Clongowes Wood College

Clongowes Wood College is a voluntary boarding school for boys, located near Clane in County Kildare, Ireland. The school was founded by the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in 1814,[2] and featured prominently in James Joyce's semi-autobiographical novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. One of five Jesuit schools in Ireland, it had 450 students in 2019.[3]

Clongowes Wood College S.J.
Coordinates53°18′39.3″N 6°41′0.4″W / 53.310917°N 6.683444°W / 53.310917; -6.683444Coordinates: 53°18′39.3″N 6°41′0.4″W / 53.310917°N 6.683444°W / 53.310917; -6.683444
TypeVoluntary boarding school
MottoAeterna Non Caduca
(The Eternal not the Passing)
Religious affiliation(s)Roman Catholic
Society of Jesus
Established1814; 207 years ago (1814)
FounderPeter Kenney
RectorFr Michael Sheil SJ
HeadmasterMr Chris Lumb
Age13 to 18
Enrollment450 (2018[needs update])
Campus size1100 Acres
HousesArrupe, Collins, Claver, Gonzaga, Hopkins, Kenney, Kostka, Loyola, Sullivan, Xavier
Colour(s)Purple and white
PublicationThe Clongownian
YearbookThe Clongownian
School feesinformation available upon enquiry [1]
AffiliationSociety of Jesus
Main Building, Clongowes Wood College - Kildare, Ireland.JPG

The school's current headmaster is Christopher Lumb (2015–present). He is the first lay headmaster of Clongowes Wood College SJ in its over 200-year history.[4]


The school is a secondary boarding school for boys from Ireland and other parts of the world.[5] The school is divided into three groups, known as "lines". The Third Line is for first and second year students, the Lower Line for third and fourth years, and the Higher Line for fifth and sixth years. Each year is known by a name, drawn from the Jesuit Ratio Studiorum: Elements (first year), Rudiments (second), Grammar (third), Syntax (fourth), Poetry (fifth), and Rhetoric (sixth).[6]


The medieval castle was originally built in the 13th century by Stuart Cullen, an early Anglo-Norman warrior and landowner in northern Kildare.[7] He had been given extensive lands in the area of Kill, Celbridge, and Mainham by his brother, Rurai Blaney, who had come to Ireland with Strongbow, the Earl of Pembroke.

The castle is the residence of the religious community and was improved by a "chocolate box" type restoration in the 18th century. It was rebuilt in 1718 by Stephen Fitzwilliam Browne and extended in 1788 by Thomas Wogan Browne.[8] It is situated beside a ditch and wall—known as ramparts—constructed for the defence of the Pale in the 14th century. The building was completely refurbished in 2004 and the reception area was moved back there from the "1999 building."

The castle is connected to the modern buildings by an elevated corridor hung with portraits, the Serpentine Gallery referred to by James Joyce.[9] This gallery was completely demolished and rebuilt in 2004 as part of a redevelopment programme for the school buildings.

The Serpentine Gallery – a portrait corridor connecting Clongowes castle to modern buildings
The Jesuit Community Library at Clongowes Wood College SJ
The College coat of arms in the Community Reception Room at Clongowes Wood College SJ
The Jesuit Community Reception Room at Clongowes Wood College SJ

In 1929 another wing was built at a cost of £135,000, presenting the rear façade of the school. It houses the main classrooms and the Elements, Rudiments, Grammar and Syntax dormitories.

An expansion and modernisation was completed in 2000; the €4.8m project added another residential wing that included a 500-seat dining hall, kitchen, entrance hall, offices, and study/bedrooms for sixth year ("Rhetoric") students.[10]

The Boys' Chapel has an elaborate reredos, a large pipe-organ in the gallery, and a sequence of Stations of the Cross painted by Sean Keating. School tradition has it that the portrait of Pontius Pilate in the 12th station was based on the school rector, who had refused to pay the artist his asking price.

The moat that outlines the nearby forest of the college is the old border of The Pale, with the Wogan-Browne castle (now the residence of the Jesuit community) landmarking its edge.

