The history of St Vincent’s Castleknock College Dublin dates back to the early nineteenth century when in 1830, a year after the passing of Catholic Emancipation, four young priests from Maynooth College obtained permission to open a day school at 24 Usher’s Quay, in the heart of Dublin city, under the patronage of the Archbishop of Dublin.
On October 18th 1834 one of the priests, Fr. John McCann, paid £3,600 for just over 40 acres (two-fifths of the present grounds) at Castleknock with the intention of opening a seminary to educate boys wishing to enter the religious life as well as those who wished to pursue a more secular life. A further £600 was paid in refurbishment costs in preparation for the new school. Fr. McCann remained as bursar of the college until his passing in 1860.
On August 28th 1835 St. Vincent’s Ecclesiastical Seminary opened. The Very Rev. Philip Dowley CM left his position as Dean of Maynooth College to become the first President of St Vincent’s Castleknock College. John Lynch of Clones, Co. Monaghan, later the first Archbishop of Toronto, was the first student to enroll. “I came on the Sunday before the opening Monday and had time to roam about the hills and inspect everything. On Monday morning, about eleven o’clock, some boys arrived and we became friends at first sight. Each had a supply of cakes and other good things so that when dinner came round we had but little appetite.”
Forty-seven boys enrolled in the first year and by 1860 one hundred boys had enrolled. Students studied Humanity, Rhetoric, Logic, Natural Philosophy (Maths and Physics) and Theology. Of the six hundred and thirty-five students who graduated from the college between 1836 and 1861, one hundred and forty-seven (23%) entered the religious life and of these one hundred and three were ordained to the priesthood. Many assumed roles in the New World, such as Rev Patrick Moran, Archbishop of Sydney and Rev Michael Verdon, Bishop of Dunedin. (Bishop Verdon was responsible for setting up a seminary at Mosgiel and had hoped to staff it with Vincentian priests.)
Since then the college has evolved through additional building, refurbishment and the provision of state-of-the-art facilities to become one of the most fully-equipped colleges in Ireland today at the forefront of modern education. In 1987 the college welcomed day students for the first time and the integration proved particularly fruitful and brought a new dynamism to St Vincent’s Castleknock College. In June 2006 the college took the final step towards becoming an all day school when it bade farewell to its final group of boarders. The buildings which formerly housed the accommodation for the boarding students have been extensively refurbished and now serve as extra classrooms.