St. Kilian's Community School, Ballywaltrim, Bray

History of the School

St. Kilian’s Community School, Ballywaltrim, Bray. 

St. Kilian’s Community School had very modest beginnings in 1981 in a Nissen hut, a kind of converted British military shed at the junction of the Boghall and Schools’ Roads. This was a World-War-II aircraft hangar, and served the Ballywaltrim and Boghall Road area as a local hall for many years, until the new Community Centre was opened in the early years of the new century. Many local people have happy memories of bingo, musicals, plays and discos in the old hall.

The school had been established after representatives of the Ballywaltrim parish had approached the Department of Education and Science to appeal for a new second-level school for the area. Those involved included members of the Franciscan Order such as Fr. Roderick Ahearne, parish priest of the area, and also a Loreto nun, Sr. Eileen Randles, who had been the Manager of Loreto Secondary School in Bray and is now a well-known historian of education.

The Department of Education was faced with a choice at a time when Bray was expanding southwards at a furious pace: what kind of second-level school would be set up? A “Voluntary Secondary School” would have cost the religious orders a proportion of the establishment costs and was ruled out by the orders concerned. The options remaining were either a Vocational school – there was one in the town already, which is now St. Thomas’s Community College – or a new type of school, the first of which had opened in Ireland in 1970, the “Community School”. These schools were intended to provide a broad curriculum and were based roughly on the British comprehensive model. They were to be managed by the religious orders and the local Vocational Education Committee, in partnership with parents and teachers.

It was decided to establish a community school. The Franciscan and Marist Orders became involved in the management of the school in 1981. However, tensions arose over the establishment of this type of school, and Bray VEC decided not to become involved at that time. Happily, these problems have since been resolved, and Wicklow VEC now takes a full part in the management of St. Kilian’s. Members of the Franciscan order have served as Chaplains, including Fr. Pat Power from 1986 until 2008, who is still fondly remembered by students and staff. Tom Purcell, who replaced Fr Pat as Chaplain, was also a member of the order.  Ms Roseanne Sinnott was appointed as the school's new Chaplain in January, 2013.

The school was opened in September 1981 with the late Kevin Meehan as Principal, and the late J. A. (‘Alf’) McNamara as Vice Principal. Denis McWatt from Cheshire, later to become Deputy Principal himself, joined them, as did Dr. Maureen O’Rafferty, who taught at St. Kilian’s until her retirement in 2013. Sr. Mary Johnson of the Marist Order, Bernard Costello, later a successful businessman in Bray, Jim Devine, later the Head of Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art Design and Technology, Lorna O’Reilly and Gay McKenna, both now retired, completed the full-time staff. Along with some part-time teachers, the staff and 70 First Year students sat in the Nissen hut, divided into three classes by curtains. Everyone could hear the slightest sound from the other two classes, and at the end of every day the furniture had to be put away for the evening for the bingo.

Builders were at this time working on the current site, which now commands one of the finest views in the town. The school building, imaginatively designed, is a single-storey redbrick rectangle surrounding a courtyard. Viewed from the Killarney Road, it is unobtrusive and pleasantly situated and faces the Little Sugarloaf Mountain. The school building was occupied in 1982, and enrolments and staff numbers grew accordingly.

By the time of the first Leaving Cert exam in 1986, the school had around 27 classes, all in a maroon uniform. Many of the staff wore academic gowns, and the students had a range of over 20 subjects to choose from. The school quickly established a reputation for the commitment and dynamism of its teachers, who were constantly involved in sports, theatre and musical events in the area, such as the Tops of the Town Competition. At this time too, the Music teacher Frank Kelly set up the Bray Choral Society, which has grown to about 120 members and has regularly performed in the Holy Redeemer Church in Bray, the National Concert Hall and on RTE. The Bray Youth Choir was later established, and many of the members are students in the school.

Kevin Meehan and Alf McNamara got involved in fund-raising for a Sports Centre, and, by the end of the decade, the St. Kilian’s Community Sports Complex was opened, thanks to a huge effort from the Ballywaltrim area. The complex is now managed in collaboration with local area representatives. Kevin was also involved with local sporting clubs in making sure that land was set aside for what is now Ballywaltrim Linear Park, with 7 pitches for Gaelic and soccer and changing facilities, as well as footpaths provided by the Town Council. The school has also recently worked with community representatives to build and fence an all-weather pitch facing the Killarney Road, with generous support from Wicklow VEC.

In 1983, Kevin Meehan looked for a partner school in Germany and visited the Matthias Grünewald Gymnasium in Würzburg, Bavaria, with Woodwork teacher Martin Browne and a large group of students. The Germans came to visit St. Kilian’s the following year, and the links set up were so successful and enduring that the students and staff still visit each other’s schools every year. In 2013 we celebrated the 30th anniversary of the exchange. What is more, as a result of this, the city of Würzburg is now twinned with the County of Wicklow and marked the 10th anniversary of the twinning some years ago. The school also has links with the Collége Bertholot in Bégles, near Bordeaux, France, which is also now twinned with Bray.

The school has always taken great pride and pleasure in the achievements of its past and present students. This has been taken to an unprecedented level by the sporting exploits and achievements of our Olympic, World and European Champion, Katie Taylor. In particular, Katie's success at the London Olympics in August 2012 was a time of immense pride and reflected glory as the school community shared in her tremendous success. Many of the school's happiest days in recent history have been spent sharing in Katie's innumerable successes on her frequent return visits to St Kilian's.

We look forward to a bright future, and hope we will carry on the tradition of hard work, warmth and hospitality set by the early students and staff back in 1981. Our highly-respected Principal, Michael Sheridan, retired in February 2012 after twenty-eight years of dedicated service to the school, half of this time as Principal. In his tenure as Principal, Mr Sheridan contributed greatly to the development of the school, its grounds and facilities. As Principal, Mr. Sheridan worked, successively, with four Deputy Principals; the late Mr Alf McNamara, Mr Denis McWatt, Mr John Macnamara and Mr John Murphy.  The current senior management team comprises Mr. John Murphy as Principal, and Ms. Leah Bools as Deputy Principal.

It was with great sadness that the school community learnt of the passing, on September 9th 2013, of our greatly-esteemed and much-loved former Principal, Kevin Meehan R.I.P..Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

 

 

 

Principals:

M. K. (Kevin) Meehan  R.I.P.
1981-1998
Michael Sheridan 1998-2012
John Murphy 2012-Present

Deputy Principals:

J. A. (Alf) McNamara R.I.P. 1981-2002
Denis McWatt  2002-2005
John Macnamara 2005-2010
John Murphy 2010-2012
Leah Bools 2012-Present