St. Patrick's College, Thurles

St Patrick's College, Thurles
Coláiste Phádraig Dúrlas Éile
Latin: Collegii Sti Patricii
Motto Renovabitur Sicut Aquilae Juventus Tua
Type College of Education.
Established 1837
Affiliation Roman Catholic
President Fr. Tom Fogarty
Undergraduates 220
Address Thurles
County Tipperary
, Thurles, Republic of Ireland
Nickname St. Pats

Mary Immaculate College(2015-)
University of Limerick (2011–)[1]

NCEA/HETAC (1977–),
Maynooth (1973–2002)
University of London (1849–1870)

St. Patrick's College, Thurles (Irish: Coláiste Phádraig, Dúrlas Éileis) is a third level college of education in Thurles, Co. Tipperary, formerly a seminary the College specialises in Humanities courses in Accounting, Business Studies, Irish and Religious Studies.


St. Patrick's College, Thurles was founded in 1837. The College is a charitable institution operating under the patronage of the Dr. Patrick Everard, Archbishop of Cashel and Emly. Dr. Everard died in 1821 and left £10,000 for the purpose of founding a college to provide a liberal education of catholic youth destined for the priesthood and professional/business careers.[2]

The College was built on church land bought from a local Protestant minister,[2] the first stone was laid by Dr. Robert Laffan Archbishop of Cashel, on 6 July 1829, in the presence of Daniel O'Connell.[3]

The College opened as an educational institution in September 1837, to day students and boarders, offering second level education in the humanities, with a limited contribution from the sciences, to students wishing to prepare for priesthood as well as careers in business and other professions.

In 1842 a Philosophy Department was added to the College, and with some students becoming candidates for the priesthood for the first time. Prevailing poverty and hardship caused by the Famine temporarily inhibited the development of St. Patrick's College. However, by the middle of the 1860s, the College had developed into a major seminary with the addition of a full Theological Faculty.

In 1842 Archbishop of Cashel Michael Slattery established a foreign mission department in St. Patrick's College, Thurles, many of its graduates going to the United States, Australia and New Zealand.

In 1849 the University of London,[4] allowed Thurles to offer degrees in Arts and Laws,[5] following an example from St. Patrick's College, Carlow. The relationship with London University lasted over 20 years.[2] In 1875 the college was linked to the Catholic University of Ireland, and subsequently the Royal University of Ireland in the 1900s, before being linked with the Pontifical University in Maynooth.[2][6]

In 1850 a synod of bishops met in Thurles, the first since the Middle Ages.[7]

Lay students attended the college from its opening in 1837 up until 1907.[8] Although lay students stopped being boarders in 1873, by 1907 only 20 lay students were enrolled.[2]

From 1973 students were able to qualify with Diplomas in Theology from Pontifical University in Maynooth.[9] This programme developed into a Degree (BTh) and was available under the Pontifical University via the CAO system until 2002.

In 1977 a National Certificate in Philosophical Studies was awarded by the National Council for Educational Awards (NCEA).

From 1909 to 1986 priests from the local Pallotine college in Thurles trained at St. Patrick's, also from 1950 until recent years the Mercy Sisters lived and worked in the College.[10]

In 1988 after a gap of 81 years, lay students were readmitted and the college, had its courses validated by the National Council for Educational Awards (NCEA), such as the BA in Theology which allowed graduates to teach in secondary schools,[11] and since 2001 when the NCEA was replaced by the Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC) has validated the colleges degree courses.[10]

In 2002 the college ceased to function as a seminary,[12][13] the college would have ordained over 1,500 men for the priesthood. The college also joined the Irish governments CAO system for the allocation of college places for leaving certificate students, also Irish students became eligible for free fees and grants. In 2004 new structured undergraduate education degrees commenced in association with Tipperary Institute.

Past students and people associated with the College

Over 1500 priests were ordained from Thurles, a large number of former students of the college became priests and bishops in other countries as was the focus of the seminary for many years, such as Dr. James Byrne (Toowoomba, Australia), Dr. Lawrence Scanlan (bishop of Salt Lake City) and Dr. John Cantwell (first archbishop of Los Angeles), Dr. Thomas Flanagan (Bishop of San Antonio).[14]

Others associated with Irish parishes include Archbishop of Cashel & Emly Dr Thomas Morris DD, Bishops Dr. Michael Russell former Professor of Moral Theology as well as vice-president, and former college president Dr. William Lee of Waterford. Bishop Thomas Quinlan of Borrisoleigh spent over four years in the College before joining the Columban Missionary Society.

Canon John Hayes the founder of Muintir na Tíre studied in Thurles for a time. John Finucane, Home Rule MP for East County Limerick from 1885 to 1900 studied at the college, taking first honours in rhetoric, logic and metaphysic.[15] The Nationalist MP for Tipperary South from 1900-1918 John Cullinan also studied at the college.

Rev. Dr. Thomas O'Connor was the first president (1837-1847), when the college opened with just 18 students.[3] Presidents of the College have included Dr. Patrick Leahy, Canon Arthur Ryan(1887-190?), Canon Garret Cotter, Monsignor James J. Ryan J.C.B., Rev. Nicholas Cooke(1925-1936), Rev. Daniel M. Ryan, Rev. Augustine O'Donnell, Dr.William Lee (1987–1993) Mgr. Christy O'Dwyer MA (1993–2004). The present college president Fr. Tom Fogarty BA, MA, was appointed in 2004, he is also a former manager of both the Tipperary and Offaly hurling teams.[16]

Started in 1970 every five years the College hosts an International Reunion of former students from Ireland and Abroad who studied for the priesthood in Thurles.


