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MEMORIES OF A DOMINICAN EDUCATION

The following are the personal memories of past pupils of Dominican College and Scoil Chaitríona during the 1930s.

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MEMORIES
by
Clara Gill
Junior School and Scoil Chaitríona Eccles Street

I was born in 1930 and started in the junior school, Eccles Street like my older sister Anna Gill (RIP). Sr. Francis and Miss Fitzgerald were teaching then. My younger sister Treasa and brothers Noel, Paschal and Anthony also started school in St Thomas’s with Sr. James and Sr. Alacoque. They then went to O’Connell Christian Brothers School. There were 7 of us with happy memories of school in Eccles Street.


The 7th of my siblings joined the Missionary SMA and will celebrate his Golden Jubilee in 2015 DV. After ordination he was sent to Argentina where he served with Bishop Angellini in La Rioja, who was killed by Government forces. Fr Tony is now in Tanzania. He has grateful memories of the help given by the Dominican nuns during the ‘dirty war’ when he was on house arrest and on trial in Buenos Aires but Thank God not tortured like so many who took a ‘stand’.


At Scoil Caitriona  Sr. Aquinas, Sr Isnard and Sr. Cajetan helped to involve us with the Feis, Gaeltacht and the love of the Irish Language. On our copy books we had to write ‘Do cum glóire Dé agus Onóir na hÉireann’. Inspirational and patient teachers Miss O’Loughlin and Miss Ni Dubaill.  Bíos ag Colaiste Commercial with Sr. Mary Francis de Sales. Sr. Aquin was a good friend. It was a great school for choir, music and drama. Sr. Una Ni Rinn was in my class and Mary Costello –Sr. Dominica.


I trained in nursing in Jersey, Channel Islands and wish some writer would do a history of the Irish there. During the civil rights years I nursed in Boston, USA and attended Martin Luther King’s meetings. For 17 years I was the public health nurse in Cill Ronan, Aran Islands. I now am glad to help the exciting Gaelic Revival in Belfast.


Buiochas Mór le Dia agus na mná Rialta agus Muinteóiri


Clara Ní Ghiolla

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MEMORIES
by
Maura Wills (nee Pender)
Junior School and Dominican College Eccles Street

Myself and my three younger sisters (Monica, Agnes and Ann) were pupils of Dominican College, Eccles Street. I started there when I was 9 years and have lovely memories of Sr. Hyacinth who carried a cane but never used it. I walked to school from Stoneybatter where our parents had a drapery business and we lived over the shop. On wet days our mother gave us money to take the No. 10 bus. I left school aged 17 just before I took the Matriculation Examinations as my mother wanted me to help in the shop. I was devastated but was needed as we had a new baby brother which required my attention.

I have very happy memories of school. I loved drill and especially the drill displays which were put on by our teacher, Miss Tierney. The drill leaders wore a sash and our parents came to the school to watch. I also loved the school plays including Shakespeare which were performed each year. I had one line to say in Julius Caesar. I joined the Past Pupils Union when I left school and was involved with fund raising for the Union including the annual Sale of Work on the Handkerchief Stall and the annual Whist Drive in the Gresham Hotel. The Social Services Club originally used premises in Frederick Lane belonging to Colaiste Mhuire for their activities. Bridie Quinn (past pupil), with the help of other past pupils who acted as helpers, ran a club where the girls were taught rug making. Bridie raised funds for the club by taking orders and selling the rugs. Alfie Byrne bought one of the rugs when he was Lord Mayor of Dublin.

In the 1960’s a young Michael Viney, when he worked for RTE, produced a film of a day. He called the film ‘The Young Ones. One of the girls from the club Jane Dalton later obtained a position in Dominican College where she opened the doors to visitors. The past pupils commenced saving and were able to buy an old house in Hardwicke Street for the club activities. Later a compulsory purchase order was placed on the house. Bridie Houlihan led big fund raising campaign for new club premises. All past pupils in the union paid in 6p a week. The new premises, cost £8,000 and were built by Maher and Murphy of Aughrim Street on the same side of Hardwicke Street as the old house. Retreats weekend for the Club girls with the helpers were held at the French Convent, Tivoli Road where it was the practice to wash our feet on Saturday night in preparation for Holy Communion on Sunday. The Club helpers also went on Home Visits in the Gardiner Street where whole families all lived in one room. Justice and Peace bought the premises for the Vietnamese Boat People to be used as their Community and Cultural Centre.

I was very honoured to be elected President of the Past Pupils Union in 1982 the centenary year of the establishment of the school in Eccles Street and I have a treasured photograph of myself wearing the Union Presidential Badge together with Archbishop Dermot Ryan, Papal Nuncio Monsignor Alibrandi and President Patrick Hilary.

