Like most national schools in the 1950s, the bunscoil in Coláiste Iognáid (the Jes ) used to have a little break, known as a ‘sos’, mid morning. The lowest class in the Jes was Bun Rang II and they had a charismatic teacher named Power, who was known only as ‘An Paorach’. This man was a Gaeilgeóir who taught everything through Irish, but made it fun. You had to learn songs like ‘Beidh Aonach Amárach i gContae an Chláir’ or ‘Trasna na dTonnta dul siar, dul siar’. Weather permitting he would use the period of the ‘sos’ to take his pupils out drilling around the pitch, always carrying a whistle and issuing his commands in Irish.
Our photograph, which was taken in 1951, shows him with one such group. The boys in the front row are, left to right: John McBride, Barry Martin, Peter McDonagh, and Joe King. In the middle row are Paul O’Flynn, Eddie Garavan, Christy Tierney, Paddy Dolan, Dick Walsh, Michael McCarthy, and P Carr (or Kerr ). At the back are Dónall Ó Luanaigh, Gabriel O’Hehir, Mícheál Ó hUiginn (Fr Griffin Road ), Gerard Maume, Brendan Healy, and Brian Walsh.
The Jes has undergone many changes since it opened its doors in 1862. It started off with low numbers of pupils, but gradually they increased. However numbers eventually declined to such an extent that the college closed in 1926. Serious pressure from parents and various authorities convinced the Jesuits to reopen the school in 1929 with 79 pupils. A number of new committed teachers joined the staff. In 1931, the Jes became an A school where every subject was taught through Irish and no foreign games were played by the students.
This sporting mould was broken by a group of students who in 1970 put a rugby team together, called themselves ‘St John’s’, and won the first City Cup. The GAA ban was removed the following year. Classes were being divided into Irish and English streams, so the Irish-only rule no longer applied. The first tentative steps towards a co-educational system were taken in 1974 when three girls joined one of the classes. The school soon became entirely co-ed and today it has more than 600 pupils who can choose from a large number of academic subjects and a great variety of extra-curricular activities. A new state-of-the-art school building was opened last year by President Michael D Higgins.
This is one of the many photographs in a recently published book entitled The Jes, 150 Years of the Jesuits in Galway, 1862-2012. It consists of some history, memories, nostalgia, and fun and is available in all good bookshops. In addition, the Jes Rowing Club recently published a History of 80 Years of Rowing in the Jes which documents the highs and lows of the sport in the school and is also available in the school or in good bookshops. Perfect Christmas gifts for any Jes-head, old or young.
Finally, the Jes Past Pupils’ Union is organising a Mass for all deceased pupils and members on Sunday next in St Ignatius’ Church at 11am. All are welcome, whether you were in the school or not. Tea and coffee will be served afterwards.