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Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

St. Mary's College


From the Dublin Penny Journal, Vol. 1, No. 14, September 29, 1832
© 2007
St Mary's College Knockbeg

St Mary's College Knockbeg

St. Mary's College Knockbeg is a Roman Catholic, all-boys secondary school located on the Laois/Carlow border, approximately 2.5km from both Carlow town and Graiguecullen. A former seminary school for the diocese of Kildare and Leighlin, it was founded in 1793. It accommodates both day-pupils and fee-paying boarders, though the boarding school will soon be closing down. The College celebrated it's bicentenary in 1993. Knockbeg won the All-Ireland College's Senior Football Championship in 2005, under the guidance of former pupil and current teacher, Chris Conway. In 2006, Knockbeg were the victors of the Thomas Crosbie Holdings All Ireland Quiz Championship, bringing All-Ireland success to the college twice in two years, and were crowned All-Ireland German Debating Champions in 2008.


St Mary's College Knockbeg (Coláiste Muire Cnoc Beag in Irish) is one of the oldest secondary schools in Ireland, located on the Laois/Carlow border. It traces its origins back to 1793 when a lay school for boys was established in St.Patrick's College, Carlow in conjunction with the seminary there. In 1847 it was decided that the young pupils in the school should come out to Knockbeg, which had been a gentry estate on the banks of the River Barrow before being purchased by the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin . The initial school had about 40 pupils but the numbers grew as all the lay pupils from St Patrick's transferred out. In 1898 the school became the official junior seminary for the diocese. To this day the aim of the college is to offer a holistic Catholic education. Through the years the boarding numbers in the school built up to the around 160 mark and has since increased in the 1980s when Day-Boys were taken in. At present, there are well over 350 pupils attending the school.

Knockbeg College has educated many people of note over the years:

  • William Hoey Kearney Redmond, Irish nationalist and Irish Parliamentary Party MP for 34 years
  • Kevin O'Higgins, Irish Nationalist and Pro-Treaty TD for Laois-Offaly, Minister for Home Affairs/Vice-President of the Executive Council in the first Dáil
  • Tommy Murphy, the greatest Laois footballer of all time, named in the midfield position in the GAA Football Team of the Millennium.
  • Charles Flanagan, current Fine Gael TD for Laois-Offaly

Others include members of the current Laois GAA teams : Brian McDonald, Ross Munnelly, Donie Brennan and Rory Stapleton.

Former Laois great, Chris Conway, who is currently teaching in the college, was also educated at Knockbeg.

Colm Begley, now playing Australian Rules Football for the Brisbane Lions, also attended the college.

Dispute over location

Over the years many people have disputed whether Knockbeg is in Laois or Carlow. Although its postal address is Carlow, geographically it is in Laois. The River Barrow is the border line between Laois and Carlow and Knockbeg is on the Laois side. However the school has many pupils from both Laois and Carlow as well as boarders from Kilkenny, Kildare, Wexford, Wicklow and further afield.

The Sisters of Mercy

The Sisters of Mercy from St. Leo’s Convent in Carlow have had a very long and generous relationship with the Knockbeg Community. Whether at prayer, cooking or nursing their dedicated service has been a great blessing to us here. We are forever in debt to the Sisters for their very special ministry among us.

Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia

Milestone at Knockbeg Lock

Image was taken by Carloman2 in 2010


According to

Topographical Dictionary of Ireland by Samuel Lewis 1837

Knockbeg is the residence of W. Carruthers, Esq.; and here is also that of Gerald Byrne, Esq. The living is a rectory, in the diocese of Leighlin, united to that of Shruel, and in the patronage of the Bishop: the tithes amount to £60, and the gross value of the benefice is £106. 3. 1. In the R. C. divisions it forms part of the union or district of Killeshin. Here is a hedge school of 10 boys and 4 girls.

Source: 2007

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