Through hardships to the stars : St. Patrick’s High School turns 150 years old today

The institution has produced more statesmen than any other in Karachi.

Haris Masood Zuberi May 05, 2011


Two presidents, two prime ministers, three governors, five chief ministers, three mayors... the list of leaders produced by St Patrick’s High School in Karachi reads like the who’s who of Pakistan and is too long to decently fit into a newspaper article’s introduction. For a school that began with just three students in 1861, that is no mean feat. Thus there is much for the school to celebrate today as it turns 150 years old.

It was initially named St Patrick’s English School when it was founded on May 6, 1861 by Rev Fr J. A. Wily of the Society of Jesus. Its very first student was one Master Caldeira later remembered as Captain Caldeira. School records state that St Patrick’s was recognized as the second Catholic school of Karachi; one had previously been established by the Discalced Carmelites in 1845.

During its first year, St Patrick’s was a co-educational institution but in March 1862 five Sisters of the Daughters of the Cross along with Bishop Steins arrived from Europe and started a separate convent school for girls. Both schools continued to function directly under the management of the St Patrick’s parish priest till 1893 after which the girls section was made entirely independent, and named St Joseph’s Convent High School.

St Patrick’s English School was registered a high school in 1867 and the first student to be sent for Matriculation was one Thomas Duncan in 1869 who eventually stood First Class First in the Bombay Presidency. The Society of Jesus remained in charge of the school for 74 years till June 4, 1935. It was then taken over by the Franciscan Order for 15 years from June 5, 1935 to October 6, 1950. Since then it has been administered by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Karachi and has been led by Pakistani principals now under the Catholic Board of Education which also owns and operates St Joseph’s, St Paul’s, St Lawrence’s and the Convent of Jesus and Mary. In 1972, the Bhutto government nationalised St Patrick’s College, which was finally returned to the Catholic Board in 2005.

“Nationalising such reputable educational institutions was one of the worst decisions of the ZA Bhutto government,” Justice (retired) Wajihuddin Ahmed told The Express Tribune. He takes pride in being a student during the late 1950s and recalled how Father Stephen Raymond, who was the longest serving principal, left a deep impression on all his students.

Another illustrious former student, Javed Jabbar, recalled how he had initially gained admission to St Patrick’s College in 1961 to the Commerce section, while his interest lay in Arts. “Father D’Arcy D’Souza came to my rescue, spoke firmly to my father and persuaded him to allow me to transfer to the Faculty of Arts which I loved,” Jabbar told this newspaper. “I had the honour of helping win the trophy for St Patrick’s in two debate competitions and also helped produce and edit the college magazine. We also set up a social welfare group to raise funds for charitable causes… and to get an opportunity to meet girls! The two years were brief but forever enduring in their impact on my life.”

The school motto is the Latin phrase ‘Per Aspera Ad Astra’ which has also been one of the mottos for Nasa’s space programmes and translates into English as ‘Through hardship to the stars’.

The original building of the school on its present location was constructed by Rev Fr Jurgens in 1894 at a cost of Rs54,000 of which Rs14,000 were paid by the government as a grant.

The new main school building was completed in 1949 just in time to facilitate the growing number of students as many people migrated to Karachi after partition. The Archdiocese of Karachi was determined to meet the burgeoning needs of education in the independent Pakistan.

According to Principal Father Joseph Paul today the school has more than 5,500 students and 350 teachers and administrative staff.

In 1961, under Principal Rev Fr S Raymond, a memorable centenary celebration was held to mark 100 years of St Patrick’s which was attended by president Ayub Khan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and the Khan of Kalat. In 1986, prime minister Junejo attended the 125th anniversary.

In June 2005, L K Advani visited while on a trip to Karachi. He had attended the school from 1936 to 1942 and recalled his first meeting with then president Pervez Musharraf, “After learning that he too was a former student, the first subject we discussed was our school and nearly 20 minutes of our 45-minute meeting were devoted to St Patrick’s!”

The same year the school honoured Musharraf. Paying tribute to his teachers Father Raymond, Father Todd and Simon D’ Lima he said, “Their mentoring made a big difference in my life. My brother was a better student, so I would get punished by Mr D’ Lima for not doing as well in Math. Later, I ... excelled in it…thanks to those reprimanding reminders I got from Mr D’ Lima!” He even recalled the spanking he once received from Father Todd, “I wanted to sit on a block of ice after that experience!”

