St Mary’s School where rugby is a hearty tradition

St Mary’s rugby team in action. FILE PHOTO | NMG
St Mary’s rugby team in action. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

For a long time, it has been customary for schools in Britain and elsewhere to have a unique tradition in sports, academia, religion, social or community service. This tradition may sometimes be incorporated in the heraldic crest and motto of the institution.

Blackrock College was founded in 1860 by Father Jules Leman of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost. It is located in Williamstown, Blackrock County in Dublin Ireland.

The school aimed at providing training personnel for missionary work mainly in the Third World and a first-class Catholic education for Irish boys. Over the years Blackrock College has established a rich tradition in sports particularly in rugby.

Today Blackrock is a fee-paying Catholic secondary school for boys aged between 13 and 18.

St Mary’s School was founded in 1939 by Blackrock College, Dublin to provide a high-quality education for European boys in keeping with the segregated education system obtaining in Kenya at the time. The school was originally situated in Parklands but as the student population grew, the requirement for extra land became more pressing.

In addition, although Parklands was initially reserved for European residential occupation an emerging class of nouveau riche Indians had started buying property in the area making it less suitable for Europeans.

In the event, the school was moved in 1946 to a temporary building on 85 acres at St Austin’s Mission, Muthangari in Westlands. When the girls returned to Loreto Msongari from Lumbwa where they had been relocated during the War years, they were pleasantly surprised to find they now had a new neighbour in the boys’ school just across the fence.

The present-day buildings were completed in 1954 including the twin towers that stand at the school’s quadrangle and the StAustin’s Catholic Church, which sits beside the school parking area. In between the towers is the staff room where teachers convene for meetings and take their break.

Affectionately known as “Saints”, the school has from inception been a combined boys’ primary and secondary school. Although only boys are admitted to the primary and secondary schools, girls (along with boys) are admitted to the International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma, which is a post-O-Level programme offered by the school since 1982.

The school motto is “Bonitas, Disciplina, Scientia”(Goodness, Discipline, Knowledge).

The first African students were admitted to the school in the late 1960s after Kenya achieved independence.

Students are encouraged to participate in extra-curricular activities such as sports, clubs, music and drama.

True to its Irish origins, rugby is a great tradition in the school and an important element in fomenting the “spirit”. The school has won the Prescott Cup two times in a row (2008-9) but lost to Mang’u High School in the 2010 finals.

They also host and have won the Blackrock Rugby Festival 10 times and have been runners-up seven times alongside many other trophies. However, their recent performance has not been as impressive, and the team was relegated to Damu Pevu Cup from Prescott Cup in 2015 due to poor showing in 2014.

Since 1971, the school has been staging a musical every year, open to the public. The musical week runs on specific days from Tuesday to Saturday. The institution has staged its own production of musicals such as The Mikado, Sarafina, The King and I, Ipi N’tombi, and The Sound of Music among others.

Notable alumni include Ian Duncan, President Uhuru Kenyatta, Lupita Nyong’o, Gideon Moi, Dele Young, Joshua Obaga, Sumit Verma among others.