NUI Galway is a bustling college of almost 20,000 students – a far cry from when it started off as ‘Queens College’ way back in 1849.
It, along with its sister colleges in Cork and Belfast, had three faculties, taking in matriculated and non-matriculated students – the former paying fees and passing exams, the latter not having to pass exams to attend lectures but ineligible for scholarships.
There was a chaplain from the Catholic, Church of Ireland and Presbyterian churches appointed to the college for the purposes of administering to the spiritual needs of the student body and the staff:
- Catholic: Rev. Godfrey Mitchell
- Church of Ireland: Rev. John Treanor
- Presbyterian: Rev. William Adair
The college was to be non-sectarian, a charge levelled at Trinity in Dublin at the time. In turn the university in Galway was denounced for being secular by certain sections of society. In proof that it could not win the agreeance of everyone, the Synod of Thurles in August 1850 banned Catholic clergy from partaking in college administration, deeming the colleges ‘dangerous to faith and morals’. The decree was obeyed to varying degrees.
James Henry Dopping
38 first year students in Galway were Catholic, 22 members of the Church of Ireland and 8 came from the Presbyterian faith. The only one of note to my Longford eye was James Henry Dopping of Derrycassin. He was studying Literature with a Junior Scholarship but would later become involved in administering estates in his native county. His granddaughter, Mary Rosalie Boyd of Ballymacool in Donegal did continue the literary tradition, becoming a famous writer in South Africa.
Student numbers hit a low in 1900. Total enrolment barely reached 100 with just over one third from Ulster. The regularity with which Ulster students won scholarships and prizes led to them being nicknamed the ‘pot hunters’.
Politics was to the fore in Galway as much as anywhere. Bridget Lyons was a medical student in the college during 1916, and got a frosty reception on resuming her studies. Her uncle Joseph McGuiness would later be elected in Longford as an MP.
Today, NUI Galway is a rapidly expanding educational establishment with students from the four corners of the planet. It still has a local feel, and still has its Longford connections. While working on security one morning, I came across half a dozen or more youths in sleeping bags at the Quad gates. On establishing they were part of a Sinn Fein protest about student accommodation, a discussion on politics ensued and it turned out one of the girls was a Collum, her mother a McManus from Soran in Killoe.
As we discussed the good and bad side of the Doppings family from back home, I wondered did the ghost of old Jemmy Doppings (as he became known) look down on us, at the gateway he had walked through as one of the first students way back in 1849?