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Midleton College

Midleton College
Connolly Street

Coordinates51°54′55″N 08°10′12″W / 51.91528°N 8.17000°W / 51.91528; -8.17000
School typeFee-paying independent
MottoSpartam nactus es, hanc exorna
(Thou hast found Sparta, adorn it)
DenominationChurch of Ireland
FounderElizabeth Hamilton, Countess of Orkney[2]
AuthorityBoard of Governors
Chairman of GovernorsPaul Colton, Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross[1]
PrincipalEdward Gash[3]
ChaplainRev. Andrew Orr[4]
Age range12–18
Hours in school day7
SportsRugby (boys)
Soccer (girls)
PublicationMidleton College Magazine

Midleton College is an independent co-educational boarding and day school in Midleton, County Cork, Ireland. In past centuries it has also been called Midleton School.

Although founded in 1696, the school did not open until 1717. It went through a period of inactivity early in the 19th century, and by the 1860s had low numbers, but was reinvigorated by a new principal and by the end of the 1870s was one of Ireland's leading schools. Originally for boys only, it is now co-educational.

The school has a strong Church of Ireland tradition, and its chaplain is also priest-in-charge of the neighbouring Youghal Union of parishes.[4]


The college was founded in 1696 by Elizabeth Hamilton, Countess of Orkney, as a grammar school for boys, but was not opened until 1717.[5]

Its origin came about when King William III was seeking to pension off his favourite, and former mistress, Elizabeth Villiers, granting her more than 95,000 acres of land in Ireland which had been the personal estates of King James II and later of William III's late wife, Queen Mary II. In November 1695, Elizabeth Villiers married Lord George Hamilton, who a few weeks later was created Earl of Orkney, but before marrying she put her Irish estates into a trust controlled by her brother Lord Villiers and Thomas Brodrick of Midleton, the son and heir of Sir St John Brodrick, who in 1653 had been granted the lands of Corabbey, renamed as Midleton by a charter of 1670.[6] With part of her new riches, Lady Orkney decided to found a school,[7] offering to give land in County Cork to trustees "to build a free school and pay the master a salary of £100".[8] In October 1696, her trustees Villiers and Brodrick conveyed some 1,882 acres in the baronies of Kinnelea and East and West Carbery to two further trustees, Brodrick's brother Alan Brodrick of Midleton and his brother-in-law Laurence Clayton of Mallow. Unfortunately for Lady Orkney, in 1700 the Parliament of England used an Act of Resumption to take back most of her Irish estates, but not the land she had used to endow the school, a gift which was specifically confirmed by another Act of Parliament in 1702. However, Brodrick still did not get on with building a school, claiming that he did not have enough funds in the trust and that time was needed "to accumulate out of the rents and profits a sufficient sum to build a School House". In 1710, the trustees granted leases of the school's land which later proved controversial.[6]


Lady Orkney, founder
Alan Brodrick, who opened the school, later Viscount Midleton

The school finally opened in 1717, in a new purpose-built limestone schoolhouse which is still in use, with the Rev. George Chinnery, a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, appointed as the first Master in August 1717.[6] Chinnery was followed in 1750 by his son, and between them the two men ran the school successfully until 1775.[5] The most notable old boy of the Chinnery years was John Philpot Curran (1750–1817), a famous orator and wit who became Master of the Rolls in Ireland.[9] However, after 1775 the school's fortunes suffered. Between 1804 and 1830, all teaching came to an end, with a new Master still drawing his salary but living in Dublin.[5]

According to a committee report published in 1872

Midleton School. — The Countess of Orkney granted, in 1696, over 2,000 acres of land for the foundation of a Free Grammar School at Midleton in the County of Cork, with exhibitions in the University of Dublin. The endowments of this school were shamefully abused, the land having been let on leases, renewable for ever, with small fines, at a rent of 200£, the property now being worth fully 2,000£ a year. An attempt was unsuccessfully made in 1828 by the Commissioners of Education to break the leases. The Endowed Schools Commissioners of 1858 report unfavourably of this school. There are two Exhibitions in Trinity College connected with it, one for 30£, the other for 20£. The subjects of examination, etc., are the same as for the Royal Schools.[10]

