High Jinks in Study - Clongowes Wood College

Posted: 3rd December 2014

One of the boys having succeeded in capturing a cockerel smuggled the bird into evening study…

The original Study Hall/Refectory block was built between 1818 and 1820 during the Rectorship of Fr Charles Aylmer, whose family lived nearby at Painstown House. The study hall formed the top storey of a large two-storey building, the ground floor being occupied by the refectory. The study hall was a large, spacious, airy building capable of accommodating the whole school, with excellent lighting provided by a double range of large windows on the north and south walls, and two large ornate windows in the eastern façade.

In April 1886 the study hall and refectory underneath were both destroyed by fire. Only the walls were left standing. The Lower Line Gallery was quickly converted into a refectory and several classrooms served as study halls. Both the study hall and the refectory were rebuilt in 1887. In the ‘new’ study hall the two windows in the eastern wall were replaced by a very large single window decorated by stained glass panels. While the study hall is still in use, the refectory remained in use only until 1966 when it was converted into the theatre. It is now the James Joyce Library.

Study Hall

Although strict silence was enforced in the study hall during study times, nevertheless, the crowded study hall was the scene of much fun and many practical jokes, especially during night study. Eric MacDermott who was a pupil in the College in the early 1890’s related the following story:

One of the boys having succeeded in capturing a cockerel smuggled the bird into evening study. When everything was quiet, all heads buried in their books, he released it. The outraged animal paraded down the centre of the great hall giving vent to its feelings with loud caws and squawks. The Jesuit father who was presiding over ‘prep’ roared from his rostrum, ‘Catch that bird!’

Immediately every boy in the College jumped up to comply with his order making sure, of course, not to lay hands on the cockerel, which terrified by the pandemonium took to flight and perched on one of the cross beams of the roof. At that time there were a number of Spanish-American lads at the school. One of these produced a revolver from his pocket and with one shot brought the bird down to the floor – dead.’

This material is largely taken from A Short History of Clongowes Wood College, which was privately published in 2011 by Mr Brendan Cullen, a local historian and formerly teacher of history in Clongowes (1971-2007). It is reproduced here by kind permission of the author. For more on the history of Clongowes follow this link


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