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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 1940s.

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MEMORIES OF SCHOOLDAYS IN DOMINICAN COLLEGE ECCLES STREET
by
Ann Killeen (nee Higgins)
Junior School & Dominican College, Eccles Street 1940 - 1950

It took my parents 25 years to get their five daughters through Dominican College Eccles Street. I was the first in the family and I remember the different uniforms as they changed through those years. I wore the navy wool serge dress with white detachable collar, and mother-of-pearl buttons. It was ordered from Clerys. We had a navy felt hat with turned up brim, and a petersham ribbon. On the ribbon at the front we wore the metal and enamel Dominican Badge. Sr Germanus stood at the cloak-room door to make sure we wore our hat and gloves as we left for home. The real problem was that we had to wear long black stockings. Mine were held up by wearing a Liberty Bodice with suspenders attached, and to be sure to be sure, I also had garters! The ‘gap’ was covered by the long navy knickers (with pocket) also from Clerys. In the Junior school, as Juniors, we went everywhere in a line. In Senior school we had to get to classes on our own, and if we had a free class we went to the Parlour. In first year in Senior school, some girls went to Scoil Chaitríona and some went to Dominican College. The Boarders wore gymslips and a wool jumper with horizontal blue and navy stripes. At lunch time, we watched in admiration as they practised ballroom dancing in the drill hall (St Hyacinth’s Hall). Another big treat was the drill display. The seniors showed their expertise with clubs, dumb-bells and bar-bells. The routines were all to music. Formation skipping was also performed to musical accompaniment. Fitness was never mentioned in those days, but looking back, I would say Eccles Street was no place for ‘couch potatoes’.

‘Responsible’ Students
Those who were considered ‘responsible students’ were given little jobs. My favourite was filling the ink wells. This was done in a cubby-hole under the stairs near the entrance to St Hyacinth’s Hall. In there, in the gloom, we filled the ink wells and replaced them in the holes in the wooden desks. It was considered to be very bold if someone should put little pieces of blotting paper in the ink wells. These bits were difficult to remove. The next unfortunate girl who dipped in her pen would find small fibres sticking to the nib. The result was spidery writing and a ‘tut-tut’ from the teacher. As I was leaving school my youngest sisters were just starting. The uniform changed from navy dress to a heather coloured tunic in fine wool tweed, with an apricot blouse, and matching heather fine wool cardigan. This was very posh, and specially designed by one of the leading designers of the day. Unfortunately, the fine wool tweed caught on the various splinters and nail heads that were to be found in an old school building, so the uniform was changed to a wine coloured serge tunic with a pale grey blouse, and matching wine cardigan. I think that this was the last uniform my mother had to buy. I loved the black blazer. It was trimmed with black and white braid, and had the Dominican crest on the breast pocket. We also had a black and white scarf, which happened to be exactly the same as that worn by Belvedere boys. It was very handy for going to matches or debates. We were happy on these occasions to overlook historic theological disputes between the Jesuits and the Dominicans.

The School Chaplain
Each year, we had a three-day silent retreat - a time to think and reflect on our lives. I remember Fr Gabriel Harty very well, as he was the school chaplain when I was in Form 5 in the Junior School. When Chaplain in Eccles Street, Fr Harty was a priest of the Dublin Diocese. He later entered the Dominican Order. He was also teaching in another school and was in need of Visual Aids. I remember I painted pictures for him to illustrate bible stories. In particular, I remember making a picture to illustrate the story of the man who went down from Jerúsalem to Jericho. Last year, I phoned Fr Harty and invited him to celebrate the Past Pupils’ Union Mass of Remembrance for deceased past pupils, and I reminded him of this, to which he replied “well, well, and now we are all going to Jericho”. He followed this up with the remark “I was chaplain in Eccles St in 1945/46, and if you were in school when I was chaplain you must be no spring chicken yourself”. So I let him know that if I live to next June, I will be 80. Fr Harty said he is 91 himself. It was lovely to meet him again after all these years.

Air pollution
Air pollution in Dublin must have been very bad when I was going to school. I remember the pea-soup fogs when all the buses stopped. There were very few phones so we could not contact our families. Nothing could be done but to allow us to go home early. On one such occasion, I set out to walk from Eccles Street to my home in Sandymount. Out onto Dorset Street, North Frederick St and O’Connell Street, I walked slowly and carefully, but when I tried to cross from the footpath onto O’Connell Bridge, I failed to reach the footpath on the other side, because I could not see with the dense fog. It was all very silent. Then suddenly I heard the sound of horses hooves and out of the fog loomed a horse and dray. I managed to alter my direction to the left and eventually found the footpath. I somehow managed to get home, trying as much as possible to keep near railings.

When I left School
When I left school I joined the Past Pupils Union. Together with my classmates, we looked forward to attending the Reunion and AGM which always took place in the afternoon of Low Sunday - the Sunday after Easter. In those days, it was very well attended, the concert hall was full and the nuns were on the balcony. Those of us who were attending for the first time felt very grown-up. All past pupils attending wore hats. I was very interested in the activities of the past pupils, especially St Dominics Club, in Hardwicke Street. Although I did not work in the club, I was very much involved in fundraising for the new purpose-built premises. The PPU took out a loan to build the two-storey club house, which included a hall with a stage on the ground floor, and committee rooms and kitchen for cookery classes upstairs. I was a volunteer collector, and was given a book and a list of past pupils living in the Sandymount and Ballsbridge area. Every Saturday, I went around on my bike to those past pupils who had agreed to take part (contribute) and I collected one shilling from each of them each week. My memory is not so good now. I think it was one shilling - anyway, it was a regular amount. Other past pupils were organised to collect in their own areas. This was a steady income for the Union and paid the interest on the loan. Other fund-raising activities, like Sales of Work and Beetle Drives, gradually reduced the principal.

I am very grateful for the education I received in Dominican College. I wish to record my tribute to the Sisters and teachers.