Charles Robert Barry, an old boy, in Vanity Fair, 1889
Trevor West, an old boy who wrote a school history

In 1829, the Commissioners of Education repaired the school's main building, and in 1830 a new Master was appointed and the College was re-opened.[5] Among the new intake of boys were Michael Roberts (1817–1882), later a notable mathematician, and his twin brother, William.[11] However, the renewal did not last long. In 1863, the school had only one boarder and three day boys, and a new Principal was appointed, the Rev. Thomas Moore. A man of great energy, within a year Moore had increased the numbers to forty boarders and twenty-two day boys, and in 1864 the Commissioners of Education granted the funding for a new three-storey red-brick School House, providing classrooms, a dormitory, rooms for schoolmasters, and a bathroom, which was completed in 1865.[12]

As an Anglican institution, the school's fortunes might have suffered from the rise of Irish nationalism, and it also had new competition in the shape of the Midleton Christian Brothers Secondary School, opened in 1867,[5] but nevertheless it continued to grow, and in 1878 there were sixty boarders and fifty-one day boys. Moore was by now employing three other schoolmasters, including the young Standish James O'Grady, as well as a housemaster to accommodate extra boarders, and the school joined the top flight of Irish schools, gaining scholarships at Dublin, Oxford, and Cambridge.[12] It was a founding member of the Irish Rugby Football Union, being listed as a member in the first year of the IRFU, 1879.[13]

In 1880, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland appointed commissioners "to Inquire Into the Endowments, Funds, and Actual Condition" of all endowed schools in Ireland, and in a report in 1881 they commented

There is no doubt that Midleton school is an important foundation, and ought to fulfil the duty of giving the better middle classes in the county of Cork a good education. But it needs a considerable sum of money expended upon it, and also some increase of endowment.[14]

The college became co-educational by first admitting girls in the 1970s. It remains affiliated to the Church of Ireland and has been called "a school of good tradition, proud of its charter of the reign of William III".[15] Paul Colton, Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, is the Chairman of Governors, who include Alan Brodrick, the latest Viscount Midleton.[1]

Present-day curriculum

Children usually arrive in the school at the age of twelve, enter the First Form, and stay for six years. The first three years, called the junior cycle, are aimed at the Junior Certificate, a set of public examinations taken at the end of the third year. The subjects taught are Irish, English, Mathematics, Religious Education, French, Spanish, German, History, Geography, Science (combining Physics, Chemistry and Biology), Home Economics, Art, Business Studies, Music, Computing, SPHE (Social Personal Health Education), CSPE (Civic, Social and Political Education), and Physical Education.[16]

There then follows a "Transition Year", called the Fourth Form, during which all the subjects available at Leaving Certificate level are taught, so that children experience them all before needing to choose the ones they will take for their Leaving Certificate. During this year, guidance is offered on subject choices for the Leaving Certificate programme of the next two academic years and the subject combinations which can be taught at the college.[17]

The curriculum in the fifth and sixth years, called the senior cycle, is a selection of the subjects taught for the Leaving Certificate, which largely determines access to higher education. At this level, the college has a maximum class size of twenty. The subjects offered are Classical Studies, Maths and Applied Maths, Irish, English, French, Spanish, German, History, Geography, Business, Economics, Accounting, Home Economics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Agricultural Science, Art and Art Appreciation, Music, Politics & Society and Computer Science.[18]


The main school sports are rugby union, soccer, field hockey, cricket, orienteering, golf, athletics, and equestrianism. Rugby at the school is strong, with some ninety boys playing and eight staff members to coach them. The school's senior and junior teams have had many successes in the Mungret Shield, the Mungret Cup, and the Munster Development League.[19] At this school, soccer is a girls' sport.[20] In the summer term, all boys and some girls play cricket.[21] Many boys and girls play hockey, for which there are twelve coaches.[22] Orienteering is a winter activity for all comers. The school has taken part in the Munster Schools League since 2003, with local victories and with students going on to the European and World Orienteering Championships.[23]

