History of the College Crest
In 2014 the College was granted its own Coat of Arms by the Chief Herald of Ireland. These arms replaced the unofficial ones that had been used by the College for many years.
At the top of the shield are three Mitres (Bishop’s Hats) that represent the three medieval monastic dioceses of Clonard, Duleek and Kells that came together in the Middle Ages to form the Diocese of Meath. The Bishop of Meath is the patron of the College. The Mitres are coloured amber on a black background. The school’s colours are black and amber.
The monastic book with clasps represents St. Finian, the founder of the great school and monastery of Clonard, the teacher of the saints of Ireland and our patron saint. The blue lines below represent education being sent out across the waves. Just as St. Finian sent the Irish monks to spread the faith across the continent of Europe, so the modern St. Finian’s sends out its students into the wider world.
Beneath the shield is the school motto – Deus Spes Mea – God my hope.
St. Finian’s College, was founded in 1802 by Bishop Patrick Plunkett. Throughout the 18th century it was not possible for Catholics to own or run a school due to the Penal Laws. However, in 1793 under the Catholic Relief Bill it became possible to do so and Bishop Plunkett set about founding a school at Navan for the diocese of Meath. It opened on 2 May 1802 with Fr. Eugene O’ Reilly as its first President. The majority of pupils who attended the school were boarders, coming from all across the diocese and indeed further afield. The programme of studies followed gave emphasis to the study of the Classics, in particular Latin and Greek. This was because the college was seen as a preparatory school for the National Seminary at Maynooth. Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, many of the students in St. Finian’s went on to study for the priesthood and religious life and they subsequently worked as priests and religious in the diocese of Meath and in many countries around the world in places like Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and in various countries in Africa and Asia.
By the early part of the twentieth century the building in Navan was badly in need of repair and it was decided to move St. Finian’s to a new building in Mullingar in order to be near both the Cathedral and the bishop. This building, modelled on Clonliffe College in Dublin was begun in 1906 and opened for students in February 1908 at a total cost of £36,000. The number of boarders increased to around 180.
From the 1940s to the 1960s St. Finian’s had great success in the sporting field, especially in the field of Athletics and Gaelic Football. It also developed a great musical tradition, staging an annual opera every December. In 1970 this tradition was greatly strengthened when the Irish bishops established the Schola Cantorum in the College. The Schola is a specialist music school, with an emphasis on the training of future church organists and choir directors. The Schola Cantorum operates as a miniature music conservatoire within the College. Its purpose is to provide a specialised music education for boys and girls in parallel with their normal secondary school studies. Since its foundation in 1970, the Schola Cantorum has made a tremendous contribution to the liturgical life of the church in Ireland and to the musical life of the country and indeed internationally.
With the advent of free secondary education in the country in 1968, there were gradual changes in St. Finian’s. The number of day pupils was expanded until they comprised one third of the student body by the late 1980s. In 2003 it was decided to close the boarding school and girls were enrolled for the first time in September 2003. The last boarding students completed their Leaving Certificate in 2007. Today there are 820 pupils in St. Finian’s College, with an equal number of boys and girls. They enjoy an excellent academic based education with a wide musical and sporting extra-curricular programme.