St. Fergal’s College has educated many generations of people from the local and surrounding area since its foundation in 1937. Adult Domestic Economy and Woodwork class were held in the Ossory Agricultural Society hall (where the showground’s housing estate is now located) in 1931. The first Day Vocational School was conducted upstairs in Miss Holland’s house (now McCarthy’s old shop beside the convent gates). When it commenced in 1932 twenty-seven students attended day classes and ninety two adults attended evening classes. Men were taught carpentry whilst women were taught domestic science in preparation for leaving home. So began the continuation of national education in Rathdowney. The classes were conducted in several temporary locations before moving to the present site of the Conoboro Road.
A committee was established and the site (which was then known as the Circus field ) was eventually purchased for £27 and a plan was drawn up, initially for a four roomed school, however the department opted for the construction of a three room school instead. It was completed in 1937 and housed three rooms: a domestic science room (now room 5), a science room (now room 3) and a woodwork room (now room 2).
The Technical School had only three teachers in 1937. Mr Patrick Hoare was the Principal, Mr Larkin was the woodwork/carpentry teacher and Miss O’Reilly was the domestic economy teacher. Martin Whelan started as the caretaker and continued to care for the school grounds for fifty years. The subjects offered were Rural Science, Woodwork, Mechanical Drawing, Domestic Science, English, Irish and Maths.
The next development occurred in 1965, when a metalwork room and a commerce room were added to the existing building. Shorthand, typing and metalwork were added to the school’s curriculum. 1969 saw two additional general purpose rooms built and in 1970 students sat the Intermediate Certificate for the first time. That year saw the appointment of the first ever Deputy Principal in Rathdowney, Mr Tom Daly. He was succeeded by Mr Seán Conroy on his retirement in 2007. In 1972 students sat the Leaving Certificate for the first time. Sstudents could now complete their education without leaving Rathdowney.
In 1987 (the 50th anniversary) a new building was started to provide general purpose classrooms, science, construction studies, information technology, and gymnasium and administration facilities. The introduction of uniforms also occurred in the mid-1980.
St. Fergal’s College, as it was known from 1989 on, was officially opened in February 1989 by Minister Mary O’Rourke. The 1989-90 school year commenced with 470 students attending St. Fergal’s. The following year the student population continued to grow and the count topped the 500 mark for the first time ever. Mr Michael Dillane retired in 1991 and Mr Andy Shortall became Principal.
The mid 90’s saw the Parent’s Council begin fund raising to purchase a field for sports activities. In 1997 4.7 acres behind the school was purchased providing sufficient room for two large pitches and a training area.
In 1996 another building was constructed with three general classrooms and a science room. The year 2000 saw a home economics and a science demonstration room added to this building. The school complex now consisted of five pre-fabricated rooms and twenty one conventional rooms housed in three separate buildings.
Aine O’Neill became Principal in March 2003. In 2012, seventy five years, after the first classes were held on the site, a new building was completed, adding three new class rooms, a science room, an art room, new meeting rooms and offices; and, most importantly, joining up all the buildings into one school building.
The student population now numbers around 300 with 28 members of teaching staff