Kevin Myers: In part, the Marists of Ireland helped equip the Marxists of North Korea with nuclear weapons
Published 23/12/2011 | 17:00
This coming year marks the 120th anniversary of the establishment by Irish Marists of St Anthony's school in Lahore, in what was then the Punjab Province of the British Raj in India. It's usually forgotten nowadays -- thanks to a republicanised history curriculum -- that the Irish were often enthusiastic participants in the empire, as missionaries in particular, but also as soldiers and civil servants.
And, of course, all education is thought-imperialism of a kind: thus French missionaries originally founded the Marist school in Athlone, which was in time to be a seedbed for Marist endeavours across the English-speaking world.
St Anthony's opened its doors on Empress Road in 1892, to just three pupils. Soon it was given a grant by the local railway company, and later, by the Viceroy of India, Lord Lansdowne, sometime 6th Earl of Kerry. The first head teacher was a 'Father Leo': surname, unknown. The Indian passion for learning, and the dedication of the Irish Marists, soon made St Anthony's one of the foremost schools in the Punjab. Missionary activity amongst the local population was encouraged by the British, and clearly tolerated by the local imams, though strictly speaking, apostasy from Islam to any religion was and is punishable by death.