A Centre of Learning for Over 170 Years

Clare Champion, Friday, 12th February 1999

The Christian Brothers came to Ennis in 1827 and set up their first school in a corn store off Cornmarket Street at the request of the Bishop of Killaloe, Dr. McMahon. The population of the town at that time was 8,000 souls. The original school provided education for up to 400 pupils. Some years later the present site was purchased in a place outside the town, known as Newtown Stackpoole, now called New Road, and a two-storey school was opened there in 1832.

The Monastery was built in 1869 and the present secondary school was completed in 1937. Prior to this the primary and the secondary schools were housed in the same building, now part of the present primary school. In 1963 science laboratories were added and a major extension was completed in 1986.

The Christian Brothers taught in the college until 1990 when the remaining two Brothers left the secondary college. This major change left the college without religious for the first time in its long history. In that year a Board of Management was set up and the management of Rice College has been in their hands since. The first lay principal, John Weir, was appointed that year also. The present principal, Thomas Clohessy, took over the running of the college in 1995.

In 1997 Rice College began co-education with the introduction of the first group of girls into first year. As and from next September the Junior Cycle in the college will be co-ed. This change is slowly working its way through the college and so far it has proved extremely popular with parents, staff and the student body as a whole.

Rice college has a very active Parents Council which meets monthly and its various sub-committees do great work for the students at the college. The sub-committees are Parents Talks, Careers, Catering, Projects - Fund Raising.

The college has a long history of academic excellence and every effort is made to continue this tradition. Past pupils of the college are living all over the world. There is a strong tradition of linking back to base with class re-unions after 25 years.

Youth In Europe 2000

Rice College has been selected ro represent Ireland in a major European project called "Youth in Europe 2000" which will involve 13 countries. The aim of the project is to ascertain the views of young people on a wide range of topical issues such as nationality, political change, culture, tradition, ecology, challenge of globalise, changing society, religion, education and attitudes to foreigners. The study will take two years to complete and will involve students in the 15 - 17 age group. The teacher spearheading this study is Mary Crawford who is no stranger to international studies, having already taken part in a number of international initiatives.

Modern Languages and Exchange Visits

Students at Rice College study French and German. The college organises exchange visits to enhance language learning and to allow students to become aware of all aspects of culture and life abroad. The main exchange began in the late 1980s between College Joseph Calvet, in St. Paul de Fenouillet and many students both from Rice College and Coláiste Muire have had very successful exchanges with College Joseph Calvet. As a by-product of this exchange, Ennis and St. paul de Fenouillet were successfully twinned in 1989. The college still has exchange links with colleges in Northern France and Germany and Vetlanda in Sweden. Four successful exchanges have already taken place with Vetlanda, a college with such oustanding facilities that it is regarded as a model for the Nordic regions and receives many study visitations from many colleges throughout Europe. As a result of the successful Ennis Information Age Town image and the upgrading of the college to electronic status, Rice College has become linked with another such college, Holstebro Gymnasium & HF, Ringkjobing County, Denmark. This college is one of the IT-project colleges appointed by the Danish Ministry of Education.

Music

In recent years music has been offered as part of the curriculum at Junior Cycle leading ultimately to inclusion in Senior Cycle. It is felt necessary to provide a curriculum, which balances the academic with the artistic and in so doing, develop the full potential of each individual student. Musicians and dancers have gained recognition at local and national level with a yearly concert providing a platform to display the varied talent present in the college.

Rice College is perfectly poised to enter the new millennium with confidence. The IT department has spearheaded computer competency both within the college and in the wider community in the form of adult education night classes. The provision of Internet and E-mail access for students ensures their ability to communicate with the outside world in a skilled and competent manner.

Over the past four years students from one fifth year Religion class have been forgoing links with three of Ennis' hospitals. The students, under the guidance of John Burns, are divided into three visiting groups. They call to the residents of Cahercalla, Cappahard and St. Josephs every Monday. The visits have been a resounding success and have helped to bridge the gaps between the young and old, the healthy and the infirm.

The pupils are presented with awards from the Marino Institute of Education through the Secondary Schools Edmund Rice Programme.

Study Centre

When you think of the average length of a pupil's day, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. might spring to mind. How about 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.! What's more amazing is that this request for extra time has come from the pupils themselves. Students attending Rice College have over the past number of years been actively involved in the development and expansion of their Supervised Study Centre. Pupils from first to sixth years are offered a place to study, under teacher supervision. This service runs from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Thursday and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Fridays.

John Burns, one of the teachers, has directed the growth of the Study Centre over the past three years and sees his function as providing a clean, comfortable, pupil-centred and affordable place for students to study. This is vital as for many reasons pupils cannot work at home. At present, there is also a weekend study service operating for Junior and Leaving Certificate students.

Sports

Sports of all kinds are an important part of life in the college with hurling playing an integral role. The college encourages all who are interested in hurling to participate, and takes pride in the fact that many pupils and past pupils continue to represent their parish and club at all levels of the game. Seán MacMahon, Colin Lynch and Stephen McNamara, who have represented their county with distinction, are past pupils and have represented the college in Munster and Clare Colleges Competitions. The Harty Cup win in 1962 is a treasured memory to many, while the Corn Phádraig (Munster Senior Colleges 'B') and Kinnane Cup 'B' were won in 1979.

Gaelic Football is one of the most important extra curricular activities in Rice College with close to 100 students actively seeking places on one of four teams. It is a difficult job trying to accomodate all of this interest. Teams from the college compete in both Clare Colleges and Munster Colleges competitions. Recent successes were U-15 and U-16 1/2 Clare Colleges titles in 1996.

The college has one of the best canoe clubs in the country. Students partake in many canoe disciplines namely whitewater, down river racing, slalom, and KI racing, marathon and sprint. The club caters for both beginners and advanced. Beginners' activities are concentrated in the warmer months of September, October and May when they use the river Fergus, which conveniently flows along the back of the college. The advanced paddlers are exposed to more difficult rivers around the country and trips have taken place on the rivers Inny, Boyne, Barrow, Liffey, Nore, Mulcair and Shannon. In 1995 eight students went on a whitewater expedition to the French Alps.

Basketball has been a more recent success story in the college and helps to keep a strong sporting competitive edge among both boys and girls. Students of all ages are showing a great interest in it.

Apart from these, other sports that feature in the college are golf and soccer. In golf the college has entered in the Aer Lingus International Competition (changed to Golf Foundation International Competition in recent years) since the foundation of the competition in the late seventies and continues to do so. After representing North Munster for the three years, 1983, 1984 and 1985 in the All-Ireland series of the competition, the college finally won the All-Ireland at Miltown Golf Club in 1985, and went on from there to represent Ireland in the International final in Waterville. The team eventually finished a very creditable third, the achievement of which was a very proud moment for the college.

In soccer the college has won the Clare Cup on a number of occasions and continues to participate competitively each year.

Rice College Traditional Musicians take
time out from study to practice. From left,
Ronan Carmody, Eimhin O'Lideadha, Martin
Mungovan, Aine McLoughlin and Paul Madden.
Second year science pupils take it all in
during one of Ms. O'Connell's classes.

Photographs from The Clare Champion.

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