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Bandon Grammar School

History of BGS 

School Origin: 

The school is enriched and guided by traditions derived from almost four centuries of service in education stretching back to the mid seventeenth century. The prosperous, growing new town of Bandonbridge needed a classical school and the First Earl of Cork, Richard Boyle, proprietor of the town, took responsibility for providing a Free School for boys.  Boyle chose a site south of the town wall in Coolfadda (now St. Patrick’s Street) and began erecting the building in 1636 but the founding document providing for an endowment is his will dated December 1642 . The first pupil in the 1650’s we know of was Sir Richard Cox, later entrepreneur, lawyer, soldier, Chief of Justice and Lord Chancellor of Ireland (1703-07). The first recorded marter is William Scroggs in the 1650’s. 


Location and Development: 

In the troubled seventeenth century the school had to move several times. It was housed in the North Gate Castle in the 1680’s and in buildings on the eastern side of Bridge Street by the early eighteenth century. Towards the end of that century it was located in a house owned by the Devonshire Estate, then briefly at Hill House in the early nineteenth century. The marter Rev. William Sullivan (1805-1825) ceased to take boarders for a time and conducted school from the new courthouse where rooms were available.  That unsatisfactory situation was remedied in 1826 when a large investment by the patron resulted in an excellent and appropriate remodelled Georgian building being made available for the school on Devonshire Square (Now Allin Square). A new able and ambitious master, Rev John Browne was appointed (1826-42) and he raised the school to great heights academically. The school expanded and a second house was rented for the master. By the late 1940’s the school had rented or purchased all four linked houses and needed a new site. 


The inspirational educator W. Ivan McCutcheon (1944 – 1971) with the assistance of JLB Deane and the Incorporated Society bought Richmount House in 1956, built a new school around it and laid out the grounds for sports and a model farm to teach agriculture.  Another wave of expansion and new facilities followed in the 1980’s under Alwyn C. Williams (Headmaster 1972-1993) during which the Williams Building, Sports Complex, McCutcheon Hall, Library, New Astroturf and rugby grounds were constructed.  In the twenty first century the school has almost doubled in size again. The Deane Building, new Dining Hall and Technical Block incorporating some of the most advances ICT systems in Ireland indicate our ambition to provide the best facilities for our pupils. A development committee is working on the next phase. 


Patronage and Governance: 

The founder Sir Richard Boyle, Great Earl of Cork decreed in his will that his heirs must support the school in perpuity and pay the master and usher (assistant master) £20 per year. In 1753 the fourth Earl of Cork died, and his Irish lands passed through his daughter Charlotte to her spouse the fourth Duke of Devonshire. Thereafter the head Irish agent at Lismore managed the school on behalf of the Devonshires up to the sale of their Bandon Estates in the 1890’s. The Arnott family, Dublin bought the remaining land and were patrons of the school up to the hand over to the Incorporated Society for Promoting Protestant Schools in Ireland in 1956.  The Church of Ireland has always had a central interest in Bandon Grammar School and provided a major loan for the purchase and building of the new school in 1956 – 58. 

A local Board of Directors chaired by Mr JLB Deane took over management with a lease from the patron in 1975 and has spearheaded development ever since.  In 2012 a Board of Management representative of the partners in education was founded.  Bandon Grammar School Association was also replaced by a Parents’ Representative Association at that time. 


Personalities and Events:  

Few records exist from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Among the early past pupils were the United Irishmen Arthur and Roger O’Conner, followed by George Bennett, historian of Bandon, Richard Caulfield noted Cork antiquarian and first Queens College (UCC) librarian and a host of prominent clergy, scholars, doctors and army officers.  In 1903 the school became one of the first Irish Schools to become Co-Educational with the admission of both day and boarder girls pioneered by Mr H.G. Johnston (1892 – 1931) 

Other prominent twentieth century past pupils include Lennox Robinson, playwright and Abby Theatre Director who worked with WB Yeats and Lady Gregory; Albert Robinson CBE, comptroller Inland Revenue (1932-38) Somerset House, London; Thomas Belcher Deputy Commissioner Royal Canadian Mounted Police (Mounties) and  Risteard O’Glaisne Irish Scholar, author and journalist.  More recently Robert Splaine (Manager of the Irish Show jumping team), Darren Sweetnam (Cork Senior hurler and Munster rugby squad), Gavin Coombes (Munster rugby), Jack Crowley (Irish and Munster Rugby) and the Harte twins, Conor and David (over 270 Senior Irish Hockey Caps) are current well-known sports personalities. By far the best known past pupil is Graham Norton, top BBC chat show host. 


Recreation and Sport: 

The school has an exceptionally long tradition in extra-curricular activities and sport. From fencing, dancing and music in the 1820’s to ‘racquets’ (squash) in the 1870’s on to dozens of activities today the school puts emphasis on developing each pupil in the broadest sense. Rugby, Cricket and Athletics were popular by the 1890’s among the boys. Hockey and tennis followed in the early twentieth century. Sports Day dates back to at least 1890 and our tradition of book prizes for academic excellence in recorded as far back as 1808. Drama and Music were well developed by 1890.  The school pupils regularly win regional and national competitions in the Arts, Debating, Sport, Academic prizes and Scholarships. 


The Future:

Today Bandon Grammar School has some 730 pupils (150 of whom are boarders) and 130 staff. With over 30 hectares of grounds, we have ample space for recreation and development in rural surroundings, ideal for young people to have the tranquillity and stimulation for intellectual, physical, moral and spiritual growth. Pupils from all over the world, from diverse backgrounds, cultures, faiths and races work together in harmony to achieve the very highest standards. 


Niamh McShane, Principal.