The opening of Scoil Ailbhe in 1949 was not the beginning of the story of Christian Brother education in Thurles. It was a new chapter in an educational saga that began in 1816. In that year, Bros. Thomas Baptist Cahill and William Joseph Cahill arrived from Mount Sion to open the first Christian Brothers school in Thurles, as members of the congregation established by Edmund Rice. Until 1817 the school was located in Cathedral Street, in premises on either side of Chapel Lane, when the school re-located to Gaol Street, where the school was housed on the first floor of the Christian Brothers building.
Edmund Rice is the founder of the Christian Bothers Order. In 1808, following the example of the Presentation Sisters, Edmund and his companions devoted themselves to the education of poor boys. Today the Brothers of Edmund Rice are working in 30 countries across five continents. Besides education the Brothers encourage the local people to develop their own skills and God-given talents and to become self-sufficient. Promoting full personal and social development in caring Christian communities of learning and teaching is still the vision of Christian Brothers schools today.
Scoil Ailbhe was to be situated on a site which was owned by the Mockler family. The total cost of the building was â‚¤68,000, with the Brothers and the local community contributing £25,000. This was raised from ventures ranging from a hurling tournament organised by Thurles Sarsfields, to a bullock raffle, various card drives, and generous donations at church gate collections. The school was to include classrooms, lunchroom, library, staffroom, an assembly hall with stage, playground and playing field, and was to be one of the most modern primary schools of its time.