The establishment by the Patrician Brothers of a school for boys would have a fundamental influence on education in Galway for about 130 years. The school was set up by Brothers Paul O’Connor and James Walsh on a site belonging to the Charity Free School which was formerly an army barracks, and it opened in January 1827. Three hundred boys attended on that day. The total funding available to the school was the sum of one shilling.
Within a year, there were 700 pupils attending. Most of those boys came from a very poor background, and the Brothers found it difficult to create an enthusiasm for learning among lads who were half starved and often half clothed. A fundraising campaign was launched and, within a few years, sufficient finance had been raised to open the Poor Boy’s Breakfast Institute. This enabled every child attending the school to have a breakfast every morning before classes began. The breakfasts were served every day for many years, and during the Famine they were serving about a thousand people daily. Tradition has it that there were times when the Brothers themselves were occasionally on the verge of collapse as they were sharing their own food with the boys.
This level of sustenance meant attendance at school became a lot more regular, the education continued with the result that the Galway Mercury was able to report that “The Lombard Street School is far and away superior, not alone to any in Galway, but to any similar establishment in Connacht.”
Sixty years after the foundation of the school, about one half of the money collected each year was spent on food, and the bulk of the remainder went on clothing. The importance of the charity lay in not only making attendance at school possible, but in making it attractive.
In addition to the normal subjects taught, the school established a fife and drum band which gave many performances throughout the city. Plays were produced, a choir established, a harmonica school band was set up, some practical subjects such as carpentry were taught. Sport was also important, with the main emphasis on Gaelic games.
In 1954 ‘The Mon’ finally closed its doors and all the pupils moved down the street to the newly built St Patrick’s School. Brother Louis O’Sullivan was the last principal of the Mon.
The site of the school is now a car park. On September 12, 1993, the Old Mon Boys Association erected a plaque there in grateful appreciation of the Patrician Brothers.