The Boys' Chapel at Clongowes Wood College SJ
The altar in the Boys' Chapel at Clongowes


The school traces its history back to a 799-acre (3.23 km2) estate owned by the Wogan family in 1418 under the reign of Henry IV. The name "Clongowes" comes from the Irish for "meadow" (cluain) and for "blacksmith" (gobha). The estate was originally known as "Clongowes de Silva" (de Silva meaning "of the wood" in Latin).[11] The estate later passed to the Eustace family and became part of the fortified border of the Pale in 1494. The Eustaces lost their estates during the Restoration (1660).[12] The estate was sold by the Wogan-Brownes to the Jesuits in March 1814 for £16,000.

Plaque outside reception, commemorating its 1st pupil James McLornan on 18 May 1814

The school accepted its first pupil, James McLornan, on 18 May 1814.[13]

In 1886 the Jesuit-run St Stanislaus College in Tullabeg, County Offaly, was amalgamated with Clongowes Wood College.[14]

Fr. Joseph Dargan SJ served as rector in the 1970's. Leonard Moloney was the headmaster from 2004 to 2015.[15] Fr. Michael Sheil retired as rector in 2006 and Bruce Bradley[16] (headmaster 1992–2000) was his successor. In September 2011 Fr. Michael Sheil returned as rector.

As of 2020, there are five Jesuits living at the school.[16]

Clongowes is also part of an initiative to ease religious tensions in Turkey, currently being headed by Fr. Alan McGuckian (former teacher in Clongowes now Bishop of Raphoe) in Istanbul.


  • Fr. Frank Crowe SJ (1971–1976)
  • Ft. Philip Fogarty SJ (July 1976 – Aug 1987)
  • Fr. Michael Sheil SJ
  • Fr. Bruce Bradley SJ
  • Fr. Dermot Murray SJ (2000–2004)
  • Fr. Leonard Moloney SJ (2004–2015)
  • Mr. Chris Lumb (2015–present) – first lay headmaster


  • Fr. Peter Kenney SJ (1814–1817) – founder of the college
  • Fr. Charles Aylmer SJ (1817–1820) – took out lease of land for Tullabeg College
  • Fr. Bartholomew Esmonde SJ (1829–1836)
  • Fr. Robert Haly SJ (1836–1841) and (1842–1850)
  • Fr. Michael A Kavanagh SJ (1850–1855)
  • Fr. John Conmee SJ
  • Fr. Michael Connolly SJ
  • Fr. Charles Mulcahy SJ (1919–1921)
  • Fr. Redmond Roche SJ
  • Fr. Hilary Lawton SJ
  • Fr. Frank Crowe SJ (1968–71 and 1992–95)
  • Fr. Joseph Dargan SJ (1977–1979)
  • Fr. Paddy Carberry SJ (1980–1983)
  • Fr. Kieran Hanley SJ (1983–)
  • Fr. Dermot Murray SJ (1995–2000)
  • Fr. Michael Sheil SJ (2000–2006)
  • Fr. Bruce Bradley SJ (2006–2011)
  • Fr. Michael Sheil SJ (2011–present)

Historical accountsEdit

One early history of the school is The Clongowes Record 1814–1932 by Fr Timothy Corcoran, S.J. (Browne and Nolan, Dublin, 1932). A half-century later, a history was written by Fr Roland Burke Savage, S.J., and published in The Clongownian school magazine during the 1980s; that same decade, Peter Costello wrote Clongowes Wood: a History of Clongowes Wood College 1814–1989, published by Gill and Macmillan, Dublin, 1989).

Statue of Ignatius of Loyola in reception area


Clongowes is known for its strong pedigree in rugby union. Despite a relatively small size, Clongowes has won the Leinster Schools Rugby Senior Cup on nine occasions, winning its first final in 1926. Following this there was a gap of 52 years until the next title in 1978. Beginning with a 3rd title in 1988 and up until 2011, Clongowes has appeared in 13 finals, more than any other school in the competition during this period.[citation needed] Clongowes secured a first set of back-to-back titles with wins in 2010 and 2011 before being awarded a joint title in the 2020 season which was cut short because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cultural associationsEdit

The school featured prominently in James Joyce's semi-autobiographical novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. A documentary depicting a year in the life in the school was screened in 2001 as part of RTÉ's True Lives series.[17] The popular fictional series of Ross O'Carroll Kelly has mentioned Clongowes Wood on a number of occasions in the book and Irish Times column.

