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Castleknock College (Irish: Coláiste Caisleán Cnucha) is an independent Vincentian secondary school for boys, situated in the residential suburb of Castleknock, 8 km west of Dublin city centre, Ireland.

St Vincent's Castleknock College
Coláiste Chaisleán Cnucha
Castleknock College Crest.jpg

TypeIndependent, All Boys, Private School
MottoNos Autem in Nomine Domini
("We however, (put our trust) in the Name of the Lord")
Religious affiliation(s)Roman Catholic, Vincentian
Patron saint(s)Saint Vincent de Paul
FounderFr. Phillip Dowley CM
PresidentVery Revd Peter J. Slevin CM
HeadmasterMr Chris Kinder
ChaplainFr John Gallagher CM
Age range12–19
Number of students644
HousesSt Malachy, St Laurence, St Declan, St Kevin, St Vincent
Colour(s)Navy and Sky Blue         
SongNos Autem, Abide With Me
PublicationThe Castleknock College Chronicle

Founded in 1835, it is one of the oldest boys schools in Ireland. Although priority is given to those of the main Catholic tradition, as a Christian school, it is attended by students of other denominations and faiths. The school's colours are navy and sky blue. The school crest is a book, symbolising education, a cross, symbolising the success of Catholicism and the Irish shamrock, symbolising the success of the Vincentians in Ireland. The school has a conservative, intellectual, and Vincentian ethos.

Castleknock College, McNamara House.



In 1830, a year after the passing of Catholic Emancipation, priests from the Vincentian Community (Congregation of the Mission; CM) in Maynooth College obtained permission to open a day school under the patronage of the Archbishop of Dublin. On the 28 August 1833 a day school at 24 Usher's Quay Dublin was opened.

On 28 August 1835, St. Vincent's Ecclesiastical Seminary was opened in Castleknock, as a boarding school catering for just 47 boys.[1] The first student to enrol in 1835 was John Lynch of Clones, County Monaghan. He would later enter the Vincentian order and eventually become Archbishop of Toronto. A contemporary of John Lynch was Patrick Moran, who would also be ordained as a Vincentian priest and become Bishop of Cape Town before being appointed as the first Catholic Bishop of Dunedin (New Zealand) in 1869.

Fr. Philip Dowley a former Dean of Maynooth and Provincial for the Vincentians, was the first President of the College.

The college site had previously been occupied by a (Protestant) school for boys run by the Reverend Dr William Gwynne. The school buildings together with 40 acres of land were sold to the Vincentian Fathers in 1835.[2]

Queen Victoria and her royal party visited the school on 22 April 1900.

Before the foundation of Clonliffe College in 1861, seminarians for the Dublin Diocese would study in Castleknock before completing their studies in Maynooth College.[3]


The college motto is Nos Autem In Nomine Domini ("We, however, in the name of the Lord"), which comes from Psalms xx 7. The text in the psalm is "Hi in curribus et hi en equis; nos autem in nomine Domini Dei nostri invocabimus" ("Some trust in chariots or horses; we, however, [trust]in the Name of the Lord.")

The college ethos is distinctly Vincentian in character; the mission statement is "To have a College which is concerned with the development of the Whole person in a Christian atmosphere Which encourages involvement in a balance of Religious, Intellectual, Cultural and Sporting Activities And which promotes the growth of Self-worth and Respect for Others in the spirit of St Vincent de Paul."[4]

Each year on Union Day the College Medal (Vincentian Medal) is awarded to the Sixth Year student who has best embodied and exemplified the ethos and charisma of the College.

The Board of Management of Castleknock College implements an admission policy that conforms with the Education Act 1998, the Education (Welfare) Act 2000 and the Equal Status Act 2000.

Academic lifeEdit

Menu from celebration dinner.

