The origins of Kilkenny College stem from a college of vicars’ choral established at St. Canice’s Cathedral in the thirteenth century and in 1538 Piers Butler, Earl of Ormonde and his wife, Margaret, founded a school to the west of the Cathedral, where the library now stands.
Thus, when James, first Duke of Ormonde, established Kilkenny College in John Street, c.1666, he was following the Butler tradition of promoting education in the city. It soon became a famous school and in the 1780s, a new College was built on the same site overlooking the river Nore.
The Georgian building, with its elegant facade, now houses the offices of the County Council.
There has been a long list of famous past pupils. The best known are undoubtedly Jonathan Swift, the author and satirist who went on to become Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Bishop George Berkeley the philosopher and Bishop of Cloyne, benefactor of Yale and Harvard who gave his name to the University City of Berkeley in California.
Other famous names include William Congreve and George Farqhuar (both Restoration playwrights), the novelist John Banim, Thomas Prior (founder of the Royal Dublin Society) and David Beatty (1st Sea Lord at the Battle of Jutland in 1916).
In the last century six of the old boys have played rugby for the full Irish team with several others now breaking through on the Irish U20, Irish Wolfhounds and provincial senior teams.
Recent past pupils include Daryl Jacob winning jockey in the 2012 Aintree Grand National, I.T. international businessman Dylan Collins, Kodaline band member Jason Boland, Nick Murphy co-writer of the award winning ‘Moone Boy’ series on Sky TV, international show-jumper Edward Moloney, Irish international hockey players Lisa Jacob and Daphne Sixsmith along with many leaders in business, agriculture and the professions.
At one time the College was termed a university. In contrast at the end of the 19th Century, the College was reduced to one pupil. The amalgamation with the Pococke school nearby was its saving.
Thirty headmasters of Kilkenny College are recorded.
The school was amalgamated with the Collegiate School, Celbridge in 1973 and Kilkenny College became truly co-educational.
In 1985 during Sam McClure’s stewardship, the College moved to its new campus and more buildings have been constructed since then. Comprising an attractive complex of classrooms, dormitories, catering and dining facilities the college is set on a landscaped 50-acre site framed by mature trees.
Today Kilkenny College fulfils a dual role as the largest co-educational boarding school in Ireland and as the local school for a large number of day pupils from the city and surrounding area welcoming pupils from a wide spectrum of backgrounds and traditions.
It is the Church of Ireland (Anglican) school of the Diocese of Cashel, Ossory and Ferns. It is now regarded as one of the finest schools in the country, combining family atmosphere with the best educational facilities available.
The College’s academic results are on a par with the leading schools in Ireland. Pupils are therefore well prepared intellectually and socially to take their place in a dynamic and ever-changing country.
The College motto, Comme je trouve, comes from the Butler family crest. The Butlers believed in making the most of their opportunities and today’s pupils are encouraged to do the same. The most recent account of college history ‘Where Swift and Berkeley Learnt’ – A History of Kilkenny College, by Lesley Whiteside with Andrew Whiteside was published in April 2009 and is available from the College