by ehistoryadmin on August 2, 2018

170 Years, Presentation Nuns in Maynooth Town

Henry Flynn

In the turmoil of the French Revolution 1789 a theologian who taught in the University of Paris known as Sorbonne, Fr. Abbe Anglade fled the country like so many others and made his way to Wales where he worked as a gardener for a few years. Around 1802 he took up appointment in the recently-opened Maynooth College (The Royal College of St. Patrick Maynooth) and became Professor of Theology.

While in Maynooth College he noticed that there was no school for the girls in the Maynooth area.

He made contacted with the Presentation Order in Fairview, Dublin 3 and pleaded with them to set up a community in Maynooth. The Presentation Sisters community in Fairview were only 3 years in existence when they were approached to send nuns to Maynooth and set up a convent.

Mother M. Andrew McKeever, Sr. M. Augustine Drumgoole, Sr. M. Peter Fitzharris and a novice Sr. M. Aloysius Naeville left Contarf and came to Maynooth on the 6th October 1823.

In the meantime, Fredrick Augustus, the 3th Duke of Leinster agreed to grant the Sisters a 99-year lease on the Charter School and garden located at the end of the Main Street (Leinster Street) at the Dublin side of the town.

While the Charter House was transformed into a convent the 4 nuns lived in a timber cabin on the Dublin Road, exact location not known.

Late 1824 the nuns moved in to the renovated house surrounded by a stone wall and named it “Nazareth.

Once in their new home the nuns started putting plans together for a free school. In 1826 the Duke of Leinster laid the foundation stone and two years later the school opened.

The first nun to die in the convent was Sr. Joseph Fleming at the age of 26. As the convent had no graveyard, arrangement was made with St Patrick College that Sr. Fleming would be buried in their cemetery and the funeral took place in July 1827.

Sr. M. Augustine Drumgoole who entered the nuns at the age of 50 years died in 1828 aged 56 years and was the first nun to be buried in the convent cemetery.

In 1832 the convent chapel was built to the right of the main building with the help of Dr. Abbe Anglade and others. The church had 4 stained glass windows originally fitted by J. Clarke of North Fredrick Street, Dublin. Joshua Clarke was the father of the stain glass artist Harry Clarke.

In the next 20 years two more extensions were built.

By 1887 Maynooth College had many seminarians and there was an opening for cleaning and ironing services, so Most Rev. Dr. William Joseph Walshe President of the college requested the convent to undertake the tasks. So, the nuns built a laundry within the convent walls and this provide employment for the local people.

1911 The laundry was destroyed by fire and within a year a new modern laundry was built and put into full operation. At the weekend all the machines were pushed back against the side walls and all the windows were blacked out and the laundry was transformed into a picture house for the local people.

1923 The convent celebrated their centenary with the opening of more rooms to the school to accommodate the influx of new families to the Maynooth area.

1966 Maynooth College open their doors to outsiders and at the request the nuns converted a part of the convent into a hostel to accommodate nuns that were studying in the college.

1970 St. Joseph was demolished, and a new school was built in its place

1973 The convent celebrated their 150 years (Sesquicentennial Anniversary) in Maynooth with a mass in the parish church at 5p.m. with the principal celebrant Most Rev. Dermot Ryan Archbishop of Dublin. Afterwards the people of the town made the nuns life easier by presenting them with a new car.

1983 In the month of August Sr. M. Gerard Dillion died aged 96 years and was the last nun to be buried in the convent cemetery.

1993 Month of June the convent grounds were sold off for new apartments only leaving the nuns cemetery with 46 plots at the back, while the remaining nuns packed their bags and moved up the road to Castlebride Estate on the Straffan Road, Maynooth, leaving 170 years of history behind.

Also, in 1993 the nuns provided the land for the Nage Shelter homes on the Dunboyne Road.

To end the 170-year story in July 2018 the 46 nuns that were resting in the convent cemetery were exhumed and reinterred in new plots in Laraghbryan graveyard on the Kilcock Road about 2 kilometres from the town centre.

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