The North Monastery CBS is an all-boys mainstream secondary school incorporating an autism unit, in the north side of Cork city. Founded in 1811 when Brother Jerome O’Connor and Brother John Baptist Leonard were given charge of a school in Chapel Lane by the Bishop of Cork, Rev. Dr. Moylan. Seventeen students attended on the first day. In 1814 a fourteen-acre sloping site was acquired from a wealthy Catholic businessman, Sir George Gould Bart, and a new school was built. The North Monastery had found its permanent home. An outbreak of typhus fever in the city in 1816 saw the school being used as a temporary hospital.
The original site of the school in 1811
Br. Gerald Griffin, the celebrated poet, and novelist became a member of the North Monastery in 1839. He was a sick man before he arrived and died on 12th June 1840 in his 37th year. He seems to have predicted his own untimely demise when not long after arriving in the North Monastery he is noted as saying “In the time of my boyhood I had a strange feeling that I was to die ere the noon of my day”.During his time in school he is noted for being involved in some of the very first textbooks that the Christian Brothers created and was remembered fondly by his students who noted his kind nature as one of his greatest qualities. His remains are interred in the cemetery in the grounds of the North Mon. It was shortly after the death of Gerald Griffin that Daniel O’Connell visited the ‘Mon’ with the Founder of the Order, Br. Edmund Rice.
Br. Gerald Griffin
Another great educator associated with the school is Br. James Dominic Burke. In his own time, he was well known and considered to be one of the greatest technical geniuses of his time. Br Buke was a pioneer in vocational education and established a school museum and one of the first technical schools in the country. Br Burke transformed the school into a giant of Irish education with the school being represented at the great exhibition of 1902 in Fitzgerald’s Park and again in the exhibition in St Louis, USA. Burke is most noteworthy for his pioneering experiments with electricity. On the occasion of the episcopal jubilee of Pope Pius IX, Br Burke used an arc light to shine a beam of light out across the city. It was said at the time that the people of Cork “gazed with wonder at the great beam of white light”. This amazement can be explained when we consider that at this time gas lighting was still the only way of lighting the city and that this took place in 1877, a full 3 years before the light bulb would be patented by Thomas Edison.
Br. James Dominic Burke in his Laboratory
On the occasion of the school’s centenary year the North Mon put on a full week of outdoor theatre commonly known as the pageants. These were extraordinary productions that involved all the students in the school. All the performances were re-enactments of tails from Irelands Ancient Past such as the story of Cú Chulainn in which the Irish Wolf Hound Bran played a crucial role. All of the costumes were created in school and the teachers of the day co-ordinated the plays. These fantastic productions were devised and directed by Br J. Walker and among others whom he sought advice from was the noted Republican, Romanticist and Educator Padraig Pears who would be executed after the Easter Rising five years later. The pageants were so successful a special tram was run up to the school from the city centre to bring people up to watch them. On the final day at the end of the play the entire troupe of actors processed through St. Patrick’s Street.
The Troupe of Actors in the Pageants including Bran
The Year 1920 would become infamous in the history of Cork City. It was the year that the City was burned by British forces and the year in which two Lord Mayors of Cork would be die because of the British. Tomás MacCurtain would be assassinated in his own home in Blackpool and later on Terence MacSwiney would die on hunger strike in Brixton Prison after being arrested. He would then be succeeded by Donal O’Callaghan, a relatively forgotten figure until recent times thanks to the efforts of Dr. Aodh Quinlivan. 1920 would be a very significant year for the school also due to the fact that all 3 of these Lord Mayors attended the Secondary School in their youth. The school to this day boasts an impressive mayoral legacy with 15 Lord Mayors of Cork City having completed their Secondary Education here.
The three Lord Mayors of 1920
After independence the school continued to grow and experience success in academics & sports. North Mon students gained great success in the attaining of scholarships and in examination results. Sports wise the school would begin to demonstrate its prowess in hurling with the Mon becoming a dominant force in the Harty Cup competition. To this day the North Monastery has the second highest tally of Cup wins in this competition with 20 in total.
Harty Cup Team 1934
The 1960’s would become an important decade for the school. 1961 saw the school become 150 years old and, on this occasion, it was granted its own Coat of Arms from Dublin Council, by the Office of the Chief Herald. The Chief Herald at the time was Mr Gerard Slevin who was a distinguished Past Pupil. In 1969 the new Secondary School was officially opened by then Taoiseach and Past Pupil Jack Lynch. This building is the one that the Secondary School, Scoil Mháthair na Síorchabhrach, still resides in today. The school’s sporting reputation would continue to grow in its new home with teams in Hurling, Gaelic Football, Basketball, Cross Country, Table Tennis, Rowing, Swimming and other sports achieving greatness in their fields and bringing honours to the school.
Jack Lynch at the opening of the new Secondary School
Today the school still boasts a strong sporting and academic tradition. The school now boasts many extra-curricular activities that have become successful in their own right. The schools Student Council, Green Schools, Young Scientists, History Club, Geography Club, Enterprise Club & Poetry Club now all seek to represent the school and have all succeeded in bring further success to the North Mon.
The Coat of Arms granted by the Heraldry Office, Dublin Castle