Mount St Benedict School in Gorey – notable past pupils Sean MacBride, James Dillion

Sean MacBride – Seán MacBride (26 January 1904 – 15 January 1988) was an Irish government minister, a prominent international politician and a former Chief of Staff of the IRA.

Rising from a domestic Irish political career, he founded or participated in many international organisations of the 20th century, including the United Nations, the Council of Europe and Amnesty International. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1974, the Lenin Peace Prize for 1975–1976 and the UNESCO Silver Medal for Service in 1980.

MacBride was born in Paris in 1904, the son of Major John MacBride[2] and Maud Gonne. His first language was French. He remained in Paris until his father’s execution after the Easter Rising of 1916, when he was sent to school at Mount St. Benedict’s, Gorey, County Wexford in Ireland. In 1919, aged 15, he joined the Irish Volunteers and took part in the Irish War of Independence. He opposed the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty and was imprisoned by the Irish Free State during the Civil War.


James Dillion – James Matthew Dillon (26 September 1902 – 10 February 1986) was an Irish politician and leader of Fine Gael from 1959 to 1965.

He was the son of John Dillon, the last leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party (1918), which had been swept away by Sinn Féin at the 1918 general election. Dillon was born in Dublin. He was educated at Mount St Benedict’s, in Gorey, County Wexford, University College Galway and King’s Inns. He qualified as a barrister and was called to the Bar in 1931. Dillon studied business methods at Selfridges in London. After some time at Marshall Field’s in Chicago he returned to Ireland where he became manager of the family business known as Monica Duff’s in Ballaghaderreen, County Roscommon.

In the first inter-party government (1948–1951) Dillon was appointed Minister for Agriculture as an Independent TD. As Minister, Dillon was responsible for huge improvements in Irish agriculture. Money was spent on land reclamation projects in the areas of less fertile land while the overall quality of Irish agricultural produce increased.

Dillon rejoined Fine Gael in 1953. He became Minister for Agriculture again in the second inter-party government (1954–1957). In 1959 Dillon became the leader of Fine Gael, the party he was expelled from in 1942. He became president of the party in 1960. In 1965 Fine Gael narrowly lost the general election to Seán Lemass and Fianna Fáil.


X.ii.2. Benedictines, including letters of Fr. J.F. Sweetman
MS 47,608 /1     1896-1902
Two letters from Fr. Hugh Edmund Ford of St. Gregory’s Monastery (renamed Downside Abbey). Also, a picture postcard of Downside Abbey and a letter appealing for assistance in completing St. Gregory’s church in Bath (26 Feb. 1902). Also, two miscellaneous pages from the Downside Review and an extract of a note, in Sweetman’s hand, about the Benedictine ideal; 6 items

MS 47,608 /2     1905
A letter from Fr. J.F. Sweetman to John Sweetman on the difficulties in fulfilling his hope to establish a Benedictine school in Co. Wexford. Also, a letter to Fr. Sweetman from a man in Clonskeagh, Dublin [signature illegible], forwarding a portion of an ordinance survey map; 2 items

MS 47,608 /3     1905-1906, 1920
Letters from Fr. H.E. Ford and Fr. E.C. Butler of the Benedictine Monastery at Downside Abbey regarding Sweetman’s decision to fund the setting up an Irish branch of the Benedictines in Wexford (Apr.1905). Includes a draft and final version of the ‘memorandum of agreement’ between Sweetman and Fr. Ford (Mar.-Apr.1906). Also two letters from Fr. J.F. Sweetman, including one regarding a prospectus for St. Benedicts school in Wexford (4 Oct. 1906). Also, a letter to and from Sir Bertram Windle, president Queen’s College Cork, regarding the move (Mar.1906). Also, a press-cutting of a later article
[1920] by Sweetman providing a history of the re-establishment of the Benedictines in Ireland [c.1905-06]; 14 items

MS 47,608 /4     1907
Letters from Fr. J.F. Sweetman to John Sweetman (cousin). Subjects include family matters and the progress of the plans for a Benedictine school; 18 items

MS 47,608 /5     1908
Letters from Fr. J.F. Sweetman to John Sweetman. Subjects include family matters and the progress of the plans for a Benedictine school; 16 items

MS 47,608 /6     1909
Letters from Fr. J.F. Sweetman (Mount St. Benedicts, Gorey) to John Sweetman. Subjects include the progress of the school and religious or family matters; 13 items

MS 47,608 /7     1909-1913
A letter to and from Fr. R.H. Connolly (Cambridge) about alleged hostility to Fr. Sweetman’s school from the English Benedictines (May 1909). Also, a letter from Abbot E.C. Butler of Downside Abbey about the possibility of expelled French Benedictines being housed in Gorey (24 Jan. 1910, with copy of Sweetman’s reply on reverse). Also, some letters from Fr. Patrick Nolan OSB on various subjects; 9 items

MS 47,608 /8     1910
Letters from Fr. J.F. Sweetman (Mount St. Benedicts, Gorey) to John Sweetman, subjects include the progress of the school; 11 items