The school aims for a low teacher/pupil ratio, and has a range of computing and science laboratories. Each year is looked after by at least one year head (Form Teacher) and four tutors. A wide range of extra-curricular activities including sport, language clubs, debating and music are offered, as is career guidance. The school's Alton reference and lending library is the largest second level library in Ireland.[citation needed] Computers with Internet connections are available.

BT Young Scientist ExhibitionEdit

Students participate in the annual BT Young Scientist Exhibition; over the years many have received awards and commendations for their projects. In January 2011 Alexander Amini, a student in Fourth Year, won the BT Young Scientist and Technologist of the Year 2011 award for his project entitled Tennis Sensor Data Analysis. Alexander was chosen to represent Ireland at the 23rd European Union Contest for Young Scientists in Helsinki, Finland in September 2011, where he also claimed the top prize against 38 countries.

Sporting traditionEdit

Sporting facilities at the school include nine rugby pitches, one soccer pitch, a cricket crease with pavilion, table tennis room, state of the art tennis courts, a fully equipped weights room and an athletics track.

Sport has been played at Castleknock since the foundation of the college. Throughout the mid-nineteenth century a game peculiar to Castleknock, known as Stilts, was played by the entire student body on a gravel patch in grounds. Owing to the often over-zealous efforts of the participants this game was discouraged by the College Fathers in favour of soccer, which was the game of choice among students of Castleknock until 1909 when it was replaced by rugby as the College's primary sport.[citation needed] In 1918 the College won the Leinster Colleges Senior hurling championship. Shortly afterwards the playing of Gaelic games was prohibited in the College and this ban has remained in place ever since.[citation needed]


Rugby posts were first erected in the College in November 1909. The school has won the Leinster Schools Senior Cup on eight occasions since first entering (and winning) the competition in 1913. Castleknock teams have been runners-up in the competition on fifteen occasions, contesting more finals than any other school apart from Belvedere College and Blackrock College. The Leinster Schools Junior Cup has also been won on eight occasions, the last time in 1966. Castleknock is considered to be one of the Major Leinster Rugby Schools. The others being Blackrock, Clongowes, Belvedere, Terenure, St Michael's and St Mary's.

Twenty six past men have represented Ireland at full international level, the most recent being Leinster Rugby's Devin Toner (Class of 2004) who has been capped on three occasions. Toner is one of two past men to have won the Heineken Cup (2009, 2011, 2012) with Denis Hurley of Munster Rugby lifting the trophy in 2008.

Past men James Leo Farrell and Michael Dunne were part of the British and Irish Lions touring squad to New Zealand and Australia. Farrell had also played for the Lions on the 1927 tour to Argentina.


Castleknock College has Minor, Junior, Intermediate and Senior Athletics teams which compete for, and have won, the West Leinster Championship.

Others sportsEdit

Castleknock College competes in a variety of other sports including cricket, athletics, tennis, golf, show-jumping, soccer.


Beginning in 2011, the music department within the school began to grow as a result of new staff within the College. Where the music department were previously limited to musicals and music as a leaving certificate subject, there now exists an award-winning Concert Orchestra, a Soul Band, a Junior Concert Band, a Barbershop Ensemble and an award-winning Choir.[citation needed]

Spiritual lifeEdit

The College chaplain and members of the Vincentian Community are available for guidance and counselling. The College has always encouraged pupils to become involved in caring for the less-well-off members of society.[citation needed]

The Boys' Chapel at Castleknock College.

The College ChapelEdit

Masses are held daily within the Boys' Chapel by members of the Vincentian community. An annual Family Mass for each Year is celebrated at which boys of that Year and their families participate together with the Community and teachers. Masses are held at regular times in the Chapel (e.g. Lent, Advent, Exam Time). Year and Class Masses, Benediction, scripture/prayer group meetings are held regularly throughout the year. Opportunity to attend the Sacrament of Reconciliation is available during the school week and also after Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament on Thursday nights.

The College Chapel houses a large pipe organ which dates back to the early 1850's. The Chapel Organ was installed as a gift to the college community at the generosity of Charles-Gerrard, Brother of the Lord. It is used in college masses and services.

