This article was originally written by Denis Leonard to appear in ‘The Crescent’ (edited by Anthony White), an anthology put together to celebrate 150 years of Jesuit education in Limerick. We are reproducing it here by kind permission of Messenger Publications. As Denis Leonard states in his article, Crescent alumni have made “an exceptional contribution to society in social, professional, religious, commercial, sporting and voluntary activity and to civic and political life in Limerick, nationally and worldwide”.
Crescent College has a revered place in Limerick’s social and educational history from 1859. The Jesuit community may be gone from the centre of town, but their legacy to countless generations of Limerick families will have an ongoing and enduring status in the City’s folklore and heritage archives and records.
To write on Crescent’s alumni was an interesting challenge which was not made easy by the lack of available documented material. I did however assemble enough evidence to establish that it is a subject worthy of further extensive research which should not end with this publication. I have chosen nearly two hundred and fifty past pupils sub-divided into fourteen categories. My apologies in advance to those who were undeservedly omitted, and perhaps even to some who might have preferred not to have been included at all.
Given these challenges as I faced up to the task I found it to be a compelling journey down memory lane. The ensuing article records an exceptional contribution to society in social, professional, religious, commercial, sporting and voluntary activity and to civic and political life in Limerick, nationally and worldwide.
In my list of Jesuits I have listed just sixteen as a representative selection of the many who joined the Society from Limerick. Top of my Jesuit list is Father Gerry Guinane (OC1917), a most wonderful character who attended Crescent for three years. He was an army chaplain during World War II and an icon in the Irish rugby world, North and South. Founding member of Old Crescent RFC and a master of dry humour he was the priest who used to say the fastest mass.
There were other “firsts” – Father John Mc Donnell (OC1866) was one of the first pupils in 1859 at the school and the first to join the Order. Father Patrick Dermot Hogan (OC1920) was the first scholastic to be chosen for the new Irish Jesuit mission to China. He later became Provincial of the Order in Australia. Father Michael Browne (OC1872) was the first of two past pupils to return as Rector in Crescent in 1905-08. Father Patrick O’ Mara (OC1888) was the other in 1931-34.
Father Thomas Head (OC1860) was the first of five to return to the school as Prefect of Studies in 1891-93. Next was Father Patrick Kennedy (OC1899), a renowned ornithologist, in 1916-25. He was followed by Father John Barragry (OC1895) for 1925-31. Father Todd Morrissey (OC1948) oversaw the move from the Crescent to Dooradoyle and he held the headmaster position between 1970 and 1982. Father Liam O’ Connell (OC1956) was the last Jesuit headmaster in Dooradoyle in 1992-2000. Another past pupil, Dermot Cowhey (OC 1976), was the second lay headmaster at the Comprehensive from 2003 to 2008.
James Corboy (OC1931) was appointed Bishop of Monze, Northern Rhodesia (afterwards Zambia) in 1962. John Hannon (OC1900) was the Society’s Assistant for Ireland, England, Canada and Belgium at the time of his death in Rome in 1947. In more recent times James McPolin (OC1948) and John Macken (OC 1959) both served as President of the Milltown Institute, while Peter Sexton (OC1962) was headmaster of Gonzage College and Leonard Moloney (OC1973) is currently headmaster of Clongowes Wood College, having previously been headmaster of Belvedere College.
Among other clergy the school can claim two archbishops of note. John Harty (OC1886) was Archbishop of Cashel and Emly from 1914 to 1946.and was Patron of the GAA from 1928 giving his name to the Harty Cup, the trophy for Munster Schools Hurling. He was President of the Catholic Truth Society of Ireland and chairman of the committee of the Eucharistic Congress in Dublin in 1932. John Cantwell (OC 1886) was appointed Bishop of Monterey-Los Angeles by Pope Benedict XV in 1917 and was the first Archbishop of Los Angeles from 1936 to 1947. Edward O’ Dwyer (OC 1860) was renowned as a forceful Bishop of Limerick from 1886 to 1917, whose recent biography was from the pen of Father Todd Morrissey SJ. His enduring legacy to Limerick is Mary Immaculate College which he founded in 1898. Denis Hallinan (OC1867) succeeded him as Bishop of Limerick from 1918 to 1923. John Noonan (OC1963) is currently Auxiliary Bishop of Miami.