More recently a promotional video was published on the school's YouTube channel, entitled "Sixth Year Speeches: Our Message to You", a high-budget short film funded by the school. In this video they premiere the establishment of a new secondary slogan for the school: "Go forth, and set the world on fire", which aims to encourage their pupils to make a difference in the world. The video revolves around a first year pupil joining the school and going through the daily activities.

Selected notable past pupilsEdit

Arts and mediaEdit


Politics and diplomacyEdit


  • Francis Clery, British Army General who commanded 2nd Division during the Second Boer War
  • Eugene Esmonde, Second World War pilot and posthumous recipient of the Victoria Cross
  • Aidan MacCarthy OBE GM, Air Commodore RAF, Doctor, author of 'A Doctor's War'
  • Pat Reid, MBE, MC, British Army officer who escaped from Colditz and noted nonfiction and historical author


Science and medicineEdit



  • Tadhg Beirne, Irish rugby union international, Munster rugby player
  • Brian Carney, Irish rugby league player
  • Will Connors, Irish rugby union international, Leinster Rugby Player and former Ireland sevens player
  • Thomas Crean, Irish rugby union player, British Army soldier and doctor
  • Gordon D'Arcy, Irish rugby union international, British & Irish Lion, Leinster rugby player
  • Ted Durcan, Champion Flat Jockey, Winner of multiple global classic races
  • Paddy Hopkirk, International Rally driver, winner of Monte Carlo Rally
  • David Kearney, Irish rugby union international, Leinster rugby player
  • Rob Kearney, Irish rugby union international, British & Irish Lion, Leinster rugby player
  • James Magee, Irish cricketer and rugby union player
  • Fergus McFadden, Irish rugby union international, Leinster rugby player.
  • Max McFarland, Scotland rugby sevens international
  • Noel Purcell, Irish rugby union player, Irish & GB water polo Olympian, the first man to have represented two countries at the Olympics[citation needed]
  • Patrick Quinlan, Australian cricketer and lawyer
  • Arthur Robinson, Irish first-class cricketer

Partner schoolsEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Mitchell, Susan; Maguire, Áine (20 July 2008). "Parents face big jump in private school fees". The Post. Archived from the original on 22 May 2010. Retrieved 2 May 2010.
  2. ^ "1814-1886". 12 October 2008. Archived from the original on 12 October 2008.
  3. ^ "Clongowes Wood College, Kildare on". Retrieved 16 April 2020.
  4. ^ a b c[bare URL]
  5. ^ "Admissions Policy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 November 2007. Retrieved 14 October 2008.
  6. ^ "Organisation and Structure". 17 September 2009. Archived from the original on 17 September 2009.
  7. ^ Costello, Peter (1989). Clongowes Wood: a history of Clongowes Wood College, 1814–1989. Gill and Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-7171-1466-5. Retrieved 10 March 2011.
  8. ^ A Short History of Clongowes Wood College by Brendan Cullen, 2011, p. 2
  9. ^ A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce. Chapter 5, 25 March, Morning: "A long curving gallery. From the floor ascend pillars of dark vapours. It is peopled by the images of fabulous kings, set in stone. Their hands are folded upon their knees in token of weariness and their eyes are darkened for the errors of men go up before them for ever as dark vapours."
  10. ^ "LeeMcCullough - Clongowes Wood College". Retrieved 3 October 2015.
  11. ^ "Before The Jesuits". Archived from the original on 12 October 2008. Retrieved 14 October 2008.
  12. ^ "The Wogan Brownes". Archived from the original on 8 April 2007. Retrieved 12 March 2007.
  13. ^ "18141886". Clongowes Wood College S.J. Archived from the original on 2 December 2009.
  14. ^ "tullabeg-rahan-1818–1968 - Offaly History". Archived from the original on 13 December 2016. Retrieved 27 February 2017.
  15. ^ "Headmaster's Welcome". 23 October 2008. Archived from the original on 23 October 2008.
  16. ^ a b "Jesuit Community". 16 December 2008. Archived from the original on 16 December 2008.
  17. ^ John O'Sullivan (30 April 2001). "Clongowes on view". Retrieved 3 October 2015.
  18. ^ Brendan Barrington, ed., The Dublin Review issues 10–13 (2003), p. 15

External linksEdit