Maura Wills (nee Pender)

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SOME MEMORIES OF THREE YEARS SPENT AS A BOARDER IN DOMINICAN COLLEGE ECCLES STREET DUBLIN
by
Delma Meredith (nee Talbot-Brady)
Dominican College Boarder, 1938 - 1941

These few rememberings stretch back to over 70 years, so I cannot guarantee the absolute correctness of my said memory. I am sure some of the details are seen through rose-coloured spectacles, reason being that I still feel so privileged to have retained such happy memories. I write as I remember, and if I am unintentionally incorrect in any detail, etc, I apologise to any person, people or place concerned.

On a warm September day in 1938, I entered the portals of Eccles Street School. I was directed to my cubicle in St Dominic’s dormitory. I was so pleased to be among so many friendly girls. Those days long ago living in a small provincial town the social ‘pecking order’ ruled supreme for both business, etc, reasons. One could as it were hang-out only in certain areas. With the benefit of hindsight, I think that against today’s lifestyle, I was a lonely child. In the dormitory there were 4 rows of beds, the number of which I doubt if I ever counted. I remember there were 2 toilets and 2 baths. My curtained cubicle was on the south wall. The huge windows were too high to look out. The worst part of sleeping on this side was the incessant bell ringing from a church somewhere adjacent to Temple Street. Non-stop, either calling to prayer, or the bell-ringers practicing or playing melodies, etc. To this day I am not an afficiado of bells in any shape or form.

Before we got into bed every evening, we had to get water from some cold tap into our white enamel basin and mug to have ready on our pedicel cupboard for morning ablutions. On a few occasions in winter the water in the basins had a sheen of ice on top. During the period I was there, the heating could have been a problem due to the shortage of fuel on account of the onset of the war. We had to book in advance if we wished to have a bath, and go in turn from the nun in charge of the dorm, who kept the list. Not too often I regret to say…only about 4 inches of tepid water was allowed. Our well marked clothing for laundry was collected the following week. On one particularly cold winter spell, for a few nights we had delivered to us in bed a mug of hot gruel or what to me was runny porridge, to heat us up for the long night. I have always hated this porridge but it had to be drunk and an empty mug handed back!

We awoke to the dulcet tones of a hand operated noisy bell. When leaving the dorm, to go to 7 o’clock Mass, we had to present ourselves at the door to the dorm-Nun in particular, our hands nails and hair were given the pass word. After breakfast, back up the many flight of stairs to make up our beds and leave everything shipshape and pull back the curtains etc. Then to a large ground floor sort of recreation room under the study room, where we did warm up exercises, swinging our arms and walking and running at different speeds, all presumably to heat ourselves up before class. Sr Rita constantly urging us to ‘stand straight and walk from our hips’. Still a dictum remembered by me today.

On the subject of the refectory, I have to admit I cannot in detail remember any specific menu. Certainly, I never remember being hungry or given food not to my taste. If any of the girls were given eggs by parents, visitors, etc, they would write their name on each egg and have the added luxury of a boiled egg with their breakfast as long as the supply lasted. Another great treat was a tomato, of all things. If any girl from any table had reason to go out, say, to a dentist or some such, it was an unwritten rule that a bag of tomatoes be brought back to share at our table. On feast days we were left 2 wrapped sweets on our plates at teatime. On a Dominican feast day we got a slice of cake or an iced bun. Everything was shared, and if anyone at a particular table had a birthday cake from home, it was always shared. I always loved Sunday dinners as huge roasts were on the menu. In particular a pork roast where I was first introduced to the ‘crackle’ fat - nowadays hard on the teeth, but still a treat to me. There was always plenty of food and if more of anything was wanted on the table, someone knocked on the kitchen door for more. At one time, the powers that be must have though I looked a bit off colour, as I, unasked, was given a glass of milk with my dinner for a few weeks.

Recreation was mostly taken up with camogie played in Shandon Park, quite a walk away. It was providential that the Mater Hospital was passed on the way home. Many an injury like cut heads, bruises and scratches necessitated a visit to the A&E before going back to the school. Various teams on different levels played Inter-Schools matches. Out in the yard on fine evenings the win was noisily celebrated. Sometimes the pupils of the Rutland Girls’ school a few doors down would hang out of their window, overlooking our yard, a boarder asking ‘did you win?’ The results were displayed likewise to them. How on earth they knew we played a match I know not.