Ann Killeen (nee Higgins) - June 2012

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FOND MEMORIES OF SCHOOL IN ECCLES STREET
By
Betty Crowe
Dominican College Eccles Street

‘I am the Lanthorn, Year Book of the Dominican College Eccles Street Dublin. I illuminate the Past: for my pages tell of long years of striving towards the ideal of true education for the Daughters of the Gael. I light up the Present:for in me you may read what is being done now in one school to make our own the heritage of our fathers’. My beams shine into the future; revealing what things may be when our learned tradition has been made live again. This my name has been given to me after the Blessed Dominic, Founder of the great Order of Friar Preachers who has also been styled Lucerna Christi: Christ’s Lanthorn. For, being aflame with the love of his Lord, whithersoever he went he cast the light of Christian Truth and Charity on them that beheld him, giving testimony of the True Light. And now this Christmas time when commemoration is made of the coming of the True Light, I go forth praying that He may bless those who have made my shining possible, that He may reward those who have helped to make my appearance amiable and that He may so kindle all who see me as to make them living Lanthorns in a world that understands not His Light.’

This Prologue to the 1920 copy of the Lanthorn encapsulates the ideals, practice and traditions offered to each generation of pupils of Dominican College Eccles Street. As I collected my thoughts and memories of my own days in Dominican College, I found in my 1940s autograph album an entry written by a classmate:

“Remember me when this you see
Remember me for ever,
Remember the good old days we spent
in Eccles Street together” 

This poetic masterpiece unlocked some of the undiminished memories of my extremely happy days in Eccles Street as a pupil and later as a teacher, as a member of Dominican College Past Pupils’ Union, and participant in the various activities of the Union, Hockey Club, Dramatic Society and as helper in St Dominic’s Club in Hardwicke Street.

The earliest memories are coloured by the vivid reminiscences of my mother and my Aunt, both boarders in the opening years of the last century. Their random tales of life in Dominican College in the early 20th Century recorded the kindness of Mother Clement and Sr Reginald, the exquisite singing voice of the future Diva Margaret Burke Sheridan, who spent childhood years in Eccles Street - and always kept in touch. They relived the excitement in their daring escapes from the Rank when out walking to the sea at Fairview Strand, or to the distant green fields of the Phoenix Park and the subsequent heart-stopping moments of hiding behind the huge stone pillars of the Porch on the steps of the Main door of number 19, waiting for the opportunity to slip back in unnoticed. They recalled the delights of their ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ sessions in St Hyacinth’s Hall where, on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, uniforms discarded and best dresses worn, much practice led to perfection as they honed their skills in the intricate steps of the Waltz, the Walls of Limerick, the Two-step, the Fox-trot, and perhaps even the Black Bottom - all to piano accompaniment. Those were memories of life in Eccles Street in the pre-First World War days.

‘Good Old Days’
Now forward some decades to my own personal memories of my ‘Good Old Days’ the nineteen forties - very different but equally happy which encompass the wisdom and tolerance of the nuns and teachers, the clear ideal of Veritas and the warmth of friendships that endure to this day. Random memories tumble into my mind - the excitement and delight of meeting Shakespeare in our Concert Hall performances of Hamlet and Julius Caesar; The sense of awe as a member of the choir of ‘The Voice of God’ in the Pageant of ‘The Hound of Heaven’ as we tried to comprehend Francis Thompson’s beautiful enigmatic lines

‘I fled Him down the nights and down the days, I fled Him down the arches of the years, I fled Him down the labyrinthine ways of my own mind - and in a mist of tears hid from Him and under running laughter, up vistaed hopes I sped and shot precipitated down Titanic gloom of chasmed fears ...’

Then we had the novelty of singing Plain Chant in choir with Sister Cecily, the interest of being propelled by Miss Shaw and her Time Lines through the great events of History, sometimes lingering to savour the artistic treasures of Christianity and the Architecture of Renaissance Italy. We admired the exquisite Evie Hone masterpiece and explored the beauty of Van Eyck triptych The Adoration of the Lamb, in 17 Hall near the mysterious door that led to the Community Rooms. We visited and discussed the framed reproductions of masterpieces of European painting that graced the walls of the Green and the Red Corridors; took to heart lovely lines of Belloc

‘It is much less than courage of heart or holiness, yet in my walks it seems to me that the grace of God is in courtesy’.

We enjoyed Mother Peter’s Mensa, Mensa, Mensam - the Key that opened to us the classical world of Roman Civilisation. This was balanced by the dramatic, down to earth versions in Latin translations of English nursery rhymes - Mother Peter’s amusing Habitat in Cothurno - The old woman who lived in a shoe - et al. How proud we were to be speaking Latin when we were only second years. Later as seniors, we had the privilege of attending in the Concert Hall, learned lectures on Christian Doctrine (sometimes rather lengthy) delivered by erudite Professors from the Diocesan Seminary, Clonliffe College.

One still remembers the magic of the quiet meditational moments in the Chapel - particularly during the silent Retreat times (when we all secretly vowed to join the Dominican Order - some of us did!) and the beautiful calming intense experience of peace as we listened to the nuns in the evening singing the Salve Regina as they slowly walked in procession from the choir. One of my own special memories is of the honour and responsibility - and a little trepidation - of the task of ringing the mid-day Angelus Bell in the chapel (previously the privilege of one of the Community). Would I get up those steep stairs in time? Would I count the twelve peals accurately and not forget the pause between the treble peals of three? Was my watch fast? or slow? or even stopped?