People educated at the school

See also Category:People educated at Midleton College


The motto of the college, Spartam nactus es, hanc exorna, is shared with Loretto School, in Scotland, and means literally "Thou hast found Sparta, adorn it". The Latin is a mistranslation by Erasmus of a line from a Greek play, Telephus by Euripides. The words have been interpreted as meaning "You were born with talents, develop them",[45] but could just as well mean "You have come into a great nation, be worthy of it". In the late 18th century, the words were quoted by the Anglo-Irish statesman Edmund Burke in his pamphlet, Reflections on the Revolution in France. Burke uses the words in this context:[46]

"There is something else than the mere alternative of absolute destruction, or unreformed existence. Spartam nactus es; hanc exorna. This is, in my opinion, a rule of profound sense, and ought never to depart from the mind of an honest reformer. I cannot conceive how any man can have brought himself to that pitch of presumption, to consider his country as nothing but carte blanche, upon which he may scribble whatever he pleases... a good patriot, and a true politician, always considers how he shall make the most of the existing materials of his country. A disposition to preserve, and an ability to improve, taken together, would be my standard of a statesman.[46]


  1. ^ a b "Governance Structure". Midleton College. Retrieved 27 July 2021.
  2. ^ William Fitzgerald, Bishop of Killaloe, ed., Lectures on ecclesiastical history, ed. by W. Fitzgerald and J. Quarry (1885), p. 8: "After some years he was appointed Principal of Midleton College in the county of Cork. Midleton College is an endowed school founded by the Countess of Orkney."
  3. ^ New Principal Appointed for Midleton College, County Cork dated 20 October 2014 at, accessed 22 April 2019
  4. ^ a b New partnership between Midleton College and the Diocese of Cork, Cloyne and Ross is inaugurated dated 22 October 2018 at
  5. ^ a b c d e history at, accessed 21 April 2019
  6. ^ a b c Midleton College, a school from scandal dated 27 September 2017 at
  7. ^ Brendan Lehane, The Companion Guide to Ireland (Companion Guides, 2001), p. 230
  8. ^ Parliamentary Papers: 1850-1908, Vol. 22, Part 1 (Great Britain Parliament, House of Commons, 1858), p. 114
  9. ^ a b William Henry Curran, R. Shelton MacKenzie (ed.), The Life of the Right Honorable John Philpot Curran, Late Master of the Rolls in Ireland (Chicago: Belford, Clarke & Co., 1881), p. 4
  10. ^ Intermediate and University Education in Ireland, by a Committee of Irish Catholics (1872), pp. 129–130
  11. ^ a b William Fellows Sedgwick "ROBERTS, MICHAEL (1817–1882), mathematician" in Dictionary of National Biography, Volume 48
  12. ^ a b Nigel Collett, The Butcher of Amritsar: General Reginald Dyer (London: A. & C. Black, 2006), pp. 17–18
  13. ^ Richard M. Peter, The Origins and Development of Football in Ireland (Ulster Historical Foundation, reprint, 1999), p. 69
  14. ^ Report of the Commissioners Appointed by His Excellency the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, to Inquire Into the Endowments, Funds, and Actual Condition of All Schools Endowed for the Purpose of Education in Ireland (A. Thom, 1881), p. 239
  15. ^ Ian Duncan Colvin, Harish Jain The Life of General Dyer (2006), p. 7
  16. ^ junior cycle at, accessed 20 April 2019
  17. ^ transition year at, accessed 20 April 2019
  18. ^
  19. ^ Extracurricular/rugby at, accessed 21 April 2019
  20. ^ Extracurricular/soccer at, accessed 21 April 2019
  21. ^ Extracurricular/cricket at, accessed 21 April 2019
  22. ^ Extracurricular/hockey at, accessed 21 April 2019
  23. ^ Extracurricular/orienteering at, accessed 21 April 2019
  24. ^ The Solicitors' Journal & Reporter, Volume 13 (1868), p. 140
