In September 1953 the Dominican sisters came from Cabra to open a new primary school in Ballyfermot Dublin. There was a growing population in need of housing in Dublin and land in the Ballyfermot area was bought by Dublin Corporation and used to build houses for those who were moving out from the city. The sisters had in mind from the beginning to open a secondary school as soon as possible.
St. Dominic’s Secondary School (now St. Dominic’s College, Ballyfermot) was opened in September 1956. Before the “free” secondary education scheme was brought in by the government in 1968 a small fee was charged but pupils who applied and were unable to pay the fee were accepted never the less.
In the first year of the school’s existence there were thirty-three pupils. Sr. Benin McKeown who had been teaching in Eccles Street was appointed as the first principal or headmistress as such people were called then. She was assisted by Sisters Aimon Murphy and Anita Lynch.
The school which began then was very different from the St. Dominic’s of today. The classrooms were on the top floors of the old convent building but only those rooms which were in the front of the house were used. The other part of the building was the convent. As there were so few pupils, the subjects were very restricted: Christian Doctrine: Irish, English, Mathematics, History, Geography, French. Art and Commerce were taught. As the years went by and numbers increased, more subjects were added and lay teachers were employed.
It would seem to the students of today that this was a boring old school indeed but other activities took place; a company of the Catholic Girl Guides was begun; art, and commerce classes were taught on a Saturday morning, a School Choir was started. Home Economics was introduced in the early years. All secondary schools in Ireland had Saturday morning class.
The girls thought it was wonderful to have classes end at twelve noon instead of the week day time of three o clock. The Sisters who taught Art, Commerce, and the school choir came from the primary school, because the primary school was closed on Saturdays the sisters were free to work in St. Dominic’s. Many past pupils will remember Sr. Melchior Commerce teacher; Sr. Valentine Art teacher; Sr. Jude Choir teacher.
One of the highlights of the school year was the wonderful Christmas carol concert, under Sr. Jude’s direction, which everyone enjoyed. Indeed, it involved not only St. Dominic’s Secondary School students but some younger children from the primary school were drafted in, to take the part of children around the crib.
The numbers in the school grew slowly in the first few years, but the introduction of the free education scheme in 1968 brought a huge increase. The sisters were very happy that more girls could now avail of secondary education and a new school was built-in 1970 to accommodate the growing numbers.
Science had been introduced as a school subject in the early years but in the new building a fully equipped science laboratory and home economics rooms were added. It was marvellous development but better facilities were to come in the 1990’s with the refurbishment of the convent building to give new life and space to the school.
The first lay principal Ms Ger Hackett was appointed in 1997.
Dr. Máire Kealy O.P