St Dominic’s Club
As I look back to the days before Social Awareness became Social Science, I realise how the nuns subtly instilled in us the importance of empathy with less privileged people, a sense of social justice, an awareness of poverty and of the different circumstances of some people. This came about through Mother Thomas - by the encouragement of senior girls to help at the parties for local children from Hardwicke Street, organised by the Past Pupils committee of St Dominic’s Club. This participation generated an eagerness to share in the Club work. It was a visionary policy that bore fruit, for many of us joined the Club as helpers when first we became members of the Past Pupils’ Union. We happily devoted our time and energies one evening each week to helping in the Club and becoming friends of the members under the demanding and generous tutelage of some of the early Founder Past Pupils - including Professor Mary Hayden, History Professor in UCD, Peggy Bridgeman, Peggy Fant, Bridie Quinn, Kathleen Taaffe, Jo Quinn, Alice Pierce, Martina Whelan, Daisy Doyle, Annie O’Tierney and many others not named here. The Club members knew that the backing and support of the Community in Eccles Street, and Dominican Chaplains from nearby Dominic Street was always available. So too was the encouragement of the Past Pupils Union who organised divers fund-raising functions - Fancy Dress Parties for children in the Gresham Hotel, Dinner Dances for adults, Concerts and Sales of Work in the Mansion House to run the Club. Many of us acquired practical life-lasting skills in cooking, knitting, vending, rug-making, waitressing, ticket selling, figure marching, swinging Indian clubs, how to argue in debates, while sharing these activities with the girls - and we even made our debut appearances as film stars, shining with the girls from Hardwicke Street in a documentary of RTE with Michael Viney entitled “The Young Ones” relating the story of St Dominic’s club- and evaluating the beneficent effect of the work of the Club in the area.

Time creates lacunae in these random memories but I cannot forget and must celebrate qualities we enjoyed in our days - the deep understanding and empathy of Sister Aquin, Sister Madeleine’s exposition of Christian Doctrine, Sister Enda’s patent patriotism and love of Irish language, the talent of Miss Eileen Burbage as she unravelled for us the mysteries of mathematics, the energy of Miss Feely as she conducted the school string orchestra, the gentleness Miss Maureen Goff as she guided us through the intricacies of Latin Syntax, the excitement generated by Miss Lorna Reynolds as she led us in to “the realms of gold” of drama and novel, in Art class, the patience of Miss Ingoldsby with budding Picassos, the dedication of our piano teachers Miss Mignon Rumbold and Miss Geraghty that produced the melodious strains that penetrated the Green corridor at intervals, the patience of Sr James as she tactfully ripped and restored the variety of crooked seams we had stitched by hand in the garments we made for the mammies and poor babies in Africa, the guided perambulations around the nuns garden with Sister Dominica, identifying the plants and being reminded that correct terminology was important – ie that the dainty ubiquitous London Pride was really Dublin Pride - in addition to the horticultural skills Sister Dominica helped us practice First Aid through, inter alia, live experience of Figure of Eight bandages for a sprained ankle - a skill I retain to this day! With Sister Dominica we moved from the practical to the aesthetic when at night she showed us how to read the heavens, to identify the constellations, to find Orion and his belt, the Plough and the Seven stars and the most beautiful of all - the Evening Star that reminded us of Our Lady.

These recollections are obviously incomplete, but it is impossible to forget the ideals gently instilled by the example of the nuns and teachers who lived by the challenge of our motto VERITAS. For these ideals and the inspiration of clearly seeing them in practice during our school days we, alumnae of Dominican College are deeply grateful and wish the present and future pupils and staff ad multos annos. These memories based on Veritas are certainly not merely nostalgia or the imagination of a second generation Ecclonian of the 20th century. They are not idealised, not glamourised, not imagined - but reality. Real because they happened. I know. Because I WAS THERE. Deo Gratias.

Betty Crowe - 17 January 2014

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MY YEARS IN DOMINICAN COLLEGE
By
Deirdre McDevitt (nee Reidy)
Dominican College Eccles Street 1947 - 1950

Rather than write too much about my time in Dominican College, Eccles Street, Dublin, I thought I would send a picture of my mother Nora Reidy (nee Fitzpatrick) taken the day before she left her home in Co Clare to become a boarder in 1921. She was the eldest of eight children and the first to leave home. I can see the look of apprehension in her face at the thought of leaving home! She loved her two final years in Eccles Street, made many friends and when it came to choosing a school for me, nowhere else was considered but her alma mater. My mother did the Civil service Examination in her final year at school. She worked in the Land Commission in Merrion Street and spent the rest of her life in Dublin, only to return home to her parents for holidays. Her sister Margaret attended Scoil Chaitríona for a while.

Nora Reidy (nee Fitzpatrick) the day before she left to become a boarder in 1921

My years in Dominican College were from 1947 - 1950. Following my Intermediate Certificate, I went into 5th year with my classmates to begin our two years preparation for the Leaving Certificate. A few weeks later Sr Germaine, who taught us French, contacted my parents to see if I would be interested in spending the rest of the academic year in France. Sr Germaine had received a letter from a Dominican Convent in Pithiviers, Loiret, France, offering a student a complete academic year at the school there. What was important to the school was that I speak English to all the senior students. Within weeks I was gone! While there, I attended cookery classes, art, sewing, embroidery, French and helping students with pronunciation at English speaking classes. I went to the theatre regularly in the town and the parents of senior pupils generously invited me to their homes at weekends.

Enclosed is a photo of the Dominican Sisters in the school. The sisters were far more relaxed than what I was used to in Eccles Street. The nuns rode bicycles and the school and nuns’ quarters were far less opulent. The second photo is of the outside of the building called Bellecour. I went back years later to visit the school. Sadly, it was no longer there.

Bellecour, Dominican Convent in Pithiviers, Loiret, France

Deirdre McDevitt (nee Reidy) - 17 September 2012

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MY SCHOOLDAYS
By
Ita Doyle (nee Bolger)
Junior School and Dominican College Eccles Street Leaving Cert 1943

My sister, Máire, having completed her primary certificate (now extinct) at Presentation Convent in Terenure (knocked down overnight, during the Tiger years), moved to Dominican College Eccles Street for her secondary education. I was sent with her. Why we travelled from Terenure to Eccles Street, and bypassed many a school, only my father and God could say. My mother had died when I was three. I have often thanked God and my father for their choice. I was happy there. I have only vague memories of my first day. I travelled by bus. No. 16 was a direct route from Terenure to Eccles Street. Except for Máire, I can’t remember who accompanied me. I know I went down steps to a basement door, while Máire went in through the very impressive main door. I remember the nuns who greeted us. Sister Aquin was a tall lady with rather prominent teeth. She was very gentle and kind, as was Sister Madeleine, a much prettier lady. As we had a half day that first day, I have no memory of how I got home, but I was certainly with my big sister.