‘Old Patricians’

Pervez Musharraf

Asif Ali Zardari

Shaukat Aziz

Muhammad Khan Junejo

L K Advani

Air Marshal Azim Daudpota

Jam Sadiq Ali

Jam Yousuf Ali

Muzaffar Hussain Shah

Yusuf Haroon

Mohammed Ayub Khuhro

Agha Siraj Durrani

Javed Jabbar

G Allana - former Mayor of Karachi

Justice Edward Raymond - first Indian appointed Judicial Commissioner by the British

Justice C. M. Lobo - former Judicial Commissioner of Sindh, Chairman of the Public Service Commission and Pakistan’s delegate to the UN


Several members of the Habib, Adamjee, Bhimjee (EFU), Avari, Haroon (Dawn) clans as well as Ashfaq Hussain and Jerome D’Silva (Hussain-D’Silva), Tanveer Jamshed (Teejays), Masoom Alam (Masoom’s Bakery), Leon Menezes (GM HR Shell Pakistan), Deepak Perwani (designer), Zouhair A Khaliq (former president Mobilink/Orascom)


H E Valerian Cardinal Gracias - former Archbishop of Bombay, first cardinal from sub-continent, elevated in 1953

H E Dr. Joseph Cardinal Cordeiro (Oxford) - former Archbishop of Karachi, first cardinal from Pakistan elevated in 1973 and after the death of Pope John Paul I. stated as a “papabile” (likely to be elected Pope) by Time magazine in October 1978

Several archbishops of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, Allahabad, Delhi, Belgaum, Ahmadabad, Hyderabad, Bombay, Poona and Calcutta


Wallis Mathias

Wasim Bari

Iqbal Sikander

Danish Kaneria

Faisal Iqbal

L Fernandez

O B Nazareth

P P Fernandez (India)

M D’Mello

J Britto Olympians (Hockey)


Rev Fr Edward D’Cruz - former Principal St. Xavier’s College, Bombay

Leo D’Souza - former Principal DJ Science College, Karachi

Prof Adil Najam - Lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize along with Al Gore. Teaches at Boston University and has previously taught at MIT, University of Massachusetts and at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy


Late Mahmoud Haroon

Nadeem Farooq Paracha

Humayun Saeed

Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman

Rizwan Wasti

Abdullah Kadwani

Louis (Gumby) Pinto


Rashid Minhas Shaheed Nishan-i-Haider, the youngest and PAF’s only recipient of Pakistan’s highest gallantry award

Gen Jehangir Karamat

Air Chief Marshal Farooq Feroze Khan

Air Marshall Azim Daudpota

Lt Gen Muzaffar Hussain Usmani

Vice Admiral Ahmad Hayat

Lt Gen Eric A Vas - Indian Army

Air Vice Marshal Erlich Pinto - Indian Air Force

Squadron Leader Peter Christy Sitara-e-Jurat, Shaheed, 1971

Published in The Express Tribune, May 6th, 2011.


saira | 11 years ago | Reply proud to be a student of St Patrick's..
1985-1991 | 11 years ago | Reply Happy Birthday Saint Patricks! It felt so good to read about all the happy memories and some dating back to the 60' thats a school with a proper alumni!I went to Saint Patricks girls school for 6 years from nursery to Class 5.....I can never forget the friends I made there and am still in touch with some even though I had to shift to another school.Ours was a wonderful wonderful time...there was no secretarian or ethinic violence and differences....I still remember our principal Ms Amy Gonzales and how terrified we were of her!..and there was ofcourse Father Lobo...we used to play for hours in the grounds of St Patricks Cathedral and sometimes even went inside the church.Does anyone remember the European nuns who used to come in a station wagon to sell story books???....They encouraged us to read so much!The mass bell on Sunday evenings...oh how can I forget...all the church-goers in their bright clothes on Sunday.On feast day they used to open this tiny gate from the girls school and we used to cross the road to the boys school to attend the concert.Its been almost 21 years but I still cant forget.Later I took O'levels tutions at Saint Patricks Boys School.Great instiution and a great legacy for the alumni.....I'm also not ashamed to admit that I still remember the school song word to word! With glorious flag aloft we march To knowledge and to truth With wisdom’s grace To light the face Of all our bravest youth..... Saint Patriss St Patriss(I used to have missing front teeth so I used to sing with a lisp!) Hahaha Happy 150th Birthday Saint Patricks! Tum jeeyo hazaroon saal!
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