Canon John Hayes (OC1904) was the founder of Muintir na Tíre in 1937, and the “Land League Priest”, Eugene Sheehy (OC 1862), was a founder member of the Irish Volunteers and gave spiritual aid to the garrison in the G.P.O. Dublin during the 1916 Easter Rising. A Redemptorist priest, James Stack (OC 1898), was awarded an OBE in recognition of his distinguished record in the First World War. Columban missionary, Father Patrick Laffan (OC1914), was held captive by the communists for seven months while working in China.
Two school friends from the class of 1951 were both made monsignors of the Catholic Church. Monsignor Brian (Bowler) Walsh worked in Miami, Florida and did great work for Cuban refugees. He was also an amateur pilot and is rumoured to have smuggled some of the refugees into the USA. Monsignor Tom Stack, having won two senior school cup medals while at the Crescent, swopped a promising rugby career for the priesthood. He is a well-known broadcaster and writer and in 2008 retired as Parish Priest of Milltown in Dublin. A recent honour was bestowed on the 1959 (centenary year) School Captain, Donogh O’ Malley, when he was elevated to Canon of the Diocese of Limerick. He is Parish Priest of St. Mary’s parish in the city.
In the academic and professional realms the school has had its share of high achievers. Crescent showed early promise when, in the first sitting of the new Intermediate Examination system in 1879, Charles F. Doyle (OC1881) came first in Ireland at Junior Level, a feat he repeated at Middle and Senior levels. He went on to become one of the first Catholics to be a Foundation Scholar at Trinity College and won the Berkeley Gold Medal (previous recipients included Oscar Wilde) before graduating. At King’s Inns he was awarded the Brooke Scholarship, the highest award for graduating barristers. Doyle became a County Court judge, and subsequently one of the first Circuit Court judges following the establishment of the state. This set a pattern in a profession where many former Crescent pupils have had considerable success.
Most prominent is John Murray (OC 1955), former Attorney General, Judge of the European Court of Justice and now Chief Justice, the first Limerick native to achieve that distinction. Philip O’Sullivan (OC1955) and Kevin O’Higgins (OC1962) have both been Justices of the High Court, Kevin is currently a Judge of the European Court of First Instance. Another distinguished lawyer was Sir Henry Blackhall (OC1903), who was consecutively Attorney General in Cyprus and in the Gold Coast (now Ghana), and Chief Justice in Trinidad and in Hong Kong. Three of “our” solicitors were elected President of the Law Society of Ireland by their peers – Niall Gaffney (OC 1914) in 1956/7; Joe Dundon (OC1955) in 1977/8 and Paddy Glynn (OC1950) in 1994/95.
Medicine is another area where Crescent past pupils have been prominent since early days. At the time of his death in 2004 the Irish Timesdescribed Cormac McNamara (OC1962) as “the Republic’s foremost medical politician for over thirty years” and someone who had had a major influence on national health policy. His medical career was spent in general practice in Waterford. At the age of thirty five he was President of the Irish Medical Union, and shortly afterwards chairman of the Irish Medical Association. He was instrumental in merging both bodies into the Irish Medical Organisation in 1984. A founder member of the Irish College of General Practitioners, he was its second President in 1985, and between 1995 and 1998 President of the European Union of General Practitioners. Among his contemporaries John Stronge (OC1958) was Master of the National Maternity Hospital, William Hedderman (OC1942) was President of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) in 1990-91, as was Niall O’ Higgins (OC1958) in 2004-05. Niall’s brother, Tom O’Higgins (OC1956), was to the fore in another profession, accountancy, in which Crescent alumni are also strongly represented, becoming President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland in 1991-92.