Today St. Patrick's College, Thurles offers degrees validated by the University of Limerick, in Theology, Business Studies, Irish and Religious Studies and education, Irish Studies and Education, as well as some certificates in pastoral care.[17] The undergraduate education degrees are recognised by the teaching council of Ireland enabling graduates to teach in Secondary Schools in Ireland.[18]

Over recent years[8] refurbishments have taken place to Lecture Halls, tutorial rooms, library, old research library, Computing facilities, playing pitch and the Refectory as well as to the colleges retreat and conference facilities.[19]

As well as the academic course the college runs a number of courses in pastoral care, youth work and Irish language training courses for adults.

In 2012 the college celebrated its 175 anniversary, and were honoured by a civic reception by Thurles Town Council held in the Source Library.[3]

A five-year permanent diaconate programme[20] is run from the college training men to be deacons in the Catholic church.[21][22] The Diploma in Diaconate Sudies is awarded by the Pontifical University, St. Patrick's College, Maynooth.[23]

University of Limerick Alliance

Starting from September 2011, teaching degree programmes at St. Patrick's College will be accredited by the University of Limerick, and graduates from 2012 on wards will be awarded degrees from the University.[1][24]

The degrees awarded will be BEd with Irish and Religious Studies and BEd with Business Studies and Religious Studies. Graduates will be registered with the Teaching Council of Ireland and will be qualified to teach to Leaving Certificate standard. Partipicants will also be covered by the Government Free Fees Initiative.[9]

Incorporation into Mary Immaculate College

In September 2015 a new deal was agreed which will see the 3rd level institution work with Mary Immaculate College in becoming a linked provider to the Limerick Centre of Excellence.[25] The incorporation into Mary Immaculate will see the college re-branded as MIC St. Patrick’s Campus, Thurles.


19 October 2012 saw the first students graduate with University of Limerick degrees which were presented by University of Limerick President Professor Don Barry.[26] The second conferring by UL took place on October 18, 2013.[27] The 2014 ceremony took place on the 17th of October in St. Patrick's, in attendance were the academic staff of the college and representatives of the University of Limerick, as well as students family and friends in attendance.

Similarly in the past graduation took place on campus each autumn with academic staff, representatives of HETAC, figures from other educational institutions and local public figures, as well as students family and friends in attendance.[28][29]



  1. 1 2 University of Limerick Degrees for Graduates of St Patrick’s College, Thurles University of Limerick Website, Friday, 6 May 2011.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 St. Patrick's College, Thurles : Irish priests in the United States: a vanishing subculture By William L. Smith
  3. 1 2 3 Civic Reception for 175th Anniversary of St Patrick’s College By Eoin Kelleher, Tipperary Star, Friday 6 July 2012.
  4. Minutes of the Senate of the University of London 1837–1850 University of London (1850).
  5. University of London The Illustrated London News, 11 May 1850
  6. The Beleagured [sic?] Fortress : St. Patrick's College, Thurles (1837–1987) by Christy O'Dwyer
  7. The Catholic Church in Mississippi by Michael V. Namorato
  8. 1 2 St. Patrick's College, Thurles Quality Assurance Manual 2009 HETAC Documents
  9. 1 2 Exciting New Chapter For St. Patrick’s College By Ronan Dodd, Tipperary Star, Published on Wednesday 4 May 2011.
  10. 1 2 Saint Patricks College Thurles – Video Presentation StarSystemsVideo 1 September 2009
  12. STATEMENT ISSUED ON BEHALF OF THE TRUSTEES OF ST. PATRICK'S COLLEGE, THURLES Press Release – Issued by the Catholic Communications Office on behalf of St Patrick's College, Thurles Thursday, 29 August 2002
  13. Closure of seminary at Co Tipperary college RTÉ News, Thursday, 29 August 2002
  14. St. Patrick's College, Thurles CATHOLIC COMMUNICATIONS OFFICE
  15. Debrett's House of Commons and the Judicial Branch (Dean and Son, 1896), page 52.
  16. Long voyages after ordination recalled by Michael Parsons, The Irish Times, Friday, 13 August 2010
  17. Courses in St Patricks College Thurles
  18. Colleges of Education Teaching Council of Ireland
  19. Facilities St. Patrick's College, Thurles website
  20. Historic Ceremony as Clonmel man appointed South Tipp Nationalist,, July 2nd, 2015.
  21. Diocese turns to lay staff in crisis by John O'Mahony, Irish Independent, October 19, 2012.
  22. Half way there Diocese of Kerry Website. January, 2016
  23. Diaconate Studies Affiliated Programmes, Maynooth College
  24. Patrick’s College Thurles Offers UL Teaching Degrees Thurles Information , 5 May 2011.
  26. Graduates of 2012 Conferred with University of Limerick Degrees at St. Patrick’s College,Thurles UL Website, Thursday, 1 November 2012.
  27. Graduates of 2013 conferred with University of Limerick Degrees at St. Patrick's College, Thurles 20th October 2013.
  28. Annual Conferring at St. Patrick's College, Thurles Tipperary Star, Thursday 16 October 2003,
  29. Graduates Celebrate at St. Patrick's College Tipperary Star, Friday 20 November 2009.

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