As a side memory - I found if I travelled to Nelson’s Pillar (now replaced by the hideous Spire) I saved one half-penny and ran the rest of the way. If I reversed this on my way home and ran to the Pillar, I saved another half-penny. This enabled me to buy a cream bun in the Rutland Cafe, just around the corner from Dorset Street.

I forgot to mention my uniform. Navy-blue serge dress (a bit scratchy) and white collar (removable) and small pearl buttons down the front. In winter, a navy-blue coat, and in summer a black blazer with black and white braid, and the school crest and motto, Veritas, on the top pocket. All very lady-like and smart. We juniors were allowed white ankle socks in summer, but had to wear the dreaded long, black, woollen stockings in the winter. These were the bane of my life. The least catch, and a hole appeared. Said hole had to be darned, and who enjoys darning? After a while, and with the connivance of some other pupils, I found that large blob of ink behind the hole hid the whiteness of the leg underneath. Mind you, darning was required eventually, but this could be done at one’s leisure. Also, the sight of large blobs of ink on one’s legs, which were rather difficult to wash off, was unbecoming to a young lady.

Georgina Landes, Carmel Molloy and Patricia Gibson all in uniform

I remember the names of my first friends - Carmel Molloy, Patricia Gibson, Aileen Cusack and Brenda McDunphy. I settled into school happily and year melted into year. One memory was my entry into the Feis Ceoil. The great Mother Clement who had trained Margaret Burke Sheridan, picked three girls to sing a trio in the Feis - Patricia Gibson, Carmel Molloy and myself. For some weeks we sang morning, noon and night, and when the big day dawned a few senior girls, who were also singing, brought us. We sang one piece when called. We didn’t come first, second or third, nor were we highly commended, but Mother Clement kindly informed us that ‘we had not shamed ourselves - or her.’ She smiled kindly as she said it.

I made my Confirmation from Eccles Street, in Berkley Road Church. I wore a light green velvet dress, with pearl buttons down the front and a lace collar. It was made locally and was much admired - I hated it. In those days a child was ‘seen and not heard’. I said nothing, but I sure hated that dress.

Secondary school was a whole new life. New teachers, new nuns and some new friends. Mother Enda was in charge. She was disrespectfully known as ‘The Bull’ - in secret, of course. When she was annoyed, her anger started under her stiff white collar and worked its redness up to her face and then she roared. She was a great teacher and was very amiable and kind - once you didn’t cross her - very few dared. It was rumoured that she had been a girlfriend of Padraig Pearse (probably because of her name).

Mother Peter was a stout lady, whose sister - an equally stout lady - was a teacher. I have forgotten her name. Sister Joan was the only nun I ever found a bit sharp. She took us for history. As we were in school during the War, there were discussions about what was happening in other parts of the world. If some girls were a bit bored, or brave (not me; I was never heroic) the word ‘Hitler’ was enough to send Sister Joan into a long tirade about the evil of the Germans and the goodness of the Allies. I always believed in self-preservation and sang dumb.

I have many more memories: Gym classes, when we marched around making various shapes. Skipping ropes and bar bells - all done to music. Today’s gymnasts would laugh at us. Miss Pigott gave us elocution classes and we learned how to speak like young ladies. Disrespectfully, we called it talking proper.

Camogie featured largely in our lives. As there was no vacant land in the Eccles Street area, we walked to Shandon Park in Phibsboro for our games. The Seán O’Duffy Cup was the main trophy for schools. One year, our class played in Croke Park and won the Cup. We walked back through the city carrying the cup and singing. The traffic was so light that we were in no-one’s way. I can’t remember all the words we sang, but we ended up with:

“The forwards did their duty,
The back did follow up,
and we’re bringing back to Eccles Street
The Seán O’Duffy Cup!”

The victorious 1941 O’Duffy Cup winning Camogie team

Our presentation of ‘The Hound of Heaven’ produced by Máire Cranny ‘I fled him down the nights and down the days’ etc. I was a ‘rock and chasm’. Us rocks and chasms wore purple taffeta, large strips of material with an opening cut out for our heads. We put our arms around each others shoulders and the material draped in lumps and bumps over us. It looked good.

‘Rocks and chasms, whom do ye seek?’

I have no recollection of who I sought, but we had a great few nights and the production was declared a great success. Mr De Valera attended the opening night.

I’m sure when I end this I will remember more. I think I’ve said enough. So Thank You to all the Dominicans who spent their days trying to turn us into young ladies and decent human beings. Thank you, Eccles Street. (P.S. - I sat my Leaving Certificate in 1943. I didn’t come first in Ireland, but, as Mother Clement had remarked so many years before, I didn’t disgrace myself.)

Ita Doyle (nee Bolger)

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MEMORIES
By
Kathleen Rochford
Scoil Chaitríona 1939 - 1942

I commenced my school life at the early age of three, at Carysfort Convent in Blackrock where my older sister Maura was attending. My early entrance to education was due to the fact that my widowed mother had decided to return to her former position and a relative was pleased to come to live with us and look after my younger brother and all four of us while mother was working. My sister and I transferred to Booterstown school some years later, where I met Pauline du Berry (nee Devitt) and Rita Byrne, who became my life-long friends. In 1939 I was fortunate to win a County County Scholarship for Secondary School and I joined my sister Maura at Scoil Chaitríona in Eccles Street, where I remained until 1943.