Sunday was the day for the ‘big walk’. We all gathered in the basement hall and were minutely examined to be perfectly turned out when on view to the populace. Hat on straight, gloves on, etc, etc. The walks that I remember were to the Botanical Gardens, Glasnevin, The Museum, Kildare Street, and to St Stephen’s green. True or not, I don’t know, but the school CIA whispered that on occasions on the across-town walks, the crocodile was ‘jumped’ and a visit to Cafolla’s Ice Cream Parlour was visited by a few of the brave and a Knickerbocker Glory or a Banana Sundae was consumed and finished in time to rejoin the crocodile as it passed on the way home.

The school was very up-to-date in keeping the incarcerated boarders au fait with world affairs ie The War. A screen would be mounted in the concert hall and current maps, press cuttings, photos, etc, would be screened on slides and some ‘lay’ person would explain about the goings on world wide, etc. Also, on many occasions, someone in the music or entertainment world would come to give us a talk or a recital. Very much appreciated by community and students.

On Sundays we had the luxury of a tuck shop. Sr Rita kept our finances in a labelled purse. These would be loaned back to the relative owner on the Sunday to purchase one’s 2d stamp for the obligatory letter home. Then the limited wartime delights of the tuck shop were on sale with a limit to each expenditure. My particular treat to myself was a chocolate walnut whirl at a cost of 10d. My weekly treat.

I certainly will never forget the highly polished floors in the parlours and corridors. These were kept up to a high standard by two of the lay-sisters shuffling up and down with what looked like mops attached to their shoes. The lay-sisters did not have very much, if any, contact with the pupils. They seemed to be located in the bowels of the building from which constant steam emerged, added to the smell of washing and soap. Presumably they helped with the cooking.

Reading back on my notes, I see that I have forgotten to mention the highlight of being a new boarder. The new intake in September had to lay on a concert for the in-situ inhabitants. Horror upon horror, never in my life had I ever tread the boards on my own before. From somewhere I remembered a ditty one of my mother’s housemaids used to sing called ‘Fiddle and I’. I had to make up many of the words as I went on. The well known Mother Clement must have discovered some potential as I was recruited to the choir. It must have been one of her off days, as I could not read a note of music, never mind remembering the Latin, However, I thoroughly enjoyed the weekly practice in the parlour and singing, hopefully in tune, above all the school. Also the odd few hours from the study hall was a bonus.

I have now discovered the more I write the more I remember, but I must end somewhere, which is here right now. I feel I just cannot say ‘cut’ without mentioning the 3 years I spent with the Dominican Sisters in Eccles Street who I know today formed in particular my attitude to the ups and downs through the past many years God has given to me. As it was once pointed out to me in the school, ‘The Dominican attitude was like their habits - black and white with no grey areas’. To the best of my ability I endeavour to always carry this in mind.

Delma Meredith (nee Talbot-Brady)

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MEMORIES OF A PAST PUPIL
by
Olive Clarke (nee White)
Junior School & Dominican College, 1932 - 1940

My Grannie married twice. Her second husband was Colonel Roderick Hanley, whose sister was Sr Antonina Hanley OP, founder of Dominican College in Tyrawley House, Eccles Street. Because of this,  Sr Henry OP gave me a photograph of  the painting  of Sr Antonina , and I have it framed and up on the wall. I am very fond of it. I lived in Eccles Street for a short time, in the house where Fr John Sullivan SJ lived, and I started in the Junior School in Eccles Street when I was 9 years old. I was there from 1932 to 1940. A few years later we moved to Cabra. I walked to school, and I brought a packed lunch with me every day. We had only a half hour for lunch. I remember I loved the tomato sandwiches - they were lovely. My brother went to the boy’s school, known as St Thomas’ Academy, until he made his First Communion.  Sr Alacoque  was in charge of the boys. I and a lot of my friends went to Commercial College, in Eccles St, after 5th year.  I and many of my contemporaries did not sit the Leaving Certificate.  You had to pass  Matriculate to get into University  i.e.  pass the Matric exam and this was run by the Universities.  I do remember girls in my class going to university and they got jobs in the Civil Service.  I got a job in an Accountant’s firm after attending the Commercial College as I had very good typing skills, which was useful to me all my life.

My happiest memories are of the school plays, put on every year.  I remember I had a principal role in one particular play, and a week or two after the performance, I came into school with my hair all cut short.  The nuns looked askance at me and said I was very lucky I didn’t get my hair cut before the play, or I wouldn’t have been allowed be in it  -  as it was mainly on account of my long hair that I had been given the part in the play, and not my acting talent!

I remember being very frightened by the pictures hanging on the walls around the school corridors in the Junior School- particularly one with devils down in hell, and the angels up high  -  most likely Judgement Day.  I don’t remember the angels very much -  all I can remember are the devils.

