First built between 1770 and 1773, the Hibernian Marine School (also called the Marine Nursey, or the Hibernian Marine Society’s School for the Children of Decayed Seamen) is located on Sir John Rogerson’s Quay in the Dublin Docklands, and acted as a place of education as well as a home to over 160 boys.
As the name suggests, these boys were often those of sailors who had lost their lives at sea, or who had unfortunately become exceedingly impoverished during their service in the Royal Navy, or indeed the Merchant Navy. The land and building held a yearly rent of roughly seventy pounds sterling, on a lease beginning on 1 May 1770, which was paid from Richard Benson and Luke Gardiner to John Mercer, William Lyndon, and David Burleigh, secretaries of the land the school rested on.
The building and site were rather large, as they needed to house its 160 students, as well as staff. The site measured roughly 300 feet at the front, about 547 feet on the west side and 633 feet on the east of the site. The building itself was designed by either Thomas Cooley or Thomas Ivory (sources are unclear as to which it is as they are both listed in the Dictionary of Irish Architects ). According to a report from the Commissioners of Board of Education in Ireland, it measured seventy-two feet by forty-six feet.
It contained two wings, which were each thirty feet in the front by sixty feet in depth; the front of these wings was in line with the back wall of the building, which was seventy feet by sixty feet. The building contained apartments for the chaplain of the house, the master, the usher, and the housekeeper. It also contained two dormitories and an infirmary. The dormitories were capable of housing 200 pupils, but at the time of the publication of the report, the school only housed 110 boys.
By order of the Governors, boys under the age of nine were not permitted to attend the school; an exception to this rule occurred when a boy was deemed to be ‘proper’ in size and strength, as advised by a surgeon, and therefore could be enrolled in the school at the age of eight. A sort of ‘security deposit’ of ten pounds sterling was provided by a family member of the boy in question, before he was admitted for his demeanour and conduct. Generally speaking, the boys who attended the Hibernia Marine School were to go on to become sailors themselves.
The school was considered a ‘feeder’ for the ships. Just a year before the Commissioners’ report was published, there had already been problems within the school itself. Governors and staff of the school were disparaged for the inefficient running of the school, which inevitably ended in a large number of students absconding. Beginning in 1800, an average of around twelve boys per year absconded, but this figure increased so that between 1807 and 1808, up to forty children had gone missing for the school.
Complaints were also made against the Hibernian Marine School by captains of ships that utilized the docklands; their complaints often referred to the education of the boys they had received, specifically relating to the poor quality of navigation instruction. The schoolmaster, as well as the usher, were both terminated from their positions that year. The Hibernian Marine School continued to decline, and by the mid-1850s, had less than thirty students.
A fire in 1872 destroyed much of the original building, which led to the school being moved several times. In 1900 it was situated on Upper Merrion Street while between 1904 and 1968 it was located on Seafield Road in Clontarf and renamed Mountjoy Marine School. The school amalgamated with Bertrand Russell School in 1970 and is now the Mount Temple Comprehensive School.
The original site of the Hibernian Marine School was repurposed as the Tropical Fruit Warehouse in 1892, and was headquarters of the Dublin Tropical Fruit Company. Ninety years later, in 1982, it became the headquarters for popular Irish band U2.
Currently , a number of companies, including Shanarc Archaeology, RBR Conservation, Henry J. Lyons Architects, and PJ Hegarty & Sons Construction, are involved in restoring and repurposing the Tropical Fruit Warehouse in to office space and restaurants for the Dublin Docklands. RBR Conservation specifically is working on an area of the site named ‘The Marine School Wall’, the only remaining part of the original Hibernian Marine School.