SVP - Society of Saint Vincent de PaulEdit

Castleknock College was established by the Congregation of the Mission (Vincentians), the religious order founded by St. Vincent de Paul; the college follows the ethos and traditions of the Vincentian order. The most popular student society within the College is the St. Vincent de Paul Society; charity work undertaken by the school community is organised through the St Vincent de Paul Society.

Members are involved in helping the impoverished through a variety of means such as visiting local centres for people with special needs. The SVP conferences also raise funds and collect food for the sister conferences in the Dublin 15 area.

Castleknock Ambo PartnershipEdit

Inaugurated in 2008 and expected to continue indefinitely, the Young Vincentian Mission sends a small group of Fifth Year students to work and live with the Vincentian community in Ethiopia, for two to three weeks each summer, overseen by the VLM - Vincentian Lay Missionaries [1]. The first group in 2008 traveled to Mekelle in Northern Ethiopia and since 2009 the students have traveled to Ambo, Ethiopia. Successful applicants are trained and engage in a range of voluntary work for those struck by extreme poverty in Ambo, including teaching in the local Vincentian school, working in the Vincentian Food Programme, the Vincentian School for the Deaf, a leprosy village befriending members of the community and coaching Ambo United Football Club. Students are required to raise sufficient funds to meet their travel and subsistence expenses, and events are organised within and without the College to raise funds. This Development Programme has enabled the construction of expanded education facilities and the provision of medical and food supplies.[citation needed]

Other extra–curricular activitiesEdit

Extra–curricular activities offered include membership of the Painting Society, the Chess Club, Irish literature - Ceardlann Litríocht na Gaeilge, the Cumann Gaeilge, the Maths Society, the Prefect Mentoring System, Debating, Band, Music, Language societies (French, Spanish, German and Chinese), Book Club, student enterprise, SVP - Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, Speech and Drama, charity work, the History Society and Picasso's Left Ear (Student Intellectual Publication).


In 2007 the Under-16 Chess team won the Leinster Championship and finished Runners Up in the All-Ireland Championship. Sixth Year student, Anthony Bourached, recently won the Leinster Under-18 Chess Championship.


Debating is a tradition dating back to the school's founding in the 1830s. It was originally taught in the school curriculum during the Victorian era and was originally known as 'Public Oration'. There are separate clubs for junior and senior pupils.The school's debating society has contributed to the Irish World Schools Debating Team, with 5 students representing Ireland since the competition's beginning in 1988. In both 2007 (Alan Henry & Liam O'Connell) and 2008 (Adam Noonan & Killian Breen) the College won the Leinster Schools Senior Debating Championships. The college holds gold medal debates for every academic year giving the students the opportunity to win the medal on prize day if they win the debate. The gold medal debates are used in sixth year to select an eligible Valedictorian for the year, who give his address at both the graduation mass and again at prize day.The college's debaters participate in many competitions including the L&H debates in UCD.

Castleknock ChronicleEdit

The Castleknock Chronicle has been published every year since 1888; it is a record of the main events in the College, and a valuable historical source. It records the students in each year group and the members of every team and society in the college. In has photographs and articles written by staff and students about events in the college. The Chronicle also holds the distinction of being the publisher of the last-known photograph of the RMS Titanic.[5] As of 2011 it was being digitised.


