By Sean Ryan - 18 March, 2017
The future of one of the country’s most famous secondary schools has been secured thanks to a massive fundraising drive by parents and past pupils.
Just one month ago, the Abbot of Cistercian College Roscrea (CCR) Dom Richard Purcell announced that the 112-year-old school located on the Offaly/Tipperary border was to close due to falling pupil numbers.
The school has had a 45 per cent drop in enrolment in the past ten years, with only nine first year students enrolled for September 2017. It currently has 167 pupils. There are now only five religious-run Catholic schools in Ireland that offer boarding facilities, compared to more than 30 such schools in 1990.
However, subsequent to the announcement, a major meeting was held in the County Arms Hotel in Birr, where the Save CCR group was founded, and the Cistercian Order and trustees gave the group until 16 March to come up with a rescue plan for the college.
This group has raised over €1.5 million to save the school from closure, and as part of the plan the college will now accept day borders and five-day borders. The school previously only accepted seven-day boarders. The plan was accepted by the school’s board of trustees on Thursday 16 March last and the college will now accept enrolments for the next academic year.
In a statement released at the weekend the action group Chairman Ronnie Culliton said: “We are looking to the future with great enthusiasm now. This is a wonderful place for young men to be educated, play sport, develop musical talents, and grow friendships that will last a lifetime.”
He added: “We are delighted that we can now offer this fantastic opportunity to receive an education grounded in the Cistercian ethos to a greater number of families.”
His words were echoed by Dom Richard Purcell, Abbot of Mount St Joseph Abbey, who said: “This is one of the most joyous days in the history of Cistercian College. We have witnessed a small miracle over the past four weeks. The decision to close was an extremely difficult one for the monastic community to make and so we are understandably overjoyed to now be in a position to announce that the college will remain open.
“We have been truly overwhelmed by people’s generosity which has ultimately resulted in ensuring the financial viability of the college in the immediate term. The hope now is that we can continue this positive work together to ensure that Cistercian College can remain open for a very long time to come.”
The school, which won the rugby Senior Schools Cup in Leinster for the first time in 2015, is the alma mater of former Taoiseach Brian Cowen, former Tánaiste Dick Spring and former Foreign Affairs Minister David Andrews.