I have very vivid and happy memories of my years in Eccles Street. Sister Pius greeting us each morning as we entered. Tall and elegant, she never raised her voice to us - she always had a welcoming smile. An Mathair Treasa, visiting our classrooms and calling each one of us by name, again, gentle and smiling. Sister Rita seemed more worldly. We had her in 5th year - her understanding of our problems always evident and most helpful. Sister Benen taught us mathematics and I think she gave us all a love of figures.

I left school at the age of 16, having been offered a job in the Accounts Office of Prices Tailors, owners of the gentlemen’s clothing firm of The Fifty Shilling Tailors. I was glad of the offer, as jobs were difficult to get in those days.

My mother died in 1950 and shortly after that I developed TB and spent almost two years in Peamont Sanatorium, where I spent most of the time in bed or quietly walking around the grounds. Thankfully, I recovered fully from the TB and my employers transferred me to the accounts office of Gordon’s Lace Shop in Mary Street Dublin 1. I enjoyed working there and remained until 1956 when I was fortunate to get a position in the accounts section of St Lukes Hospital in Rathgar. I worked there until my marriage, when the law at that time required my resignation on marriage. Some years after, I was invited to return on a temporary basis to cover holiday periods, and I was very happy to return. After some years, Ireland having joined the European Union, the Equality Law was passed here, and I was offered a permanent position which I was happy to accept. I transferred from Accounts to Administration, where I remained until I was appointed Secretary Manager of St Lukes Hospital, where I remained until my retirement in 1988.

Shortly after I left school, I joined the Past Pupils Union, with Rita Byrne and her sister May. We became Life Members of the Union - we got great value for our £10 Life Membership fee. I became a member of the Executive Committee and was President of the Union in 1986 and 1987.

Memories of the Catholic Women’s Federation (CWF)
The Union was affiliated to the Catholic Women’s Federation, which was an organisation where all Catholic Secondary Schools for girls were welcome to send representatives from their Past Pupils’ Unions. Having represented our PPU for some years, I was pleased to be elected as President of the CWF. During my term as President in 1991, I was requested to attend the meeting of the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organisations (WUCWO) in Mexico. I joined Áine Regan from Holy Faith Convent PPU, who had been on the board of WUCWO and was now required to stand down having served two terms. Another member of our CWF Anne Denis had been elected to the Board of WUCWO to replace Áine. Anne represented the PPU of The Bower in Athlone. At the conference in Mexico, Áine and Anne, both Board members, were busily engaged with the business of the Organisation. I had more social duties to attend to, and on the ‘Irish Morning’, I led the prayers for the whole congregation. Collette Mhic Giolla Eoin became our Union Representative when my time as President of the CWF expired.

Memories of St Dominic’s Club
Just tell them you are not free on Thursdays - that was the reply I got when I had protested to a helper who was retiring from The Club’, that I could not agree to help at St Dominic’s Club every Thursday as my friends might arrange other functions which I would wish to attend. However, I succumbed, and for many many years, I spent every Thursday evening in St Dominic’s Club, as a helper. This commenced in about 1961. It was such a pleasure really. I was fortunate that Betty Crowe, who had been associated with the Club for some time before I started, lived near me, and she kindly invited me to travel with her. We would arrive in Hardwicke Street to open the doors at 7.30pm, where we would be greeted by all the ‘Early Birds’ who would rush up the stairs to the Kitchen and Sitting-room areas. These girls were mostly in the 14 to 16 years age group and were usually employed in some clothing factory, or perhaps helping their parents at some food stall, or otherwise minding their younger siblings as their parents went to work, so they enjoyed meeting their own friend in their own club. I was delegated to the Kitchen, to assist Betty Crowe in her gentle efforts to educate these girls in culinary skills, which I trust we did in some small way. Each night we made queen cakes, apple tarts and scones, and sometimes savoury dishes. We always presented our products for the supper, and as we dared not produce failures, we never had any left over! I enjoyed the banter and the chat which continued all through the lesson. We heard all the stories of their families ‘ups and downs’ from which we realised how these girls living in such close contact were solid in their support for each other. They were mainly from the apartments opposite to the Club, lovingly referred to by the girls as ‘The Flats’.

As time went on, it was decided to have a ‘Seniors Club, which included our married girls. This decision was very popular as girls would ask us a lot about cooking in general as now they had husbands to look after. We were pleased to hear all their queries and hoped we helped them. When the babies arrived, of course, we would lose the regulars, however, they would often bring in their lovely children to see us. They all loved each other’s babies and we could see the joy that each child brought to the now extended families.

Old Folks Club
As the Irish economy improved in the late nineteen seventies, our members dwindled as our attendees could now afford other recreations. However, our Past Pupils, always willing to try something else, decided to have an Old Folks Club. We invited older ladies from the area to join and it was very successful. In fact, it was a great to us helpers, as these ladies were delighted to come in and sit quietly and chat to us. We had Christmas parties, with music and sing-songs, and then in the Summer, we would have an outing - often to Bettystown. We would travel by coach, to the Neptune Hotel which was very near the beach. We would have a leisurely stroll along the beach, before high tea in the hotel. As an extra treat, Kathleen O’Kelly would bring some Tea Time Express cakes, which we would have with a cup of tea before starting for home. Then we would have songs all the way home in the coach, and we helpers would be so pleased to see the enjoyment that the trip had given to the ladies. Later in the year, we would have a Mass for the deceased members in Gardiner Street Church, which was always well attended and then we returned to the Club for the usual cup of tea and cakes. Time marched on and in 1991 as attendance numbers had fallen, which indicated that the need for such a facility as our club faded, it was finally decided to dispose of the property.

Our PPU was very fortunate to have had the late Máire Ryan as President at that time. Máire was an experienced business lady who carefully headed the negotiations of the sale, which was completed during Carmel O’Connor’s Presidency. Máire later advised on the investment of the proceeds, which are still in situ and which we see on our yearly Financial Statement, the interest from which is used for Union purposes and for donations to the Missions and our schools.

