History of Scoil Mhuire Lourdes
The Brigidine Convent National School was built over time by many hands. It also took many minds and many hearts. Whilst the hands provided the building and its environs, the minds and hearts brought hope, belief, courage and dedication to the task of education.
It all began following the political storm of 1798 and the ensuing relaxation of the Penal Laws. Because it was no longer a crime for Catholics to open schools, small centres of education started to spring up around the country.
The curate in Tullow at that time was Rev. Daniel Delany. He established Sunday schools in the ProtestantChurch in Mill Street. These soon developed into reading and writing classes for adults. In 1805, the “Church of the Most Holy Rosary” was built and the classes were transferred there. In response to the growing need for a more general and secular education, the now Bishop Delany sought to establish a community of Sisters. In February 1807 the Brigidine Order was founded in Tullow and the six sisters opened the first daily school. Classes were still held in the ParishChurch whilst awaiting the completion of two rooms onto the Convent. Bishop Delany forged ahead and in 1809 founded the Patrician Brothers. Alongside this growth and development, the first school in connection with St. Columba’s Church opened in 1816.
The first official convent school-house was built in 1826 in the present Study Halls of the Boarding School block. For some 40 years, the youth of Tullow was educated in these rooms.
In 1883 Bishop James Lynch, residing in Tullow, purchased 5 acres of the Doyne estate and it was on this site the present granite portion of the National School was built. Building commenced in 1887 and it was completed in 12 months.
The Bridigine Sisters were catering for the educational needs of the children of Tullow. They also took care of the physical needs of the poorer students using donations from many people over the years.
In 1909, the verandah was erected “for the convenience of the children of the NationalSchool” at a cost of £43. Later, in 1932, at the suggestion of the schools inspector, Mr. Kennedy, a recreational cottage was built behind the verandah. Here, the pupils of the “Senior Division” in NationalSchool could receive instruction in Domestic Economy, housecraft and other branches calculated to equip them for life after school. Mr. James J. Dunphy erected the cottage for the sum of £159. The cost of furnishing the kitchen and sitting room was £76-5-0. Electric lighting cost £6-9-0. This same cottage was used in the 1950’s as a lunch room for the pupils.
A very beautiful feature of the grounds is the Lourdes Grotto. This was erected to the memory of Mother M. Ita Hannigan and Mother M. Patricia, the latter wanting her life annuity spent on this grotto. A local tradesman, Tom Flynn was entrusted with the work of creating this very good replica of the famous grotto at Lourdes. The Blessing took place on 24th May 1941 with procession and singing followed by Benediction.
The 11th November 1956, marks another great day in the history of the school. This day saw the opening and blessing of the new NationalSchool, complete with extension. The part of the school built in 1888 was remodelled in order to bring it into line with this modern up-to-date extension. Following High Mass, presided over by Bishop of the Diocese , Dr.Keogh, the Minister for Education, General Mulcahy officially opened the new school and each classroom was blessed. Tributes were paid to Fr. Doyle, the architects, Mr.P Campbell of Dublin, the electrical engineer Mr.Deasy and the builder Mr. Carberry. The school was then placed under the protection of Our Lady of Lourdes and was named “Scoil Mhuire Lourdes”.
Recognition of and appreciation for the work of hands, minds and hearts of the previous 100 years, was marked in June 1988, with a centenary celebration in the school. The then Bishop of Kildare & Leighlin, Dr. Lennon and Rev. Peter Dunne P.P., presided over the unveiling of a commemorative plaque in the granite wall of the original section of the school. The weather that Sunday was kind and adults and children, past pupils and present, gathered together, chatting, remembering, part-taking of refreshments, making it an enjoyable and special day for the Tullow community. A commemorative magazine was published for the occasion entitled “A Hundred Years A-Growing”. It was filled with articles, stories, tributes, memories and photos of times past.
The new Millennium saw more progress within the school grounds. In Autumn 2003, a major fundraising campaign was launched to benefit both the Boys’ and the Girls’ Schools. This Campaign raised £38,200 for each school. Due to the generosity and interest of the Tullow community, parents, past pupils, staff of both schools and many others, projects were able to be funded and were carried out in the Summer of 2004. For the GirlsSchool, these projects included the exterior painting of the building and part-payment for the total rewiring. The Department of Education and Science also provided funding for this work under an initiative called “Summer Works Scheme”.
The playground got a huge make-over, thanks also to this draw fund. The playground was resurfaced, changing its face from concrete to tarmacadam and painted upon it now are games, shapes, number ladders, hop-scotch and lots more, providing lots of fun and entertainment for the pupils. Colour was also introduced with the mural of literary nursery rhyme characters on the wall of the verandah, which is currently enjoyed by all.
As to be expected, the personnel of the teaching staff underwent many changes over the years. From being an “all-sister” staff, the 1930’s saw the employment of lay teachers. The Principalship remained with the Brigidine Sisters until very recently. In 2002, Sr. Francesca Power retired as Principal after 20 years at the helm. The position was taken up by Ms. Anne Kennelly, thereby marking the beginning of a new era in educators in the Convent School – lay Principalship!
Three years later, in 2005, the school faced the retirement of the two remaining sisters, Sr. Paula Conway and Sr. Betty McDonald with sadness. It was a truly poignant and historic moment in the “life” of the school. For the first time since its inception, the school is no longer graced with the presence of teaching sisters. To quote Rev. Peter Dunne in the 1988 tribute book,
“Buildings, however glorious, remain only buildings if uninhabited but are given life and spirit by those who live and work within them”
The Brigidine Sisters “inhabited” and initiated great projects in this school. Their legacy of dedication, care and instruction is truly historic and is cherished by so many. Long may their ethos of faith in, joy in and hope for the young live on.
In 2006, due to growing numbers, there was a shortage of accommodation. The Brigidine sisters kindly donated the store at the edge of the playground (known originally as “the Bundy”) and the ground behind it to the school. After much planning a new building was finally erected in July-August 2008. This building was dedicated to St. Brigid and comprises two classrooms, toilets and a small general purposes room.