Exactly a century after Charles Doyle brought renown to the young Crescent, Donald McDonnell (OC 1979) brought national attention to Dooradoyle when he won the coveted Aer Lingus Young Scientist of the Year award in 1979. Donald became a professional scientist and is now professor of DMCB Pharmacology and Cancer Biology at Duke University Medical Centre, North Carolina. An interesting participant in the world of scientific research is Dr Catriona Jackman (OC1999), an associate on the Cassini Huggens Space Mission, the largest interplanetary spacecraft ever built and destined for a four year orbit of Saturn and its moons.
Academia has been, and is, home to many past pupils. The most prominent of many at the University of Limerick has been engineer Noel Mulcahy (OC1948), Professor of Industrial Strategy and Executive Vice-President of the University for most of the 1980s and 1990s. Tom Cosgrove (OC1974) has recently been appointed the first Professor of Civil Engineering there.
There has been strong Crescent presence at UCD over many years. John Ryan SJ (OC1911) was Professor of Early Irish History from 1942 to 1964, and was the authority on Irish monasticism. D.K. O’Donovan (OC 1922) was Professor of Medicine from 1954 to 1975, while Niall O’Higgins (OC 1958) was Professor of Surgery from 1978 to 2007. He is now Professor and Chair of the Department of Surgery at RCSI Bahrain. Aidan Kelly (OC1958) was Professor of Management, Dean of the Faculty of Commerce and Vice-President of Development at UCD.
John Waddell (OC 1961) was Professor of Archaeology at NUI Galway. Michael Fitzgerald (OC1959) is Henry Marsh Professor of Adolescent and Child Psychiatry at Trinity College Dublin. He was the first professor of child psychiatry in Ireland and is an authority on autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. Another inhabitant of academia has been Paddy Buckley (OC1966) for over twenty years Executive Secretary of the Royal Irish Academy. John Murphy (OC1972) is Merck-Pauson Professor of Chemistry at Strathclyde University in Glasgow, while engineer John Naughton (OC1964) who was President of the Students’ Union in his days at UCC, is Professor of the Public Understanding of Technology at the Open University. John has been a columnist with the Observer for almost thirty years.
In politics three past pupils have been cabinet ministers. Donogh O’Malley (OC1937) was a Fianna Fáil TD for Limerick East from 1954 to 1968 and Minister for Health and for Education between 1965 and his death in March 1968. He is remembered above all as the man who introduced ‘free education’ to secondary schools. Desmond O’Malley (OC1957) was a Fianna Fáil, and subsequently a Progressive Democrat, TD for Limerick East from 1968 to 2002, Tánaiste from 1989 to 1992, and a founder and leader of the Progressive Democrats between 1986 and 1993. He was a cabinet minister for eleven years in Justice, and in a variety of portfolios involving Industry, Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Energy between 1970 and 1992. Tom O’Donnell (OC1942) was a Fine Gael TD for Limerick East from 1961 to 1987 and Minister for the Gaeltacht between 1973 and 1977.
Tim O’Malley (OC1962) was Progressive Democrat TD for Limerick East from 2002 to 2007 and was Minister of State at the Department of Health all during that time. James O’Mara (OC c.1889) was a Sinn Féin TD for Kilkenny South in the first Dáil from 1918 to 1921, and a trustee of Dáil funds in the United States. He represented Dublin South for Cumann na nGaedhael between 1924 and 1927. George Bennett (OC1895) was Cumann na nGaedhael, and subsequently Fine Gael, TD for Limerick from 1927 to 1948, while George Edward (Ted) Russell (OC1920) represented Limerick as an Independent between 1957 and 1961. Pat O’Malley (OC1962), represented Dublin West as a Progressive Democrat from 1987 to 1989, while Noel Mulcahy (OC 1948), before joining the University of Limerick, was a Fianna Fáil Senator 1977-1981. Paddy Lane (OC1952) was a Fianna Fáil member of the European Parliament between 1989 and 1994, having previously been elected President of the Irish Farmers Association.
Two past pupils were Members of the House of Commons before independence. David Sheehy (OC1867), brother of Father Eugene Sheehy, and a supporter of both the Land League and the IRB, was Nationalist MP for County Galway from 1885 to 1900, and MP for South Meath from 1903 to 1918. Francis O’Keeffe (OC1867), like Sheehy an anti-Parnellite after 1890, was Nationalist MP for Limerick 1888-1900.