I would like to record that the lady who advised me on what to say to my friends was Ursula Rynne, who was leaving the Club to join the Religious Order of Marie Reparatrice in Clones. Ursula died in the Order’s Limerick Convent aged 52 years. May she rest in peace.

Kathleen Rochford - 6 March 2014

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MEMORIES
By
Maire Cranny
Dominican College Boarder 1939-1943

The following is a speech given by Maire at the Annual Luncheon of Dominican College Past Pupils Union held at Dominican College Griffith Avenue in 2004 celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the move of the school to Griffith Avenue

‘Time present and Time past are both perhaps present in Time future and Time future contained in Time past…’   Four Quartets…Burnt Norton.

First Day
I remember walking up Eccles Street with my mother and father on the 3rd of September 1939, the day World War 11 was declared. I remember vividly the Eccles Street door No 19 with the large brass panel which impressed me so much, and Mary the wonderful Portress who received us and brought us into the front parlour. Then the door opened and Mother Rita and Mother Clement dressed in white robes and black veils appeared. Mother Rita, tall and elegant was the Mistress of the School, and Mother Clement was the great teacher of Voice. She was one of the main reasons I had come to Eccles Street, all the way from Newry, Co Down, to study under her great teaching power. I felt so sad and lonely after all the farewells when my parents left. Sister Rinaldo came and brought me down to the Refectory for lunch and to meet all my other fellow boarders. I was so excited. It was all new and especially hearing the many different voices and accents. They were all so friendly especially the older boarders. We were then brought to the chapel for Benediction and I will never forget seeing the magnificent Harry Clarke stained glass window above the altar depiction in a myriad of colours and light Our Lady presenting the Rosary to St. Dominic. The image has remained with me right through my life as though I was seeing it for the first time. Some poetic lines come to mind which best describe Harry Clarke’s outstanding creation.

St Dominic went forth over beautiful France
And strong was his courage and fearless glance
For Mary had placed in the hands of her son
That weapon by which all his battles were won
Strange weapon thus gifted with forces untold
A garland of roses white crimson and gold…

Then to the Study Hall to get ready for school in the morning and to claim my desk! Now time for bed, up to the large Dormitory just above the Concert Hall. Above the magnificent Concert Hall which was a platform for all that was best in Choir, Music, Opera and Drama, sometimes competing with the many and great dramas that took place in the not so sleepy dormitory.

German Bombs
What drama the night the Germans dropped the bombs near the Mater Hospital and another one on the North Strand not so far away from our dreaming pillows and cloistered bedrooms. Joe Pollock, who slept in a bed beside me, kept shouting in a strong Belfast accent “We are all blown up. I was in Belfast when the same thing happened!!” Kathleen O’Keeffe, who was the head girl in the dormitory, tried to calm us. Then Mother Enda and Sr. Aquinas came in with holy water and prayers and kept walking up and down until all was air raid shelter. The army gave us the drill for what we must do in a raid. For weeks we ran up and down the stairs from the top of the house to the basement.

Singing Lessons
One of the greatest memories was of all my singing lessons with Mother Clement in her famous parlour. Humming, humming - no songs or melodies or tunes just humming - when all I wanted to do was sing! I saw the interesting, evocative and gracious lady who came to visit Mother Clement very often. Always beautifully dressed and in an enormous hat with feathers and jewels and a long mink coat. I found out later that she was the world renowned singer Margaret Burke Sheridan originally from Mayo. She had also been a boarder in Eccles Street for many years and had been trained by Mother Clement. A training that took her to the world stage and to sing the title role in Puccini’s Madame Butterfly and La Boheme. My memories are always drawn to the magnificent Concert Hall and Choir practice with Mother Cecily, a wonderful nun and great musician. She was very special to me as was her home –the Concert Hall - especially during the rehersals in 1940 for the Hound of Heaven by Francis Thompson produced by J.J.Henry from Radio Eireann and choreographed by Sarah Page. The theme of the poem is The Flight of the Soul from God, the pursuit of the tremendous Lover and the surrender to God. There were auditions for Groups going on day and night - Groups for the Voice of the Soul, for the Voice of God, Contemplative Choirs, representing Hades, Nature, all Created Things, the Sea, the Depths, the Chasms, the Sun, the Moon, the Stars, Children, Guardian Angels and Ranks of Heavenly Hosts. The Voice of God was played by my old friend Maureen Foley. Aileen Mc Manus and myself were selected to play the principal part of the Soul on different nights. It was a wonderful chance for both of us and, indeed, for the whole cast. I loved every moment of it and I know that Aileen did also. It was many years afterwards that I realised how marvellously creative and innovative the nuns were giving us such a love and appreciation of the Performing Arts and Education.

Maire Cranny outside Dominican College Griffith Avenue in more recent times

Weekend Walks
What about walking in rank at the weekends! All dressed up with our hats, gloves, long coats, polished shoes and Mother Rita inspecting us all on the way out. Lucy McCutcheon, Eithne Lalor, Doris Irvine, Helen Cooney, Triona Gallagher, Helen Curran, Rosaleen O’Boyle, Maureen Foley, Maeve O’Shea, Evelyn Cunniffe, Nora O’Keeffe, Ethel McGeogh, Tess Dore, Eleanor O’Donnell and many, many  more. All on our way to the Phoenix Park, the Botanic Gardens, St Stephen’s Green which we loved. Down town through O’Connell Street across the Liffey through Westmoreland Street, up Grafton Street and into The Green, but just for a moment, as the time was up and we had to return. I remember once on my way back seeing Madame Burke Sheridan sitting on her seat outside the Gresham Hotel, where she lived in a suite of rooms. When she saw me she came down to meet the rank and spoke to us of how much she had loved Eccles Street.

Tragic News
On 20February 1940, just a month after the production of the Hound of Heaven, Mother Rita came over to house No 16 to tell me the news of the death of my mother.

