Rev Fr. D.J Slattery came to Nigeria in 1939 where he initially served in a parish in the Yoruba inland town in the Western Region. He was later posted to St Gregory’s College Obalende as a teacher and eventually, the games master of the school. He later became the Editor of the Catholic Herald in Mushin. During this period, he thought of establishing a unique school. His dream became a reality in 1956 with the birth of the first bilateral technical cum grammar school in the country comprising of 6 students known as “the first six”.
The new school had no address and had to be accommodated in the newly built St Paul’s Catholic primary School Apapa Road, Ebute Metta. Fr Slattery was left with the herculean task of looking for a befitting site for his dream school. After an eleven month search which took him through the jungles of Apapa, he came across another jungle in Akoka where he acquired twenty 21 acres of land; the present school site. In 1959, the school moved from Apapa Road to its permanent site in Akoka and was officially opened by Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, the First President of Nigeria in 1963.
Fr Slattery was totally in charge of the school for 20 years. Life after Fr. Slattery began in 1976 with the government take-over of private schools. At this point, Fr. Slattery’s vision for St. Finbarr’s College was cut short. Fr. Slattery was retired by the Lagos State Government. The take-over happened shortly after Fr Slattery finished 2 storey building to expand the technical department and introduction of Electrical, Basic Electronics and Auto-mechanics. The Electrical and Electronics labs had just been installed, ready for take-off – It was at that point that the government took over the school.
The over 26years of control of the college by the government was characterized by astronomical student population, nonchalant attitude to work by members of staff, poor academic performance and dilapidation and total collapse of facilities and infrastructures and indiscipline became the order of the day.
In 1979, the government introduced free education at all levels – this resulted in astronomical increase in secondary school enrolment and the consequence was over-population. The college carrying capacity was over-stretched. At a point, the college began running two shifts (morning and afternoon schools) to accommodate the new students. The increasing students’ population began to take its toll on the college infrastructure as they became overburdened. To accommodate the increase, the government embarked on the construction of schools on any available space, even within existing schools. There were “schools” within schools. The compound of the college housed three schools namely: St. Finbarr’s College, St. Finbarr’s College 2 and Community Grammar School. Few years later, the two new schools were merged and named Akoka High School.2
The period of Government control was indeed a trying period for the College. The high academic, moral, sports standards with which the college, in its early years was associated with gradually declined. The fortunes of the college dwindled year by year and the future looked bleak.
The prayer of Fr. Slattery until he left Nigeria was that the government would one day return the school. God answered that prayer. In 2001, the school was returned to the church. But it was a pity that Fr. Slattery was not in Nigeria to witness the return and the reconstruction from the dilapidation the school suffered in the hands of government.Since the return of the college to the church, the college has been undergoing major transformation.But with God on our side, the college had been repositioned and is poised to take its place of prominence among secondary schools in Nigeria.
The infrastructural transformation in the college is evident from the entrance to the college. A visitor to the college would assume that this is a mini-university because of the beautiful structures and the serene atmosphere. The college gate, administrative block, the chapel, the hall, classrooms, hostel, laboratories, technical and electronic blocks, have all been refurnished or reconstructed as the case may be. Further construction and reconstruction works keep going on in the college. The boarding facility was introduced in 2008 and there’s a plan to build a 500 capacity hostel.
In academics since the return of the school, the school has maintained progressive improvements. The college academic performance has been very impressive. Our outings at the West African Senior School Certificate Examinations since 2013 have been superb. Based on the number of students who obtained five credits including Mathematics and English Language, the pass rates are 98.7% in 2013, 100% in 2014, 97.4% in 2015 95%, in 2016 97.4% and 98.2% in 2017 Our students have continued to win laurels at various competitions they participate in Helmbridge, Olympiad, Inter-collegiate Quiz and Debate Competitions etc. In sports, the college is fast becoming a force to be reckoned with again. The College now boasts of a standard basketball, tennis, volleyball and badminton courts. The virtues of discipline, self-control, respect, care for others, honesty, obedience, hard work, dedication, diligence, resilience are being instilled in our students daily while the college provides holistic education for its students.
We have taken giant strides towards making the school twenty-first (21st) century compliant in the area of infrastructure, sports and academics. The task Fr. Slattery was saddled with in 1956 with no means to bring it into fulfillment is today a citadel of excellence to be reckoned with which has produced great men who are pacesetters in various industries in and out of the country. That idea, sixty years later, has become the reference point for sound academic and moral formation of young boys in Nigeria.
Rev Fr. D.J Slattery was born on 29th February 1916 in Fermoy, Ireland into the family of Mr. Timothy Slattery and Kate Slattery. His father was a master Tailor while his mother was a trained Dress maker. There were Eight Children in the family – Six Boys and Two Girls. He was ordained a Priest on the 17th December 1939 – a few months before he attained the age of 24.
He first arrived in Nigeria via a ship after 30 days of sailing from Liverpool on the 17th June 1939. He began his pastoral duty at Ilawe Ekiti a sleepy town in now Ekiti State. In 1956, the Archbishop Leo Taylor, a member of the Society for Africa Missions (SMA) invited Fr Slattery to establish a secondary school in Lagos after his stint at St Gregory’s College and so in 1956, St Finbarr’s College was founded as a Technical cum Grammar School in Akoka. Fr Slattery retired as the Principal of the school in 1975 and went into full pastoral duties at St Denis Catholic Church Bariga. A church he founded as the Parish Priest before he finally retired as Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Lagos, where he left his footprints in the sand of time.
Father Slattery was a missionary, educationist, journalist, technocrat, football administrator and mentor of men. Part of what Fr. Slattery would be remembered for as his contribution to the development of Nigerian Society includes Chairman, Nigerian Football Association, (NFA), Member, Nigerian Guild of Editors, Chairman, Nigerian Referees Association, Chairman, Leper Colony of Nigeria, Editor, Catholic Herald Newspaper, Foundation Member Nigeria Union Of Journalism and Secretary, Commonwealth Games and Appeal Fund.
Other accolades include Founder SS Peter and Paul, Shomolu, Our Lady of Fatima Private School Bariga, St Joseph Vocational School Akoka, St. Gabriel’s Catholic Church and St Flavius Catholic Church Oworonshoki, Lagos.