LOCAL HISTORIANS have backed the claim by Wexford public librarian Celestine Rafferty that St. Peter's College management, teachers and alumni have celebrated the bi-centenary of its founding eight years too early.
They say that the college, whose chapel was designed by the internationally acclaimed Augustus Welby Pugin, was founded in 1819 and not eight years earlier in 1811 as claimed by St. Peter's College.
The authoritative and respected historian An tathair Seamus S. De Vál, a former president of the college, wrote in an article in a college magazine titled 'Power and Glory – the story of Gaelic Games in St. Peter's College, Wexford', published to mark the official opening of the Ned Power Park on November 10 1991, that Bishop Ryan died in 1819 and it was his successor, Dr. James Keating who opened the new college in the following Autumn.
He states further: ' The President, staff and student body of the Michael Street school occupied the new premises after the summer vacation and St. Peter's came into being'.
Historian Nicky Furlong, a former student and former president of the college's past pupil's union, also backs Ms. Rafferty's claim.
The historians' claim is further supported by several newspapers which in February 1970 report the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the founding of the college, putting the founding year, according to St. Peter's College officials of the time, at 1819.
A Wexford People report of Saturday, February 14 1970 reads: '"For the wellbeing of the Church, we cannot pray too much. But for the very being of the Church there was no need to pray – it is founded on a rock". So says His Lordship the Bishop of Ferns, Most Rev. Dr. Donal J. Herlihy at the special Mass of Thanksgiving concelebrated in the Pugin designed Chapel of St. Peter's College, Wexford, last Sunday morning. The Mass was offered to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the founding of the College.'
According to this report, among the attendance were Mr. James Gibbons, Minister for Defence, and Mr. Padge Brennan, T.D., Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Local Government.
St. Peter's College sources so far stand by their claim.
Teachers and students in the Presentation Convent are said to be delighted to have further confirmation that their school – founded in 1818, a year before St. Peter's – is still the oldest school in town.