A kind of news that is outside any young girl’s heart.
A kind of news that has a never ending echo.
My beautiful mother …gone.

My father was in the parlour waiting to take me home to Newry, I thought my life had ended and for a moment that day it did. But time is a great healer and after the funeral I returned to Eccles Street. It was then that I met a woman who was to change my life. Miss Enda Mary Burke was the well-known professor of Elocution and Drama in Dublin. She also taught in Eccles Street. She heard me performing at a Drama Feis where I won the poetry section reciting The Bells by Edgar Allen Poe. She said she would take me privately at her studio in Kildare Street. It was the beginning of one of the best chapters of my life. I walked to Kildare Street every Thursday to Miss Burke where Eamonn Andrews, Maureen O’Hara, Milo O’Shea were in my class and many other great names of stage and screen. Miss Burke was a brilliant teacher one who really inspired and I tried for many years afterwards to follow in her footsteps.

In 1943 my young sister Celine (age 11) came to Eccles Street as a boarder. She remained at the school for 8 years and loved every moment she spent there. She excelled in all the performing Arts and taught them in Northern Ireland until she died a few years ago. We had a wonderful drama in 5th and 6th with Mother Enda and with her beloved day pupils. Maureen Lynch, Sheila Lynch, Maura Madden, Maisie Shanks, Aileen Mac Manus, Fredda Nolan. We performed Greek plays, Roman pageants, Religious dramas, Shakespeare Sheridan and Wilde. It was really a wonderful time for me and helped me enormously in my career later on.

Pupil to Teacher
When finally I qualified from the London Guild Hall of Music and Drama I was privileged to be invited back on the teaching staff where I worked with Sister Nora O’Keeffe, Sister Isnard, Miss Burbage, Maura Mc Carthy, Miss Brady, Miss Feely, Mother Cecily, Sr Henry, Mother Teresa, Miss Pigott, Sr Germaine all who were a tower of strength to me. In 1944 I started the Eccles Street Past Pupils Dramatic Society and opened with The Whip Hand, The Admirable Creiton and Double Door. We invited young aspiring male actors to perform with us, Brendan Cauldwell, Barry Casson, Joe Greehan, Gerry Tierney, Frank Farrelly, Anthony Berkely, Gerry Perry, Leo Smith, some of whom went on to become professional actors, members of the Abbey and performers on Radio and TV dramas. I stayed on teaching until I got married in 1949 in Berkely Road Church and Vera Gallagher, a pupil of mine, took over from me. I began to teach in many other colleges and schools- St Mary’s Rathmines, St Louis Convent Rathmines, Muckross Park, Kings Inns Street, Loreto Convent Foxrock, Blackrock College, Clongowes Wood College. I did return to Eccles Street to produce a very brilliant version of the history of Eccles Street 100 years called Down the Arches of  the Years adapted by the great writer Val Mulkearns who was also a past pupil of Eccles Street. How honoured I was to have been educated by the Dominican nuns in Eccles Street. I am 54 years teaching this year. I loved every moment of it. I owe it all to them.

Maire Cranny

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MY MEMORIES OF ECCLES STREET
By
Hilda Beare (nee Casey)
Junior School & Dominican College Eccles Street 1937 - 1949

I started school in Eccles Street on September 7th 1937. I remember the date because my father had a daily calendar in his office and he took that date off and brought it home. 1937 was the year the new Junior School (St Hyacinth’s) was opened. It consisted of three classrooms and toilets on the first floor. Halfway up the staircase to the second floor there was a door out to the nun’s garden. On the second floor there were three more classrooms, toilets and an office where Sr Francis prepared the girls for First Holy communion. Our cloakroom was in the basement, at the school entrance in Eccles Street and from there, where Sr Francis presided, we went out into the corridor, past the entrance to the Refectory, up three steps, around the corner, past the drill hall and the statue of Our Lady into the entrance area. As well as Sr Francis I remember Miss Fitzgerald, who taught us the ‘Hail Mary’ and the sign of the Cross. We also had Miss O’Hara who taught us ‘sums’. I think she was a sister of Sister James.

We had our lunch at our desks every day and sometimes we swopped lunches. Marjorie Daly always had her lunch wrapped in greaseproof paper (I only saw that in my house at Christmas time). She came from a family of ten with a live-in help! I also remember Marese Murphy, Sadie Brady, Peggy O’Neill and Eithne McEveney, whom I still see occasionally, from that classroom.

I found it difficult at first to take in the surroundings and all the people, coming as I did from a two-child family. I remember when it was raining we went to the drill hall to play with some other classes and I was so scared I held on to Dolores Burke’s hand and wouldn’t let go.

First Holy Communion
I was to receive First Holy communion in May of first Class, but I developed tonsillitis a few days before the ceremony and missed it. There were some girls with the same complaint, as were some boys from the boys school, and a date for the unwell was fixed for June. I developed whooping cough around that time and couldn’t take part. And so to the following May. I remember I had to attend the classes with Sr Francis all over again, and, would you believe, an epidemic of chicken pox broke out in the boys’ school! Any girls with brothers there got the chicken pox too. And so to June for the fourth time. Twenty-two boys and five girls (or perhaps the other way around) received first Holy Communion on the feast of the sacred Heart in June. We had the mass in the convent chapel. After the ceremony we were all invited to the Middle Parlour with our parents for breakfast, scrambled eggs and other goodies - the start of a great day. I didn’t know the Middle Parlour’s name until later on in my time at school! That was the last breakfast to be served on Holy Communion day because of food shortages that had occurred due to the war breaking out the previous September.

Junior School
I was in the Junior school for six very enjoyable years, although I still found it difficult to get used to the girls around all the time. However, I developed a love of books and liked the sums. When I was ten, I prepared for my Confirmation - and there’s the rub! The war was still raging and we had been allotted clothing coupons. However, progress was still made and I remember Miss Tierney filling in the forms with our details for the Bishop. Woe betide any girl that hadn’t chosen her Confirmation name! She was told she would have to have Josephine whether she liked it or not, the reason being that our Confirmation day was the Feast of St Joseph, (March 19th) and the Berkeley Road Church was in the parish of St Joseph.

