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Dublin’s King’s Hospital School celebrates 350th anniversary

Three hundred and fifty years of education at the King’s Hospital School, Dublin, was celebrated on Friday afternoon (January 18) in St Patrick’s Cathedral. There was standing room only for the special service of Choral Evensong which was celebrated by the school chaplain and cathedral Precentor, Canon Peter Campion, and sung by the school’s Chapel Choir.

The service was attended by Archbishop Michael Jackson and Bishop Pat Storey who are members of the school’s board of governors. Also present was the recently appointed headmaster, Mark Ronan, who is just 11 days in the job, along with the 730–strong current cohort of students, their teachers and many past pupils and teachers.

The address was given by former teacher and deputy headmaster Glascott Symes. He reminded the KH students of today that they were part of an important heritage and hoped they would gain the lifelong friendships and memories held by the past pupils who were drawn to the service. He added: “It is you, the pupils, not the teachers or governors, who will maintain these traditions.”

Looking to the school’s future he said that in a period of aggressive secularism it was a challenge to maintain a Christian heritage so that all pupils and staff knew they were in a community living out their lives according to the ideals of Jesus Christ.

  • Canon Peter Campion, Bishop Pat Storey, Archbishop Michael Jackson, Dean William Morton and Bishop Roy Warke at the 350th anniversary service of the King's Hospital School in St Patrick's Cathedral.
  • There was standing room only in St Patrick's Cathedral for the 350th anniversary service of the King's Hospital School.
  • Former deputy headmaster of the King's Hospital, Glascott Symes, who gave the address and the new headmaster, Mark Ronan, at the service marking the school's 350th anniversary.

“This comes not just from what is taught in the classroom, or even in the Chapel, but from what is experienced day by day in Chapel, classroom, dormitories, recreation rooms and games fields; that undefinable ethos expressed through respect for self and for others, and by taking responsibility for one’s own actions. The urgent need to attend to the care of our planet earth must be instilled as part of that responsibility. The privilege of a fine education carries with it the responsibility of service to our fellow humans, especially those who do not have our advantages, in whatever community past pupils find themselves during their lives,” he stated.

Addressing the congregation, Mr Ronan said that looking back crystalised what is most important moving forward. He envisaged a future for today’s students with artificial intelligence, a four day working week and multiple careers for each individual. This would require that more talent be fostered and greater diversity. He added that inclusivity was central to the values that had buttressed King’s Hospital throughout the challenges of the past and had seen the school thrive.

He said it was the school’s responsibility to ignite a lifelong passion for learning in students and to keep that fire burning. “We need to support them to become the best version of themselves with the confidence to give it a go. These young men and women are compassionate and respect diversity … I encourage all of you to embrace the journey that lies ahead,” he said.

The Hospital and Free School of King Charles II was founded by the first Duke of Ormonde, James Butler, viceroy to King Charles, in 1669 and established under a Royal Charter in 1671. It opened on Queen Street with 64 boys and three girls and was linked to Dublin Corporation catering for children whose fathers, mainly artisans who were freeman of the city, had died. They were rescued from poverty and apprenticed to the city’s trades. The school opened in new buildings on Blackhall Place in 1783.

In the 19th century Catholic Emancipation and the reorganisation of local government saw an end to the link with the Corporation. There was then a fall in the number of pupils from the city and growth in children coming from the country. This led to the King’s Hospital becoming a boarding school catering for the sons of Church of Ireland farmers, doctors, clergy and shopkeepers from all over Ireland. It gradually became a fee–paying school.

In the mid 20th century two schools, Morgan’s School and Mercer’s School in Castleknock, were taken over and in 1971 the school moved from the city to its current location at Brooklawn, Palmerstown.