Saint Mary's College (popularly known as CIC, which stands for College of the
Immaculate Conception) is a government-assisted Catholic secondary school
situated on Frederick Street in the heart of Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.
The school was established in 1863 with only a handful of students but
enrollment today is close to 1200. The school's motto "Virtus et Scientia" is
Latin for "Manliness and Knowledge". It is an all-boys school.
St. Mary's College is a seven-year school that prepares students for the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate known as "CSEC" at 5th Form and the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE) level examinations.
The school offers education in a vast number of fields in the sciences, humanities, business studies, economics and computer science. St. Mary's College is known as one of the best schools in the country and students completing their A-Levels from St. Mary's consistently win the prestigious national scholarships offered by the government for academic excellence, including the President's Medal in 2005.
In 1859, the Queen's Collegiate School was founded on Abercromby Street in Port
of Spain by the Trinidad and Tobago Government which provided 5 teachers. In
1860, shortly after arriving in Trinidad, the Roman Catholic Archbishop
Ferdinand English condemned the Protestant Collegiate school absolutely. For
their secondary education, Catholics in Trinidad had either to disobey the
Archbishop or attend St. George's College, which was moribund and had "never
fulfilled the needs of the young".
Louis de Verteuil, the leader of the Catholic party and Mayor of Port-of-Spain since 1859, proposed a solution to the Archbishop and was commissioned by him to go to Rome where he attempted to persuade the Jesuits or Oratorians to found a college in Trinidad. This attempt failed but at the suggestion of Mgr. Talbot, Private Chamberlain of The Holy Ghost Fathers, whom Louis had appointed, Archbishop English got in touch with the newly founded Congregation of the Holy Ghost and of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
On the 7th June 1862, he wrote their superior General, Rev. Father Schwindenhammer, the letter at the top of this document requesting assistance in setting up a new college in Trinidad. Archbishop English died three months later, but the Holy Ghost Fathers - Fathers Guilloux and Sundhauser - still came, arriving in Trinidad on the morning of July 7.
By August 1 1863, St. Mary's College had opened on the site of the old St. George's College the Southernmost part of the present St. Joseph's Convent) with 14 pupils, of whom 8 were boarders and 6 day pupils. The school was advertised in the newspapers. The courses taught in the college at that time included Latin, Greek, English, French, Spanish, History and Geography ancient and modern, Science and Mathematics, and Music. English and French were the school's official languages at the time.
Boarders were required to pay 192 dollars per year and day boys 6 dollars per month. The elaborate Sunday or dress uniform was black but the weekly Day uniform included gray pants and a straw hat. Archbishop Louis Joachim Gonin came into Trinidad in 1864 and remained as Archbishop until his death in 1887. During this time, St. Mary's College was under considerable pressure, financially and otherwise, for though the Archbishop was a very holy man he was also very demanding and hard to get along with.
Three times - in 1874, 1877 and 1880 - a decision was taken by the Holy Ghost authorities to abandon the work in Trinidad, ostensibly because of shortage of personnel but largely because of personal difficulties between the superiors and the Archbishop. The insistence of the Catholics of Trinidad and of the Propaganda of the Faith in Rome effectively prevented the priests from leaving and kept St Mary's College open.
The end of the twentieth century was a time of change - with past students, who were thoroughly trained by their dedicated predecessors, taking control. This was fitting, because in 1962, Trinidad had become an independent nation. Fr. Pedro continued as Principal till 1971, when he was succeeded by Fr. Arthur Lai Fook, C.S.Sp.. After his retirement, Fr. Anthony de Virteuil, C.S.Sp., became Principal in 1978, a post which he held until 1992, when he was succeeded by Fr. Anton Dick, C.S.Sp., who was in turn succeeded by Fr. Ronald Mendes C.S.Sp.. For nearly its entire first one hundred years, the College was directed by French or Irish Principals.
Fr. Victor Guilloux 1863-1867
Fr. Francis Xavier Corbet 1867-1874
Fr. Casimir Marcot 1874-1876
Fr. James Brown 1876-1892
Fr. Achilles Lemire 1892-1894
Fr. Nichlas Brennan 1894-1895
Fr. William Carrol 1896-1903
Fr. John Gerard Neville 1903-1910
Fr. Edward Crehan 1910-1920
Fr. James Lacy 1920-1924
Fr. John English 1925-1936
Fr. James Meenan 1936-1950
Fr. James Brett 1951-1959
Fr. Pedro Valdex 1959-1971
Fr. Arthur Lai Fook 1971-1978
Fr. Anthony de Verteuil 1978- 1992
Fr. Anton Dick 1992-1999
Fr. Ronald Mendes 1999-2013