MS 47,608 /9     1913-1914
Letters from Fr. J.F. Sweetman (Mount St. Benedicts, Gorey) to John Sweetman, subjects include family matters and the progress of the school; 7 items

MS 47,608 /10     1914-1915
A report of the ‘Downside Abbey Church Guild’, forwarded by Abbot Butler (24 Jan. 1914). Also, two copies of a subsequent letter of Sweetman to Abbot Butler, with replies by G. Roger Hudleston (Guild Secretary) and Abbot Butler himself. Also, one related letter of Fr. J.F. Sweetman (Jan.-Feb. 1914) and a later letter from Hudleston, reminding Sweetman that he had not yet paid his subscription to the Downside Abbey Church Guild (17 Nov. 1915); 6 items

MS 47,608 /11     1919
Correspondence regarding a controversy surrounding the Benedictine

house in Gorey. Includes copies of letters from Canon James Murphy (P.P. Gorey) to Fr. Sweetman (Apr.); TS copies of a series of letters between Abbot Butler (Downside Abbey) and Bishop William Codd of Ferns (Oct.-Nov.); and a letter of Abbot Butler to Fr. Sweetman (Nov.). Also included is a copy of an extract of a letter of Abbot Butler to Rome [St. Anselm’s], about a wish of the monks in Downside Abbey to sever their connections with the Irish Benedictine House if the latter continued to actively identify with Sinn Féin (Dec.). Also included, copies of letters from John Sweetman (Kells) to Cardinal Gasquet (Rome) and T.H.G. Esmonde (St. Stephens Green Club, Dublin) regarding this controversy, with replies. Also, an undated bitter note [in Sweetman’s hand] regarding the Irish secular clergy’s unfavourable stance regarding the religious orders. Also, a letter from Sweetman on the possibility of establishing a private social club for past students of Mount St. Benedicts now attending university in Dublin; 18 items

MS 47,608 /12     1919-1920
Letters to and from Fr. MacSweeney (editor Irish Ecclesiastical Record) and Fr. Darlington S.J. (editor Irish Monthly) regarding a Sweetman article on Benedictine monachism (Nov.1919-Feb.1920). Also, a newspaper cutting of a Sweetman article on the Benedictines (Irish Independent, 3 Jan. 1920). Also, a letter to and from Abbot Butler on the possibility of establishing a full Benedictine monastery at Mount St. Benedict, and resisting the Wexford diocesan clergy’s efforts to close the local Benedictine house (Dec. 1920). Also included, a miscellaneous postcard sent to Fr. J.F. Sweetman (Rome) by Sheila Gwynn (Firenze, Italy) on 12 Mar. 1921; 14 items

MS 47,608 /13     1923-1925
A letter to and from Fr. Patrick Nolan (OSB, Mount St. Benedicts) on Sweetman’s son Patrick and other matters. Also, letters from James Coleman (Cobh) regarding the ongoing quarrel between the diocesan and monastic clergy over Mount St. Benedicts. Also, a letter to and from Fr. James O’Hanlon (convent chaplain, St. Mary’s Refuge, Birmingham) on the subject of job prospects for one of Sweetman’s sons; 10 items

MS 47,608 /14     1925
A printed solicitor’s report of evidence taken in reply to charges made against Fr. J.F. Sweetman [that he allowed Mount St. Benedicts to serve as a base for the anti-treaty IRA during the civil war] (19 Apr. 1925). Also, a letter of Fr. Sweetman written from the Benedictine College of St. Anselm, Rome (5 Nov. 1925), and a letter to and from Abbot Ramsay (Downside Abbey), regarding the level of impact that Rome had in the decision to close Mount St. Benedicts; 4 items

MS 47,608 /15     1927-1928
Letters to and from Abbot Ramsay regarding the repayment of Sweetman’s loan to Downside Abbey, for the purchase of Mount St. Benedicts in 1907 (8 Aug.-23 Oct. 1927). Also, two letters from E.C. Butler, former Abbot of Downside Abbey, now of Ealing Priory, London, on the conversion of St. Benedict’s Priory of Colwich into [St. Mary’s] Abbey, his memories of Sweetman’s sister [Sister Teresa Magdalene] and a request to help a lady friend of his fulfill her life’s vocation by becoming a nun; 16 items

MS 47,608 /16     1942-1981
9pp TS document compiled by Fr. Sweetman to assist his efforts to reopen Mount St. Benedicts. The document featuring copies of letters of Dame Bernard Stewart (Benedictine Abbey, Kylemore, Co. Galway) to the ‘Lord Abbot’ [of Downside Abbey]; a letter of Lady Abbess Placid (Kylemore Abbey) to Fr. Sweetman, with a reply; and a protest letter of Fr. Sweetman to the Bishop of Ferns. Also, an undated press-cutting of an article by Fr. Sweetman on the ‘Hollyfort Helpers Guild’, an inter-denominational lay body in Wexford, set up to assist in war-time relief, and an undated press-cutting on an 80th birthday celebration for Fr. Sweetman [1953]. Also, a press-cutting of Brendan Ó Cathaoir, ‘Fr. Sweetman and Mount St. Benedict’ (Irish Times, 16 Sep. 1981); 4 items