Kilkenny College

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Kilkenny College
Kilkenny College Coat of Arms (Unofficial).svg
Castlecomer Road

Coordinates 52°24′01″N7°08′44″W / 52.4002°N 7.1456°W / 52.4002; -7.1456 Coordinates: 52°24′01″N7°08′44″W / 52.4002°N 7.1456°W / 52.4002; -7.1456
TypeCo-educational Day and Boarding School (Public, fee-paying)
MottoComme Je Trouve
(As I Find)
Religious affiliation(s) Church of Ireland
Founder Piers Butler, 8th Earl of Ormond
Board of Governors Right Revd. Michael A.J. Burrows, Bishop of Cashel and Ossory
HeadmasterMr Simon Thompson
StaffApprox 100
Gender Coeducational
Age12to 18
Enrolmentca. 900 (ca. 500 boarding)
Colour(s)Red, Black         
PublicationThe Swift Review
Athletics Rugby, Hockey

Kilkenny College is an independent Church of Ireland co-educational day and boarding secondary school located in Kilkenny, in the South-East of Ireland. It is the largest co-educational boarding school in Ireland. The school's students are mainly Protestant (Church of Ireland), although it is open to other denominations.


The College motto Comme je trouve, which means "As I find" in French, comes from the family coat of arms of the Butlers, an aristocratic family in the area and former patrons of the school. It is intended to encourage grit, striving through adversity and taking life's challenges head on.

It was founded in 1538 to replace the School of the Vicars Choral, which had been founded in 1234. Piers Butler the Earl of Ormond located it in the city centre. It was moved to its current location on the outskirts of Kilkenny in 1985.


Kilkenny College provides schooling mainly for the Protestants of the community but is also open to other denominations. It caters for both a boarders and day-pupil. Founded in 1538 by Piers Butler, 8th Earl of Ormond and his wife, Margaret, Kilkenny Grammar School as was then called was located to the west of the Cathedral and sited beside the library of St Canice's Cathedral. The 1538 school replaced the older School of the Vicars Choral, which was founded in 1234. It was closed for a period in the 1650s (because of the English civil war that spilled over into Ireland), reopening as Kilkenny College in 1667 under the auspices of James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormond, following the Butler tradition of promoting education in the city. It soon became a famous school and so, in the 1780s, a new College was built on the same site overlooking the river Nore on John Street. In 1985 the college was relocated to the 63-acre (250,000 m2) site at Celbridge House on the outskirts of the city, while the old school with its Georgian buildings and elegant facade, now known as County Hall, houses the offices of Kilkenny County Council within Kilkenny city centre. [1]

At one time the College was termed a university and boasted a complement of three professors. In contrast at the end of the 19th Century, the College was reduced to one pupil. The amalgamation with the nearby Pococke school was its saving. Twenty-nine headmasters of Kilkenny College are recorded, including such notable figures as Edward Jones, Bishop of St Asaph and John Mason Harden. In the 20th Century there were four long-serving men: C.G. Shankey 1917 - 1952; Gilbert Colton 1953-1979; Samuel McClure 1979-1996; Canon Robert John Black 1996-2005. E. R. Dodds, the famous classicist and Michael Cusack also taught at the school. [2]

During Gilbert Colton's time the school was amalgamated with the Collegiate School Celbridge in 1973 and Kilkenny College became co-educational. During Sam McClure's stewardship, the College moved to its new campus in 1985, relocating to the 63 acre (254,952m²) site at Celbridge House on the outskirts of the city. Under Canon Robert John Black, Kilkenny College saw a significant phase of growth, development and expansion to the facilities and resources of the school during his nine years of leadership. [3]

Coat of arms

Quarterly: 1st, or, a chief indented, azure; 2nd, gules, quarters: with three covered cups or; 3rd, argent, a lion rampant gules, on a chief of the second a swan, close, of the first, tween two annulets or; 4th, ermine, a saltier gules. Out of a ducal coronet or, a plume of five ostrich feathers, there from issuant a falcon, rising all argent. Dexter, a falcon, wings expanded argent, beaked and membered or; sinister, a male griffin argent, beaked, rayed, collared and chained gold or.

Charles Mosley, Burke’s Peerage, 2003

The school's coat of arms is inherited from the Butler family. The escutcheon (shield) and crest in use today are almost identical to those formally described in Burke's Peerage. Butler's heraldric supporters (termed dexter and sinister) do not appear on the school's coat of arms. The Butler family motto ("Comme Je Trouve"), originally appearing on the crest, now appears below the school's shield.

The most widely used version of the school's coat of arms (the official one) has evolved with some changes. The silver quadrants of the escutcheon and the falcon itself have become white, the third quadrant's lion has emerged passant (walking past) while the fourth quadrant has lost its ermine (tail spots on fur). It's not clear if these small changes are attributable to artistic interpretation, simplified draughtsmanship (in the case of ermine) or possibly error (the lion). The modern coat of arms is supported by the letters "K" and "C" at the sides, and 1538, the year the college was founded at the bottom.


The current campus on the outskirts of the city comprises a complex of classrooms, dormitories, catering and dining facilities, it is set on a landscaped 50-acre (200,000 m2) site framed by mature trees. Today Kilkenny College attempts to serve a dual purpose role as the largest co-educational boarding school in Ireland and as the local school for a large number of day pupils from the city and surrounding area.

It is one of 5 Irish Schools in the country taking part in a pilot project on self-assessment and interchange in conjunction with 100 other European schools. The ethos of the school is one of a family community and a big emphasis is placed on team sport in particular rugby and hockey.

Notable past pupils

In its almost 500-year history, Kilkenny College has produced a long list of notable past pupils. A selection of some of the better known, in alphabetical order, includes:


Arts and Media

Law and Politics




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