry and the brother of the Earl of Cork'), Archbishop Marsh (of Marsh's Library fame) and Archbishop King (who founded the TCD Chair of Divinity) to raise up within the Irish Church a body of Irish-speaking clergy. The document is directed to the Primate at Armagh. The Preface is followed by the latter's approving response.
There follows a 26-page Prospectus which identifies the need for the landlord and church elite to communicate with the Irish in their own language, and thereby to develop some social and religious cohesion, along with a supportive educated artisan class, thus undermining the alien influence of Rome. The vehicle was to be a 'Collegiate School', which would provide not only a good practical education for landlords' sons, enabling them to manage their estates, and communicate in Irish with their tenants and labourers, but also a career opportunity for professional teachers, some of whom might be ex-priests who had seen through the errors of Roman doctrine.
The core idea here is the attempt to transform parasitic landlordism into a national elite capable of leadership in the positive sense; the language was to be the bond, and the Roman Church marginalised as an alien influence. Standish O'Grady later took this up, belatedly. Aspects of it are echoed faintly in the thinking of AE, Horace Plunkett, Constance Markiewicz, Claude Chevasse, and, later in an attenuated and reoriented form in my own generation, of Paddy Bond and Neill Goold.
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Copyright Dr Roy Johnston 1999