In 1845, when Sir Robert Peel was in office, an act was passed providing for the establishment of three Queen’s colleges “In order to supply the want, which has long been felt in Ireland, of an improved academical education, equally accessible to all classes of the community without religious distinction”. Three faculties were established in each… arts, law, and physic (medicine ). The colleges were strictly undenominational, and the professors were forbidden by the statutes to make any statement disrespectful to the religious convictions of their classes, or to introduce political or polemical subjects.
Each of these faculties elected annually, from among its members, a dean of the faculty, who presided at its meetings and represented his faculty on the college council, which exercised the general administration of the college.
Queen’s College Galway had a president, vice-president, and 20 professors. It opened for registration of students on October 15 1849, and lectures began on the 20th of that month. In a report made by the president at the end of the session which ended in June 1850, it is stated that the college was opened under very unfavourable circumstances, owing to the smallness of the town population, the pressure of distress through the province, and “the almost total want of schools in it”, to which may be added the death of the Very Rev Dr Kirwan, the president nominated in the charter, whose place had been supplied by the vice-president.
Of the 68 candidates admitted at the entrance examinations, 38 were Catholics, 22 members of the Established Church, and eight of the Presbyterian Church. Arising out of the Synod of Thurles in August, 1850, the Catholic clergy were prohibited, under penalty of suspension, from taking part in the administration of the college, as the place was “proclaimed to be dangerous to faith and morals”.
This elevation of the west front of QCG was drawn by the architect IB Keane and published in 1848. Today it is called NUIG, though probably still known to most as UCG. The west front is that section that faces Newcastle Road. The central part of the building is where the Aula Maxima is situated. It was designed as an examination hall. On either side on the ground floor were to be classrooms, kitchens, pantries, rooms for study, and hallways (inside the doors we see ). Inside the two oriel windows near each end were parlours, and in the two end sections, which jutted out from the main building, were drawing rooms.
On either side of the Aula on the first floor was a classroom. The rest of the floor was taken up by bedrooms, six on the right for the vice-president’s rooms, and six on the left for the president’s rooms. This drawing shows what an elegant building it was and still is. The site for the college cost £2,575 7s, the legal expenses were £155 6s 11d, and the architect’s commission on account (as of July 6, 1848 ) was £600.