It was John Joshua who at the beginning of 19th century sold off the lower portion of the Stillorgan estate for building development and at this time Carysfort Avenue was laid out. Part of the estate, including the grounds of our campus, Lord Carysfort then sold to Attorney General Mark Anthony Saurin. Then the ownership transferred to another highly prominent figure, Right Hon. Rickard Deasy, whose involvement in the historically important Landlord and Tenant Law Amendment Act 1860 resulted in the Act being widely known as Deasy’s Act.
Finally, Carysfort House and the surrounding estate were offered for sale in 1890, and the Sisters of Mercy, represented by Mother Superior Liguori Keenan, decided that these grounds, away from the busy, industrial and bustling city of Dublin, would be a perfectly suited home for education provided on a grand scale. This lady has been described as a very strong-minded, all-action woman who happened to be a sister of Sir Patrick Keenan, Head Commissioner of Education in Ireland. Mother Keenan led the process of transferring the School from Baggot Street and developing the Blackrock site to expand the facilities, including the main (red brick) building of the current Smurfit School. In 1901, Dr. Walsh, Archbishop of Dublin, laid the foundation stone for a teacher training college, the chapel, an industrial school, a primary school and a secondary school. The main building of the current Smurfit School served as the reputable teacher training college, assuming the name of Carysfort College. At its peak in the early 1980s, the college produced more than 400 primary school teachers per year. It enjoyed the reputation of producing highly-trained and highly-competent teachers.
In February 1986, Gemma Hussey, Fine Gael Minister of Education, announced that the Department of Education was no longer prepared to subsidise the college. The decline in birth rate, and thus the decrease in the number of teachers required, was cited as the primary reason for this.
Among those who participated in the education process at Carysfort were Eamonn de Valera, first Taoiseach and first President of the Republic of Ireland, who was a professor of maths there; recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature poet Seamus Heaney, who served as head of the English Department; and Dr. Vincent O’Brien, a professor of music, among whose pupils were Count John McCormack and James Joyce. An interesting account by Christine Coady (later Sister Pascal), who studied there in 1910, details unusual aspects of Eamonn de Valera’s teaching: “Looking back one can see that many of the problems he set up were based on his study of arms and ammunition – the principle of the torpedo took up one session”.
– Natasha Ibanez, FT MBA 2013