  25. ^ Alan O'Day, "Butt, Isaac (1813–1879), politician and lawyer" in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004); online edition published 23 September 2004, accessed 22 April 2019 (subscription required)
  26. ^ a b Trevor West, Midleton College, 1696–1996: A Tercentenary History (Midleton, County Cork: Midleton College, 1996)
  27. ^ Nigel Collett (15 October 2006). The Butcher of Amritsar: General Reginald Dyer. A&C Black. p. 263. ISBN 978-1-85285-575-8.
  28. ^ G. C. Boase, revised by David Huddleston, "Fitzgerald, William (1814–1883)" in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004) online, accessed 22 April 2019, (subscription required)
  29. ^ M. L. Bierbrier, "Hincks, Edward (1792–1866), orientalist" in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004) online, accessed 22 April 2019, (subscription required): "After education by his father and some time at Midleton School from 1800, he proceeded on 2 November 1807 to Trinity College, Dublin, where he was elected a scholar on 18 June 1810 and graduated BA with the gold medal on 11 February 1812."
  30. ^ Kevin J. Cathcart, ed., The Correspondence of Edward Hincks: 1818-1849 (2007), p. 3: "He received his boyhood education from his father in Cork and at school in Midleton, Co. Cork, where Midleton College exists to this day. In 1807, being fifteen years old, he entered Trinity College, Dublin."
  31. ^ John Archibald Venn, "Loane, George Green" in Alumni Cantabrigienses, vol. II. Dabbs-Juxton (Cambridge University Press, 1951), p. 194
  32. ^ "McCarthy, Michael John Fitzgerald" in Who's Who: An Annual Biographical Dictionary (London: A. & C. Black, 1908), p. 1,149
  33. ^ Cork man Mitchell making big impression in Major League Rugby in the US dated 20 May 2018 at, accessed 21 April 2019
  34. ^ The Accountant (Lafferty Publications, 1899), p. 1,208
  35. ^ a b "It's definitely not a route I'd recommend. It's quite tough" dated 10 September 2016 at, accessed 21 April 2019
  36. ^ R. V. Comerford, "O'Mahony, John (1815–1877)" in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004) online, accessed 22 April 2019, (subscription required)
  37. ^ Olive Purser, revised by Richard Smail, "Purser, Louis Claude (1854–1932)" in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004) online, accessed 22 April 2019, (subscription required)
  38. ^ The New International Encyclopædia, Volume 19 (Dodd, Mead, 1922), p. 387
  39. ^ G. C. Boase, revised by H. C. G. Matthew, "Russell, William Armstrong (1821–1879)" in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography online, accessed 20 April 2019 (subscription required)
  40. ^ C. L. Falkiner, revised by Nathan Wells, "Sullivan, Sir Edward, first baronet (1822–1885)" in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004), online edition, (subscription required)
  41. ^ George Tyrrell, Autobiography and Life of George Tyrrell, Volume 1 (E. Arnold, 1912), pp. 86, 90
  42. ^ In Memoriam Timothy Trevor West Archived 2017-11-16 at the Wayback Machine at, accessed 20 April 2019
  43. ^ Paul Gilbert, "White, Alan Richard (1922–1992), philosopher" in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004), online edition, (subscription required)
  44. ^ Black's Guide to Ireland (Adam and Charles Black, 1912) p. 43
  45. ^ Do You Know What Your School Motto Means? at, accessed 21 April 2019
  46. ^ a b Edmund Burke, "Reflections on the Revolution in France" in The Works of the Right Honourable Edmund Burke Vol. V (London: C. & J. Rivington, 1826), pp. 284–285

Further reading

  • Trevor West, Midleton College, 1696–1996: A Tercentenary History (Midleton, County Cork: Midleton College, 1996)
  • Michael Quane, "Midleton School, County Cork" in Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, vol. 82 (Dublin: 1952), pp. 1–27
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Midleton College
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