The office of Mayor of Limerick originated with the City’s first charter in 1197. Since the first Mayor, Adam Sarvant, 584 different persons have held the office for one or more terms. An analysis of the nine Crescent boys who were Mayor indicates three distinct eras. Between 1887 and 1891 Francis O’ Keeffe (OC 1867), who was Mayor for three terms was followed by William O’ Donnell (OC1874) and Patrick Riordan (OC1888). Three past pupils were Limerick’s first citizen when Irish politics were in turmoil between 1916 and 1925, Stephen Quin (OC1873) and Alphonsus O’ Mara (OC1901) for two terms each, and Robert de Courcy (OC1895) for two and a half terms. In mid-century Michael O’Malley (OC1935) became Mayor in 1948, and his brother, Donogh (OC1937), in 1961. Ted Russell (OC 1920) held the mayoralty on five occasions between 1954 and 1977. Since Ted Russell’s time only two past pupils have been City Councillors, both for just one term each, and none have been elected in the past thirty years. It is to be hoped that this trend will not continue.
Another civic position of importance was that of Sheriff. This function originated in the thirteenth century under the name of Bailiff and was changed in 1609 to Sheriff. The office of Sheriff was abolished by the Irish Free State government in 1929. Joseph Gaffney (OC1876), Francis O’Keeffe and William O’Donnell each held the office for one or more years, and may not have been the only past pupils to do so.
Five past pupils were made Freemen of Limerick. The first in 1908 was Joseph O’Mara (OC 1880), the leading Irish tenor before the arrival of John McCormack. After a year as a sailor and a period in the family bacon company, he studied singing in Milan and quickly became one of the leading opera tenors in Britain and the United States. In 1912 he set up the O’Mara Opera Company which toured Britain and Ireland in the period up to his death in 1927. Bishop Edward O’ Dwyer was honoured in 1916. Ted Russell, businessman, sportsman, national and local politician, charitable worker and this author’s godfather, was the school’s third Freeman. Bill Whelan (OC1968), Riverdance creator, musician and composer of international standing was the school’s first freeman in the twenty first century. Terry Wogan (OC1954), BBC broadcaster, knight and perhaps the best-known Irishman in Britain, was the most recent recipient.
Nine past pupils have been recipients of honorary doctorates from the University of Limerick including Desmond O’Malley, John Murray, Ted Russell, Bill Whelan and Terry Wogan. Solicitor James Lyons (OC1939) was a major figure in the campaign for a university in Limerick. Gordon Holmes (OC1950) was state solicitor for Limerick, solicitor to the Attorney General and chairman of both the Commission on Liquor Licensing and the Garda Síochána Complaints Board. He was also the youngest captain of the Irish Bridge team.
There have been two recipients in 2009. Dan Tierney (OC1954), chairman of Bimeda Holdings plc, a veterinary pharmaceuticals manufacturer, was also chairman of the Science, Technology and Innovation Advisory Council which produced the significant 1995 Tierney Report on technology transfer and linkages between industry and higher education. Limerick Civic Trust founder (the first Civic Trust to be established on the island of Ireland) Denis Leonard (OC 1965) received his doctorate in recognition of his work in preserving the architectural environment and heritage of Limerick. Louis Mulcahy (OC1960), a household name in pottery design, was the first craftsman to receive an honorary doctorate from the National University of Ireland.
Over the years a small number of Crescent alumni have been to the fore in Irish public administration. The first Chairman of the Revenue Commissioners in the history of the state, appointed by the Free State government in February 1923, was William T.O’Brien (OC1893) from Murroe. He had served previously with the British Inland Revenue. Patrick McKernan (OC1958) was Secretary General of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Permanent Representative of Ireland to the European Union and Irish Ambassador to both the United States and to France. Michael Rynne (OC1912) was aide de camp to Richard Mulcahy, chief of staff of the Irish Republican Army during the War of Independence, Legal Adviser to the Department of External Affairs and subsequently Irish Ambassador to Spain.