There are two hills in the grounds: the Windmill Hill and the hill of the castle. The former is reputed to be the burial mound of Cumhal, father of Fionn mac Cumhail, a legendary Irish warrior. According to legend, Cumhal was interred here following his death at the Battle of Cnucha. An archaeological dig of this hill carried out in June 2007 revealed the remains of four human skeletons probably dating from the Early Christian period. The second hill is topped with the remains of Castleknock Castle which dates from the early thirteenth century, when it was founded by the Norman knight Hugh Tyrrell, who was later created Baron of Castleknock. He chose this location near the end of the esker which stretches from Galway to Dublin. Built on two mounds of the esker, it commanded the route into Dublin from the west. Castleknock was the final rallying point for the forces of the last High King of Ireland, Rory O'Connor. He failed to drive the Cambro-Normans from the area around Dublin in 1171.[citation needed]

The college is set on landscaped parkland estate with nine rugby pitches, a cricket crease and pavilion, a soccer pitch, an athletics and running track, six state of the art tennis courts and acres of land in which cows graze and wildlife such as pheasants, rabbits and squirrels are in abundance. There is car parking for students and others. The college is close to Castleknock village and is located beside Farmleigh Estate and the Phoenix Park.

College BuildingsEdit

The college consists mainly of three buildings, McNamara house, Cregan house and the Dowley house. The McNamara and Cregan buildings are connected via the foyer known as 'St Vincent's Hall'. McNamara house contain several other wings and Vincentian community facilities as well as other classrooms and subject specific rooms. McNamara House also contains the library, concert hall, day boys' refectory and the boarders refectory.

The Boys' Refectory at Castleknock College.

Building works 2005–2009Edit

From 2005 the College was renewed, at a cost in the region of €16 million.[citation needed] A 'Link Building' was built, and existing buildings expanded and refurbished; Irish President Mary McAleese officially opened the newly restored buildings on 29 September 2008. A state-of-the-art multi purpose sports and tennis ground was recently built, allowing for students and others to enjoy various activities.

Cultural associationsEdit

The school featured indirectly but prominently in Gerard Siggins' series of novels Rugby Rebel as the shared basis of Castlerock College (a portmanteau of Castleknock College and Blackrock College), the boarding school which the protagonist Eoin attends. The popular fictional series starring Ross O'Carroll Kelly has mentioned Castleknock on a number of occasions in the books and Irish Times columns; the name of the fictional school the lead character attended was also Castlerock College.

Partially filmed at CastleknockEdit

The 2016 Irish comedy-drama film Handsome Devil directed by John Butler was predominantly filmed at Castleknock and featured as the fictional all-boys boarding school 'Woodhill College'. It was screened in the Contemporary World Cinema section at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival. It centres on an ostracised teenager (Fionn O'Shea) at an elite rugby-obsessed all boys boarding school in Ireland whose new roommate (Nicholas Galitzine) is the school's new rugby star-player. The two form an unlikely friendship until it is tested by those around them. Handsome Devil has received critical acclaim, winning the award for Best Irish Feature of 2017 from the Dublin Film Critics' Circle;four nominations at the 2018 Irish Film and Television Academy (IFTA) Awards, including Best Feature Film; and the Best Single Drama Award at the annual Celtic Media Festival in 2018.

Evelyn, the 2002 drama film loosely based on the true story of Desmond Doyle and his fight in the Irish courts (December 1955) to be reunited with his children was predominantly filmed at Castleknock and featured as the orphanage. The film stars Sophie Vavasseur in the title role, Pierce Brosnan as her father and Aidan Quinn, Julianna Margulies, Stephen Reaand Alan Bates as supporters to Doyle's case. The film had a limited release in the United States, starting on December 13, 2002 and was later followed by the United Kingdom release on March 21, 2003.

Notable past pupilsEdit

Former pupils of Castleknock College are known as Pastmen.

Academia, Science & Medicine

Arts & Media




Politics & Diplomacy



In Fiction

Notable past teachersEdit

Partner SchoolsEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "History - Castleknock College". Castleknock College. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  2. ^ William John Fitzpatrick, Memories of Father Healy of Little Bray, Macmillan, 1895, page 14
  3. ^ Secondary Schools - St. Vincents Castleknock Dubin
  4. ^ "Vincentian Ethos - Castleknock College". Retrieved 05/04/2018. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  5. ^ "Titanic: The Last Photograph?". 23 April 2004.

External linksEdit