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A Belvederian might-have-been

belvo_01In November 1977, Father Tom Lane, the Vincentian President of All Hallows College in Drumcondra, told the then Rector of Belvedere, Paul Andrews, that he wanted to dispose of some All Hallows land, which stretched up Grace Park Road to Griffith Avenue. Would Belvedere be interested in buying some for playing fields? Noel Barber, then headmaster of Belvedere, and Paul were very interested, and brought the matter to the college’s Board of Management. The negotiations that followed were largely face-to-face or by telephone, and written records are skimpy. Since it is a significant might-have-been in Belvedere’s history, it is worth trying to reconstruct, while the two Jesuits involved, Noel and Paul, are still to the good, as is Fr Lane. Read Paul’s recollections of the drama.
Belvedere’s playing fields were scattered between Jones Road, soon to be swallowed up by the new Croke Park; Cabra; and eighteen undeveloped and badly drained acres in Nevinstown. A single, easily accessible sports facility in Drumcondra was attractive, and negotiations developed quickly and positively. Then Fr Lane suggested that Belvedere might be interested in moving the whole college to the All Hallows site. This was even more exciting. The site was close to two main arteries, Griffith Avenue and Drumcondra Road, and had splendid grounds. We looked at the site, and talked to the then Minister for Education, John Wilson.

At some stage in the winter of 1977-78, Noel and I attended a dinner for past presidents of the Belvedere Union, an annual function with about twelve good friends of Belvedere. As the evening passed, Noel and I were questioned about the college’s plans and prospects. After conferring together we decided to share the information about the All Hallows negotiations, stressing that it was confidential. Perhaps this was the point at which the Holy Spirit deserted us. The guests were enthralled at the heady prospect of a new Belvedere on a green field site.

Alas for confidentiality! One of the past presidents leaked the news, which led to great alarm in an educational institution which would be overshadowed by the new Belvedere. They approached the then Archbishop, Dermot Ryan, who told the Provincial, Fr Paddy Doyle, that it was a bad idea to move Belvedere. The normally mild-tempered Paddy showed himself if not disgruntled, at least far from gruntled, as he rang me with a stern admonition for my indiscretion. By April 1978 the whole idea was dead in the water.

So it was that Belvedere gave up any idea of shifting location, and in the prosperous nineties developed a city-centre campus with magnificent new buildings. Meanwhile All Hallows joined up with Dublin City University, and became a third-level college with strong theological and pastoral faculties. Perhaps Noel and I were not so much deserted by the Holy Spirit as used for a higher purpose.