The history of the school which eventually became St. Patrick’s starts in 1851, when the Christian Brothers first established a school in Tuam. The Church of Ireland Archbishop leased them the land for the school through a middle man, and in 1859 to much local consternation this lease wasn’t renewed. At this time, St. Jarlath’s was exclusively a boarding college and so the townspeople felt a day school was needed. After local protests and a collection for the new school, Archbishop John MacHale presented the town with a site on the Dublin road, and deputised Fr. Eugene Coyne to visit the headquarters of the Christian Brothers in Dublin to organise a deal.
The foundation stone was laid in March 1860; the new school was to be under the direction of Brother Laurence Lowe, a teacher who had established a good reputation in the old school. Tuam CBS first opened with only three teachers in control of 160 students, but rising numbers meant expansion, with a third room being built in December of that year. At the request of Archbishop MacHale, Irish began to be taught in the school, with Tuam CBS indeed being the first Christian Brothers School to teach the subject in the country (and was the only CBS to do so for over 20 years). Irish History was also taught in St. Patrick’s (as it was in Jarlath’s, largely as a result of MacHale’s political leanings) so it encouraged a very strong sense of nationalism in its students. Following the introduction of free education in 1964, numbers in St. Patrick’s continued to rise to the extent that the Dublin Road site became inadequate. This resulted in the purchase of the then recently vacated Tuam Racetrack and Football grounds in Parkmore, and in 1978 building began (with the Tuam Herald at the time reporting a cost of £500,000). The new building was opened in 1980, and in November 1986 a plaque was unveiled by Reverend Br. J.J. Heneghan, Provincial (leader of the Christian Brothers in Ireland).
In 1990, due to lack of vocations, the school ceased to operate under the Christian Brothers. The C.B.S. was renamed St. Patrick’s after the saint the school was dedicated to in 1860. It was put under the trusteeship of the Archbishop of Tuam; a lay teacher, Sean Burke, became the first principal of the new school.
In 2000, a decision was made in principle to amalgamate St. Patrick’s with St. Jarlath’s. While initially a new building was to be built, eventually after years of none materialising a decision was made by Archbishop (and trustee of both schools) Michael Neary to fully amalgamate the two into the grounds of St. Jarlath’s. This was to be precluded by the enrolment of all first years into St. Jarlath’s in the 2008-2009 school year. St. Patrick’s College closed its doors in June 2009 after an emotional closing ceremony including a performance by past pupils the Saw Doctors. It was a sad occasion for all teachers, pupils, parents, past pupils and all who were associated with it in its long and illustrious lifetime. It is indeed hoped that the school and its contribution to the area will not be soon forgotten.
Adapted from “Sic Itur Ud Astra- 160 Years of Pat’s,” Patrician Magazine 2009, Brendan Greaney.