St. Flannan’s College is one of Ireland’s most famous schools, an establishment whose rolls are studded with distinguished names: patriots, ecclesiastics, scholars and educators, as well as figures from the worlds of sport and media. These are alumni who achieved prominence in the professions; there are artists, composers and musicians, military men, Teachtaí Dála, government ministers, and one President of Ireland.
Impressive though all this be, it forms part only of a much greater achievement, that over many generations, St. Flannan’s has furnished tens of thousands of its students with a thorough and worthwhile education, one that a great many would not have received but for the single-minded tenacity of its authorities and staff. Much of the College’s history indeed should be read as a multi-generational struggle to provide that education, often in times and in circumstances that were, to put it mildly, unforgiving.
The College of St. Flannan sets the College’s rich history against the political events of each successive era, which inevitably affected its community and were occasionally reflected in dramatic incidents within its walls. The book contains much in terms of humorous occurrence and anecdote, as well as a darker side that relates mainly to the rigidity of its disciplinary codes. It features a memorable cast of College Presidents, professors and students, whose interactions over the generations have been such as to relegate routines of classroom and playing field to a far less interesting place.
Ciarán Ó Murchadha is a well-known historian, a independent scholar who has written, lectured and broadcast widely on many aspects of Ireland’s history. His The Great Famine: Ireland’s Agony 1845-1852? (London, 2011) has been acclaimed internationally. An alumnus of St. Flannan’s College, and a former teacher there, he is uniquely placed to tell its fascinating story.