St. Conleth's College - About the Junior School
Founded by Bernard Sheppard in 1939, St. Conleth’s College is a lay Catholic School. It comprises both a Junior and a Secondary School. The School opened its doors for the first time on the 4th of September 1939 at 17 Clyde Road and moved to 28 Clyde Road after the Christmas Holidays of 1940. The Junior School admits boys only, while the Senior School opens its door to girls in 5th and 6th year.
The war years were difficult, setting up a school at such a time was even more difficult but Bernard Sheppard saw the need for a private school and fulfilled his dream. One of the first teachers to join the teaching staff on the 15th of April 1940 was Mr. Michael Murphy who had a total of 18 pupils between 7 – 15 years. Students of that time attending the school recount that by 1942 cars were off the road so the train was taken into town, then a No. 10 bus to Clyde Road, the fare two old pence. In 1943 three students from St. Conleth’s College sat the Leaving Certificate. The following year, 1944, Mr. Kevin Kelleher joined the School. That year five students were sitting the Leaving Certificate and doing remarkably well. In 2004, Mr. Kevin Kelleher will celebrate 60 years in the School, a remarkable achievement by any standards.
The 1950s saw a period of growth, a new school growing in confidence and gaining reputation. Then in 1957 the tragic death of Mr. Bernard Sheppard occurred during the Christmas break and this was a major shock to the whole school community. Only for the dedication and trojan work of his wife Patricia and Mr. Kevin Kelleher surely the school would have closed. By today’s standard the numbers in the 1950s were small. Although the Junior School numbers were increasing during this time the Senior School suffered from dwindling numbers as boys were sent to larger schools or indeed boarding schools in Ireland and England, Clongowes and Ampleforth to name but two.
Sport was always an important part of life in St. Conleth’s and Kevin Kelleher a distinguished International Referee and an Administrator of Schools Rugby played no small part in the development of rugby in the School. Gymnastics or Drill as it was called in those days under the guidance of Mr. Bunyan came into its own on Sports Day. The boys wore white shorts and performed for their parents. Cricket was also played but the weather and the Spring Show conspired against it, eventually it lost popularity. Fencing also became popular in the school from the 1960s thanks to the wonderful work of Mr. Paddy Duffy, the Fencing Master. That fine tradition has carried right on up to the present day. Past pupils of the School have represented their country at fencing in the Olympic Games. Tennis too was played by Conlethian’s and continues today under the watchful eye of our Games Master, Mr. Seamus Keenan.
As the School grew various extensions were added in 1950, the mid 1960s, 1974, 1986, and 1992. Two further extensions have taken place since my arrival, one in 1995 which added three new classrooms to the Junior School, a state of the art gymnasium and a new canteen. Finally 2002 saw the development of a new First Form classroom and also the addition of a new Art and Music room. All of these extensions were privately funded, with no capital funding from the State.
Today the total population of the School is 330 boys and girls. Of that number 110 pupils attend the Junior School. The Junior School acts as a “feeder” for the Senior School and we would hope that 20 or 21 boys out of a class of 24 Sixth Formers would go on and enter our Senior School. The Junior School has changed dramatically since the early 90s. In 1994 there were 58 children attending the Junior School. All the time the new Second Form began to boost school numbers and by the mid 1990s we were nearing 100 pupils. There was no doubt that if the Junior School was to continue to grow a new building programme was urgently required. This was done quickly and efficiently and we moved into our new classrooms four years ago.
Today the top three classes boast 70 children, greater than the entire school population of less than ten years ago. With these huge changes it was obvious that the School needed to develop and introduce a comprehensive school plan and give some thought to where the school is going to be, or where we want it to be four or five years hence. Is it any wonder therefore that Ann Sheppard, daughter of the School’s founder, should be to the fore as Director of Development at St. Conleth’s helping to develop and introduce a School based Plan to ensure the continued success of the school founded by her father 64 years ago.