Richard Ryan (OC1958) was for many years Head of Planning with the Industrial Development Authority and was recognised as a key figure in IDA’s success in identifying and attracting multinational industries to Ireland. Henry Murdoch (OC 1954) was for many years Assistant Director in both AnCo and its successor, FÁS, and is the author of Murdoch’s Dictionary of Irish Law. Denis Corboy (OC1946) was Head of the European Commission Office in Dublin both before and after Ireland’s accession to the Community in 1973. He was EU Ambassador to Georgia and Armenia from 1994 to 1999, and is currently Director of the Caucasus Policy Institute at King’s College, University of London.
If the contribution of Crescent alumni to public administration has been relatively modest, the same cannot be said of the world of business. In general terms a Crescent past pupil was more likely to pursue a career in business than in the civil or public service. The contribution has been across the range of large, medium and small businesses, whether in manufacturing, financial (Crescent folk have been notably prominent in insurance nationally and locally) or other services, professions serving business activity or representative organisations such as chambers of commerce. A representative sample of achievers past and present would be beyond the scope of this article. It is however noteworthy that two of the seven largest companies in Ireland (according to the Irish Times Top 1000 Companies Supplement) are headed by Crescent alumni. Paul Rellis (OC1984) is Managing Director of Microsoft Ireland, while Google Ireland is headed by John Herlihy (OC1985), European Director and Vice-President of online sales and marketing.
Sport has been an area in which many past pupils have played a distinguished part. Crescent can claim to be one of the leading schools in Irish rugby and is one of the elite group which had a past pupil on both Irish international rugby teams which won a Grand Slam. The gifted sportsman Paddy Reid (OC 1995) who excelled at rugby (league and union), rowing, hockey and athletics, was on the 1948 Irish team, while David Wallace (OC1995) played in 2009. There have been eleven others who have played for Ireland – Paddy Berkery (OC1947), Gordon Wood (OC1949), Paddy Lane (OC1952), Johnny Moloney (OC1958), Pat Whelan (OC 1968), Richard Costello (OC1975), Kelvin Leahy (OC1983), Peter Clohessy (OC1985), Nicky Barry (OC1987), Paul Wallace (OC1990) and Eoin Reddan (OC1999). Pat Whelan is currently a member of both the Committee of the Irish Rugby Football Union and the International Rugby Board. He was an inspirer and chairman of the recent redevelopment of the stadium at Thomond Park. Although he was never capped for Ireland, Donogh O’ Malley (OC 1939) had the unique achievement of playing on the Ulster, Leinster and Connacht senior interprovincial rugby teams but interestingly never for his native province.
Róisín Flinn (OC2000) has been playing women’s hockey for Ireland since 2007. She captained the team against Canada in January 2009, and in June 2009 two goals from her against Ukraine gave Ireland a bronze medal at the Womens Championship Challenge in Kazan. Tony O’Connor (OC1987) won a gold medal at the World Rowing Championships in Lausanne in 2001, and also rowed in the Olympic Games in 1996 and 2000. Tom Comyns (OC1991) competed in the Olympics in 2000 and 2004, and shares the Irish record as a member of the Irish 4x 100 metres and 4x 400 metres relay teams. He is now a speed coach for the Munster and Ireland rugby teams and a strength and condition coach with Munster. Barry Walsh (OC1986) was British champion in the decathlon in 1993. He now heads up coaching at the Bank of England RFC and coaches with the Harlequins Academy. John Fulham (OC1989) represented Ireland in four Paralympics between 1992 and 2004.
Gina Niland (OC1990) was winner of the Irish Close Tennis Championship in 1995, 1996 and 1997 together with virtually every other domestic title. She was the mainstay of Irish Federation Cup teams for most of the 1990s. Her brother Conor (OC1997) is currently a top-ranked tennis player and has played Davis Cup for Ireland on twenty four occasions. In the early 1960s there were two former Crescent international tennis players, John O’Brien (OC1957) and Michael Hickey (OC1958). Hickey rivals Paddy Reid as arguably the best all round sportsman to come from the school because, in addition to being the only Crescent pupil to play in the Wimbledon Championships and his forty Davis Cup matches for Ireland, he also represented Ireland at squash, played rugby for Leinster and was a championship golfer.
