St. Mary’s College   –  a century of excellence


For the past 100 years St. Mary’s College has enhanced the Galway skyline with its attractive architectural beauty and contrasting facade of limestone and granite, all resting in spacious grounds that provide a green haven in the midst of the city.

The original St. Mary’s College at St.Helens Street opened its doors in March 1844 under the Patronage of Bishop George Browne. Reflecting on the experience of its founder, Fr. John Paul O’ Toole, who had difficulty in obtaining a good secondary education in his native Galway, St. Mary’s College offered a broad and enlightened curriculum.  The school flourished, having fifty pupils on its roll within a year, and in 1846 the status of the school was raised to that of a minor seminary. It had a dual aim, namely, to train young men for the priesthood and to provide a first class Catholic education for Irish boys.

Work on the current building, designed by the renowned architect W.A. Scott, began in 1910 and on Wednesday 26th of August 1912 the Diocesan College opened its doors to 60 boarders and 17 dayboys. Since those early years the college has advanced and adapted to the educational needs of its ever-changing environment, with the original building having been extended and modernised. A prestigious chapter in the College’s history came to an end when we ceased to cater for boarders in 2003.

From the outset, extra-curricular activities were promoted as an integral part of a student’s balanced formation. Although excellence in performance is always the aim, the emphasis was, and still is, on encouraging participation  St. Mary’s soon developed a reputation as one of the foremost sporting schools in the country, with many fine sportsmen having at some stage worn the famous red and black colours of Mary’s.

However, despite our prowess on the sporting fields, the ultimate goal of St. Mary’s has always focused on excellence in academics. To that effect doctors, teachers, sportsmen, priests, men of the land and of business, of the sciences and of the arts can claim to be partakers of the bounty of St. Mary’s College and in turn the College regards their success as her success.

In December 2012, to mark the Centenary of the College, a new book detailing the history of the College will be launched. this has been painstakingly compiled by former St. Mary’s student and renowned historian Peadar O’Dowd, and promises to be a fascinating read for all associated with the College.


Peadar O’Dowd’s excellent book ‘St. Mary’s College Centenary 1912-2012 ‘ is on sale from all local bookshops and offers a fascinating insight into the history of the College

A pictorial History of St. Mary’s, PowerPoint presentation