Senior School
And so we moved on to the Senior school, with Sister Aquin and Latin, and books, and Miss Hughes and English and a classroom opposite the drill hall, with old desks and the blackboard on the wall and a podium for the teacher. Sister Cornelia taught us French, she was a shy young nun who found us a bit of a challenge. We were fascinated when we found out that her Christian name was Cherry. We had an English girl in our class, Josephine, who with her sister in Second Year were evacuees staying with their relatives in Killiney. They cycled to school every day. Josephine had the most up-to-date bicycle equipment on the market. We had never seen anything like it! I don’t remember much of Second Year, but I do remember our old classroom on the Red Corridor. Its attraction was that it overlooked the nuns Community Room and so it was exciting to see the nuns talking to one another. That was where we had ‘Acky’ for latin, and all the same old, same old.  Times became a bit vague after that, we stayed as our original class, joined by boarding pupils, but they wore a different uniform than us.

Third Year brought memories of Sister Joan, our class tutor, who also taught us Geography, and told us (twice every week) that there was a Dominican Convent in Cabra, Dublin and a Dominican Convent in Cabra, Australia! I don’t remember where we spent Fourth Year, it must have been the shock of the Intermediate Examination - and what a shock it was. I can still remember standing and shaking by the desk in the Concert Hall for the first exam, yet when the time came for the Leaving Cert, I wasn’t scared at all.

Fifth Year was a great year, spent in the old classroom up the steps at the end of the Green Corridor and at the other end was the entrance to the Art room. It was a passage room that had desks with “lifty lids”, great for hiding under if you wanted to annoy the teacher (as if we would!). Miss Fitzpatrick ‘Goilla’ was our French teacher and she was so, well .... French! That year we performed Julius Caesar because it was the prescribed play for the Leaving Cert and so was for the good of the Sixth Years. We had so much fun that one rehearsal had to be abandoned because we laughed so much - so much for Shakespeare.

And now, to Sixth Year. We were supposed to get the head down and study, but I’m afraid that didn’t come easy to me. We were in a little room on the Green Corridor and we had Mother Thomas for Christian Doctrine. One of the girls, who was a brilliant student and went on to attain great heights in her chosen field, once asked Mother Thomas ‘why homosexuals couldn’t be priests?’. I don’t remember what Mother Thomas said, but she wasn’t one bit fazed. Of course, the majority of the class didn’t know what their classmate was talking about!

June 1949 came and went. I’m a great grandmother now, and a bit of a charity case on the P.P.U. The girls on the committee are very kind to me and would love more past pupils to join us. I still have frequent meetings with two of my old classmates after sixty four years, so Eccles Street is still very much a part of my social life. I know its Griffith Avenue now, but the old Dominican welcome is still there.

Hilda Beare (nee Casey) - July 2013

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MY MEMORIES OF LOUISE GAVAN DUFFY
By
Collette Mhic Giolla Eoin (nee Clerkin)


My memory of Louise Gavan Duffy is of a very elegant lady, very slim with gorgeous dark auburn hair and eyes almost the same colour. She was always beautifully dressed, always wore a hat and gloves when going out. She was as we all know a founding member of our Past Pupils' Union. She was also a very kind teacher. She opened a Scoil Lán Gaelach, Scoil Bríde in Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin where I went to school. I loved school and my teachers there. Miss Gavan Duffy always took a great interest in every pupil. We wore gymslips and a blouse but each section had a special sash, blue, red, maroon or green depending on what class you were in.

When we made our First Holy Communion, Miss Gavan Duffy had a special breakfast for us when we returned from Mass. In those days fasting from the night before. Ellen our house keeper in the school made us all a beautiful full Irish Breakfast, which was gorgeous. When we had eaten this Miss Gavan Duffy gave us all a big kiss and sent us on our way. This was very thoughtful as during the war with rationing some children would not have had such a luxury.

When we reached fourth class Miss Gavan Duffy formed a praesidium of the Legion of Mary to teach us to share and help the old and poor people near our school. We used to visit them and do little bits of housework or shopping for them or maybe just talk to the lonely ones. We also had to say the rosary every day. To us Miss Gavan Duffy was Very Holy. She used to take us out to special Masses which we loved, (getting out of school). We also visited a lot of museums and art galleries. We entered the Feis Ceoil and Feis Mathew. Some were very gifted and won prizes which were displayed in the school. We had sports days, where Miss Gavan Duffy would always encourage us all to do our best, running, jumping, sack races etc., great fun, then the big feast afterwards. We did all sorts of arts and crafts plus music and Irish dancing.

We then were sent to Scoil Chaitríona where I surprised Sr. Aquinas by asking where the animals were? We always had animals in Scoil Bríde as Ellen our housekeeper had cats and dogs. We played with them during break or took them for a walk after school. I loved this. Sr. Aquinas was not aware of our easy life.  Sr. Aquinas, Sr. Cajeton and Sr. Bennin and I became very good friends during school. When I was good I was allowed to sit with Sr. Aquinas in the Nuns garden. After four o'clock the Mater Hospital used to burn materials in the incinerator and the smuts would fly all over the place. Sr. Aquinas was covered in these I was worried but she just said no hassle don't rub them just let me shake my habit and they will fall off, which they did. I loved that garden, and am sad to see it used as a car park and left in a bad state.

Miss Gavan Duffy was a great cook, she was in the GPO during the troubles cooking for the Rebels. She never mentioned this to us, we found out later. I was thrilled when Miss Gavan Duffy turned up at my wedding Mass, even though she was on a stick and very frail. She still had her hat and gloves and looked so elegant.

Those are my memories of Louise Gavan Duffy, ar dhéis Dé go raibh a hanam dílis.

Collette Mhic Giolla Eoin (nee Clerkin) - April 2015