As a rugby school, Crescent has not produced many hurlers or Gaelic footballers. However, Eithne Duggan (OC1990) was captain of the Cork team that won the All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship in 1998. Gary Kirby (OC1995) was captain of the Limerick senior hurling team which won the National League, and Peter Lawlor (OC1999), also a senior county player, won two All-Ireland Under-21 medals.
Ron Barry (OC1959) was National Hunt champion jockey in Britain in 1972/73 and 1973/74, winning the 1973 Cheltenham Gold Cup on The Dikler. Andrew McNamara (OC2001) is Barry’s successor among Crescent past pupils, with wins at Cheltenham in the Kerrygold Champion Chase and the Queen Mother Champion Chase, and the AIG Champion Hurdle and the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup. His father, Andrew, has been a successful racehorse trainer for over thirty years, while his father’s classmate for the 1964 Leaving Certificate, Des McDonagh, was likewise successful, training Monksfield to win the Champion Hurdle in 1978 and 1979.
An Irish Senior International, Cian McNamara (OC2003) won the R&A Junior Open Championship in 2002, and was on the Walker Cup panel in 2005. This was followed by a golf scholarship to East Tennessee State University. Cian turned professional in 2008. Tim Rice (OC1996) turned professional after winning several Irish Senior caps and the Irish Senior Cup with Limerick GC in 2002. Ivan Morris (OC1964) played in both the British Open and in the British Amateur Open, while Gary Geary (OC1950) represented Ireland at seniors’ international level. Among the winners of the Munster Boys’ Golf Championship has been the current chairman of the CCC board of Management, Richard Leonard (OC1972).
In sports administration Dermot O’Donovan (OC1922) was President of the Irish Rugby Football Union in 1965/66, as was John Quilligan (OC1974) in 2003/04. Tommy O’Donnell (OC1924) was President of the Irish Rowing Union in 1932/33 and the Golfing Union of Ireland in 1967/68. His son, Tom O’Donnell (OC1966), now a District Justice, was President of the Irish Triathlon Association 1987-90 and the European Triathlon Union 1990-94. Paddy McPolin (OC1946) was President of the Golfing Union of Ireland in 1973/74.
In the world of media there has long been an old Crescent presence in the Irish Times with Fergus Linehan (OC1943), Bill Murdoch (OC1954), Terence Killeen (OC1966) and Carl Johnson (OC1952). The tradition is carried on with David Labanyi (OC1992), Simon Carswell (OC1994) Fiona Reddan (OC1994) and the paper’s Chief Information Officer, Brona Kernan (OC1985). Among those at the Independent Group have been Kevin O’Connor (OC1955) and the former political correspondent of the Sunday Independent, Joseph O’Malley (OC1961). Richard Oakley (OC1993) is a journalist with the Sunday Times, while Richard Collins (OC1962) writes on natural history for the Irish Examiner as well as being a regular contributor to programmes dealing with wildlife on radio.
At RTÉ Joe Little (OC1973) is social and religious affairs correspondent, while Michael McNamara (OC1970), Lorcan Murray (OC1978) and William Leahy (OC1996) have had their own regular radio programmes over many years. Helen Normoyle (OC1985) is Head of Audiences at the BBC. In the area of commercial radio, the most prominent past pupil has been Dermot Hanrahan (OC1977). He was CEO of FM104 before selling it in 2004. Among his current activities are the chair of RedFM in Cork and director of Folder Media which has been awarded numerous digital radio licences. Crescent alumni at the Limerick Leader have included Cormac Liddy (OC1959), Paddy Moroney (OC1965) and Billy Kelly (OC1970). Over at Limerick Weekly Echo the Morris family, notably Ivan (OC1964), held sway in the lifetime of the group. Len Dinneen (OC1959) has been one the most distinctive voices on Limerick local radio over many years.
