In 1826 Dr McMahon, Bishop of Killaloe, asked Brother Ignatius Rice, founder of the Irish Christian Brothers, to open a school in Ennis to provide education for the poor boys of the town. The population of the town of Ennis at that time was about 8,000. In January 1827, Brothers Jerome O’Connor and Ignatius Barry arrived in the town. They had to acquire a suitable building in which to conduct the school and a residence for themselves. They decided to use an old corn store off Cornmarket Street. In this building they provided education for about 400 students. Particular emphasis was placed on religious instruction and on the three Rs — reading, writing and arithmetic.
As the numbers of students were increasing and, as the condition of the building was deteriorating, an appeal was launched for funds to buy a site on which to build a new school. A sum of £1,200 (about €1,525) was collected and a site was bought in the district of Ennis which was then known as Newtown Stackpoole and is now known as New Road. A new two storey school was opened in 1832.
A new monastery was opened in 1869. A new secondary school, the present one, was completed in 1937 and two science laboratories were added in 1963. The original Newtown Stackpoole School, the primary school, underwent a thorough renovation in 1956 and a new kindergarten school was built in 1969. In 1977 the sesquicentenary celebrations marked the Order’s 150th year in Ennis, a century-and-a-half during which the Order, assisted by members of the lay staff in each of the schools, has made a major contribution to the spiritual, educational, cultural, social and sporting life of Ennis.
Landmarks in the history of the college were the opening of extensions in 1986 and 2007. In 1990, a board of management was established. This led to the appointment of lay principals in the college. These latest changes set the Christian Brothers’ Rice College firmly on course into the twenty-first century. Mr Louis Mulqueen is the third lay principal to be appointed in Rice College.