I remember a priest called Dr Nevin came to the school every Thursday from 9 to 10 am and he gave us talks on the Pope’s Encyclicals.  No nuns would have been present at these talks.  I think the school was very progressive for its day in bringing in an outside priest to talk to us girls about our faith.

When I was very young, Sr Aquin OP gave me some money to buy books for the school Library.   She was very keen to improve the library so that we could have plenty to read, but as the nuns were ‘enclosed’ at the time and not permitted to leave the convent, I was sent to buy the books. This was a huge responsibility for a young girl, but I did it and I was very proud to be asked by her.

Sr Aquin OP was a great friend of mine all her life.  She started the camogie team, and made me play Centre forward, even though I was no good at games.  We played the camogie matches in the Phoenix Park and trained off  Shandon Park.

I remember Mother Thomas OP was very old.  She taught our class Latin.  When we were in school, we were always reminded that Eamon De Valera, President of Ireland, taught Maths in Eccles Street.  This was a bit before my time!

I think I might be one of the oldest members of the Past pupils Union now, as I am 91 and will be 92 in April 2014, our Centenary Year. 

I was a Child of Mary. The Past Pupils’ Union had a Children of Mary Sodality.   When the boarders went home for the holidays, those of us in the Children of Mary came in for the Week-End Retreat. We slept up in the boarders’ dormatories. After I got married, I remember going on week-end retreats and arriving home to mind the children just in time for my husband Joe to go to work.  I loved those retreats.

The Past Pupils’ Union one-day Retreats that we have now are a continuation of this.  I remember I organised one-day retreats for about 5 or 6 years in the Spanish Convent in Finglas.  When that closed, I started organising retreats in the Dominican Retreat House in Tallaght.  I think it will be the Union’s 20th retreat in Tallaght in 2014 our Centenary Year.   I also started organising the Annual Dinner from 1980 until 2003, when we held the 42nd Annual Dinner in the Maples Hotel in Iona Road - this was to be the last Annual Dinner.

Sr Rinaldo OP asked myself and Joan Gannon to run the Debs in the late 1960s.  We continued running the debs until the late 1980s.  The nuns and teachers were always invited.  However in the late 1980s, the girls wanted a new thing called a Disco to be organised, to go to after the dinner dance had ended (usually 1.00 am).  The school did not wish to be associated with these late night frolics, and wanted the parents to be more involved, so the responsibility was transferred to the Parents’ Association to organise the Debs since then.

I remember being very involved as a past pupil in the great Sales of Work which were held every year in the Mansion House, fund-raising for St Dominic’s Club.  There were  all sorts of clothes for sale in the Sale of Work - even fur coats. There were also sales of work held regularly in St Dominic’s Club.  The past pupils ran a ‘Sixpence-a-week’ collection in order to buy a premises for St Dominic’s Club. I remember we went around to the houses of past pupils who had agreed to donate sixpence each week and they  donated this money each week for years.

The Club was set up for the daughters of the Street Traders, where they had a warm safe place to go in the evenings for fun and something to eat. The girls were taught cooking, sewing and rug-making and other crafts by the past pupils. They were able to sell the items they made to supplement their very meagre income. I remember Alfie Byrne, the Lord Mayor, bought a couple of these rugs from the girls. 

I remember May Guiney (whose family owned Clerys in O’Connell Street) was a past pupil.  She was not involved directly with the Club, but was always a very generous supporter when needed. Cookery classes were organised by Kathleen O’Kelly and Mairín Cleary for the Mother and Baby group in the Club.  This was called ‘The Young Marrieds’. I remember Alice O’Kelly, also a past pupil, who was a member of the Union and on the Executive Committee.  I see her grandson Malcolm O’Kelly is playing very well in the Rugby now. 

I myself was never directly involved with the running of the Club, except for the fundraising in the Mansion House. However, when I was President of the Union, during my term of office, the decision was made to rent out the Club Premises in Hardwicke Street for the first time to outsiders, because it was under-used at the time, and we needed money for repairs due to constant break-ins.  Maura Wills’ husband used to do the repairs or organise for them to be done.  Maura and her husband did a lot for the Club. I have been involved all my life with the school and the Past Pupils.  I still am.  We have just had our 2013 Annual Retreat, and I have booked our retreat for the Centenary on 19 October 2014. Two of my daughters attended Eccles Street and some of my grandchildren still attend the school. My whole family have helped out over the years.  I was very proud when my daughter Madeleine was President of the Union in 1996. I was always happy in the school and the nuns were very good to me and my children and they still are. I loved the nuns.

Olive Clarke (nee White)

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