As noted above, Crescent’s two freemen of the city from the arts world were both musicians, James O’Mara and Bill Whelan. In the visual arts Charles Harper (OC1960) has received eight national awards for his painting. He is a founder member of Aosdána and member of the Royal Hibernian Academy since 2002. Tom Fitzgerald (OC1955) is also a member of Aosdána and was head of the department of sculpture at Limerick School of Art and Design. Harper, Fitzgerald and Terry Leahy (OC1966) were members of a small group which established Limerick’s annual EV+a Exhibition in 1977. All lectured at Limerick School of Art and Design (now a school of Limerick Institute of Technology).
Sean Lysaght (OC1974) is a poet and also lectures at the Castlebar campus of Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology. Poet Desmond O’Grady, described by Séamus Heaney as “one of the senior figures in Irish literary life”, has taught in Paris, Rome and the United States and is a member of Aosdána.
Theatre is perhaps the area of the arts to which Crescent alumni have contributed most. In theatre production the school can boast of having the winner of an International Emmy Award. Kevin Wallace (OC1974) won the award in 2001 as executive producer of the film, based on the stage production, of Jesus Christ Superstar. Kevin, originally a stage and TV actor, was at that time an in-house producer for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group. He set up Kevin Wallace Ltd. in 2002 to produce musicals and plays, and the 2007 production of Lord of the Rings at Drury Lane was billed as the most expensive musical ever staged in London. George Heslin (OC1987) is currently Artistic Director at the Origin Theatre, New York. Noel Staunton (OC1970) was the executive director of Sydney Dance Company and technical director of Opera Australia before his appointment as executive producer for Bazmark Live.
Playwrights among Crescent alumni have been Gerard Gallivan (OC1939), Fergus Linehan (OC1943) and Paul Meade (OC1987), who is also an actor and Artistic Director of Gúna Nua Theatre Company. Past pupils prominent in acting careers laterally have been Dara O’Malley (OC1969) and Conor Byrne (OC1980) in Britain, and Andrew Bennett (OC1984) and Karl Quinn (OC1991) in Ireland.
Crescent’s best known alumnus internationally has perhaps been Richard Harris (OC1949) actor, singer, producer, director and writer. His initial promise was at rugby, but having trained and worked as an actor in theatre and film, his breakthrough came with This Sporting Life, which won him the best actor award at the 1963 Cannes Film Festival and an Oscar nomination. He starred as King Arthur in Camelot (both in film and on stage), Oliver Cromwell in Cromwell and at the end of his career Albus Dumbledore in the first two Harry Potter films. He was in the Academy Award winning films Unforgiven (1992) and Gladiator (2000) and was again nominated for an oscar in 1992 for his playing of Bull McCabe in The Field. To date Richard Harris, who died in 2002, is the only Crescent past pupil to have had a statue raised in his honour in his native city.
A wider listing would have permitted an exploration of interesting alumni who do not fit fully into any of the above categories such as reputedly first student in the school. Paul Connolly (OC 1863), who became a barrister and Surgeon-Major in the British army, William Nunan (OC1895) who was Police Surgeon and a Professor of Mediaeval Jurisprudence in Bombay in the 1920s, Joseph Gorry (OC1906) who in 1915 went down with the Lusitania while attending the injured, or from more recent times Ray Jordan (OC 1988), head of development aid agency Self Help Africa.
In the research for this article I found no available list, roll of honour or recording of the school’s many luminaries. I had to rely primarily on a few journals and school reviews from between 1898 and 1933, Father Finegan’s centenary record of 1959, and the mature recollection of the many old boys whom I contacted. The Crescent Comprehensive College website was informative but not as good as former headmasters Father Liam O’ Connell SJ and Dermot Cowhey, who were most helpful and a fund of information.
During the course of my research I was amazed at the impact the school, and its students have made to improving the human lot over one hundred and fifty years. It is very evident that the Crescent tradition and ethos have made an easy journey to Crescent College Comprehensive, at Dooradoyle and that past pupils from both campuses have a wonderful bond with their alma mater.