They don’t make them like that anymore

One of the most special things about this year is the privilege of completing our studies in a location associated with an esteemed history of education, evidence of which lies in the magnificent building that houses our college and the surrounding areas. The building itself is a well-preserved example of the architecture of its time, with a design rich in detail, from the wide, steep staircase, the halls, high ceilings and doorway arches, to the numerous high, deep-set windows (making use of the technology available at that time, to embrace as much light as possible) and, most notably, the characteristic red brickwork. It is this level of detail, rarely evident in modern architecture, and the workmanship invested in the building, that add to the sense of a place where the serious yet nurturing matter of education must take place, a sense of grandeur among comfort. This is a culture and tradition fit for reflection, learning and development. Here, one can experience tranquillity and protection via seclusion from the modern, busy world of noise, glass and steel.

Such features lead to the question: Why was this building lavished with so much attention and financial support? I could not find a straightforward answer to this question, but I did discover some interesting facts regarding the history of this building and the surrounding land.

The history of the Smurfit Graduate School of Business began when UCD, via a combination of government funding and private funding (from Dr. Michael Smurfit), purchased the buildings and the 20 acres of land connected to it at the beginning of 1991 from businessman Mr. Robert “Pino” Harris. Such a move supported the transfer of the already successful UCD Graduate School of Business to a new location, as well as its expansion. The deal found support in government among the highest ranks, including the Taoiseach. Originally, plans were made to organise a shuttle bus service between the new branch of UCD and its main Belfield campus.

The previous owner of the premises, Mr. Harris, whose main business interests involved importing trucks, had only been its proud owner for 7 months prior to selling. Mr. Harris’s intention when purchasing the property in mid-1990 was to establish an international education school, which would have been highly desired by many, perpetuating the property’s legacy of high-quality education.

Prior to Mr. Harris, a consortium known as Devmac owned the building; and previous to this, it had been founded by the Sisters of Mercy. The property then served as a teacher training college, initially for women solely. Only towards the end, in 1975, did it become co-educational. The last two transfers of ownership were unfortunately plagued with financial controversies, but which are now in the past.

Although the college’s postal address locates it in Blackrock, the grounds were once part of a parkland belonging to the Stillorgan estate. The land afforded a great view of the sea, even from Stillorgan, with the surroundings relatively free of construction. One of the most long-standing owners was the Allen family, which purchased these lands, including the lands around Cary’s fort, a castle in Co. Wicklow. The castle received its name from its founder and first owner, 1st Viscount Falkland, Henry Carey, who built it in the 1620s. Henry Carey was also the Lord Deputy of Ireland between 1622 and 1629. The Allen family actively acquired land, expanding the Stillorgan estate to include the current college campus grounds. The Hon. Elizabeth Allen’s extensive inheritance, consisting of the largest estates in Ireland at the time, was then shared with John Proby through marriage in the mid-18th century. John Proby’s successful career raised him to the Peerage of Ireland, making him 1st Baron Carysfort of Carysfort. Their son, John Joshua Proby, even acquired the title of 1st Earl of Carysfort, and, in 1804 built Carysfort Park House, now known as the Ligouri House, around which the current student accommodation (Proby House Residencies) has been built.

To be continued …

– Natasha Ibanez, FT MBA 2012-13