St. Colman’s Abbey PS

ST. COLMAN’S ABBEY PRIMARY, NEWRY (1851 – present)  Chapel Street (1851).  St Margaret’s, ‘Carstands’ (1865). Courteney Hill (1938 to 2014)

The school closed as the result of an amalgamation
with St Clare’s Primary School in August 2014.
The new amalgamated school, St Clare’s Abbey Primary,
opened on 1st September 2014.
The school community moved into the new school
on Courtenay Hill in February 2016.

(24th May 2013)

The day began with Mass in the Cathedral at 10.30 followed by dinner in the Canal Court Hotel.

The Diamond Jubilee Mass was concelebrated by ten priests,

Canon Francis Brown (Administrator of the Parish),
Fr Stanislaw Hajkowski (School Chaplain),
Fr Colum Wright PP (Past Pupil),
Fr John Byrne CC (Past Pupil),
Fr Desmond Mooney CC (Past Pupil),
Fr Martin Hughes CC (Past Pupil),
Fr Desmond Loughran CC (Past Pupil),
Fr Davis Rocks OP (Past Pupil),
Fr Stephen Tumilty OP (Past Pupil)
Fr Raymond Murtagh SPS (Past Pupil).

Mr Danny O’Neill was the organist.

Staff , pupils and past pupils contributed to the liturgy with their music, readings, prayers, reflections and Offertory Procession.

The Abbey Primary – A Short History

Anthony Russell

(Pupil 1958 – 1962)

By the 7th of June 1938, when the Abbey Public Elementary School opened, the Christian Brothers had been providing education, meals and clothing, for the less well off boys in Newry, in a variety of buildings, for eighty seven years – years that had seen the town stagnate; its mills and inland canal stuttering towards closure. Housing on the eastern hill and on the valley floor was high density; few had running water.

Although, from 1865, the architect Barre’s Carstands School in Margaret Street, since demolished, was a purpose built and much admired building, it was crowded and inadequate. Therefore, from 1918, following all schools being closed because of the flu pandemic, pupils in years one and two went to Kilmorey Street, years three, four and five went to the Carstands and year six went to Abbey Yard. This arrangement, and its associated buildings, was unsatisfactory, but in 1930 new legislation allowed Catholics to apply to the Northern Ireland Ministry of Education for help in building schools.

In 1938 the brightly decorated, brick building, on Courtney Hill, had 15 classrooms, two specialist room, an assembly hall, a covered, basement play area and, remarkably given previous conditions, central heating. It could accommodate 800 pupils, making it one of the largest elementary schools in the country.

Ten years later, the 1947 Education Act changed its status and it became a primary school with the emphasis on the educational and social opportunities offered by the new Qualifying Examination. Now, infant boys went to St. Joseph’s and St. Clare’s convent schools before, aged 7, walking in procession to the Abbey. This changed in 1964 and by 1969, with the provision of temporary classrooms and the use of rooms in the old Abbey Yard grammar school, the roll had risen to 1,080. However, the growth of well equipped housing estates, on the periphery of the town, saw the opening of St. Patrick’s, St. Malachy’s, and St. Ronan’s primary schools with a consequent fall in the Abbey’s numbers.

Three innovations have changed the character of the Abbey:

Going back to the Carstands school male lay teachers had always taught alongside the Brothers but in 1959 the first of many female teachers were employed. They now form the majority of the staff.
In 1976 the Abbey Physically Handicapped Unit opened its doors to boys and girls. There was a primary class, ages 4 to 11, and a senior class, ages 11 to 19. Today only the primary class remains.
With the Millennium, the St. Colman’s and St. Clare’s Nursery opened beside the Handicapped Unit.
With the exceptions of the Special Unit and Nursery, both well integrated into the life of the Abbey, the school is once again, comfortably and happily, contained within the 1938 building. It has served teachers and pupils well, over the last 75 years.

Although, the Brothers have now left the town, and the multi-ethnic, technologically aware pupils of today look very different from the sometimes barefoot, sometimes hungry, sometimes cold pupils of the 1930s, the values of Edmund Rice and the ethos of the Christian Brothers still prepare them for the challenge of a rapidly changing world.

Abbey History Book
(A History of the Abbey Primary and Grammar School)


PAST STAFF (building)
Br Francis Clifford: Successor to Br Scannell in Chapel Street and opened ‘Carstands’ in 1865.
Br Dempsey:
Br Peter 
Scannell: Headmaster and one of two Christian Brothers to arrive in Newry, Chapel Street School,  in 1951. He lived in Mount St Patrick’s.
Br Vincent McDonald: One of two Christian Brothers to arrive in Newry, Chapel Street School,  in 1951. He lived in Mount St Patrick’s.
Br Matthew O’Donnell:  1917. St Margaret’s, “Carstands”.
Br Sebastian O’Neill: 1917. St Margaret’s, “Carstands”.
Br Austin O’Reilly:  1917. St Margaret’s, ” Carstands”.
Mr Edmund Sweeney: Last Principal of St Colman’s. Took up the role of Vice-Principal in the amalgamated school –  St Clare’s Abbey P S from 1st September 2014. 



1960s  (Click on decade for more information.)
Peter Cunningham, Kevin Kenny, Dermot McGovern, 

Tom Kelly, Paul Mackle, Kevin McVeigh, 


Ronan Hughes, Cathal Maguire, Declan McLogan, Jim McShane, 

Ronan Boyle, Eoin Lennon, 

Byrne, John (Fr) CC: Newry Parish. Chaplain to St Joseph’s Primary School, the Abbey Grammar School, Our Lady’s Grammar School and the Sacred Heart Grammar School.
Hughes, Martin (Fr) CC:
Loughran, Desmond (Fr) CC:  St Michael’s, Finnis.
Maguinness, Paddy (Mr): 1950s. Former Deputy Chief Executive, Concern. Managing Director, Traidlinks.
Mooney, Desmond (Fr) CC: Moyraverty Parish, Craigavon.
Murtagh, Raymond (Fr) SPS:
O’Rourke, Aidan (Mr): Teacher in the Abbey Grammar for 40 years.

Fr David Rocks

Fr David Rocks

Rocks, David (Fr) OP: Chaplain to students at Leicester University and de Montfort University.
Sloan, Sean (Mr): Principal of St Patrick’s Grammar School, Downpatrick.
Sweeney, Edmund (Mr): Former Principal of St. Colman’s PS. Vice-Principal of  St Clare’s Abbey P. S.
Tumilty, Stephen (Fr) OP: Dominican Community, Newry.
Wright,  Colum (Fr) PP: St. Patricks, Loughbrickland.