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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 1970s.

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DOMINICAN COLLEGE ECCLES STREET 1882 - 1984
By
Caitríona Nic Giolla Eoghain
Dominican College Eccles Street 1972 - 1977

I attended Dominican College Eccles Street from September 1972 until June 1977 as a day pupil. Coming from a small functional school I found the buildings, rooms and general ambiance of Eccles Street fascinating. Throughout my school life I spent many happy days simply wandering around the school, meandering up and down the many staircases, investigating the rooms I encountered. The rooms and hallways contained a wealth of artistic masterpieces, now sadly gone.  These are my memories of those journeys. Hopefully they might jog other people’s memories.

Sr Clements’ Parlour
This parlour was called after Sr. Clement who used it as her singing lessons room. Margaret Burke Sheridan was the most famous student trained by Sr. Clements.  The dimensions of this room always amazed me. The windows had small stained glass fronts, the book case consisted of a three panelled glass fronted, 5 shelf upper portion resting on a sturdy cupboard section.

Parlour

The Middle Parlour
The Middle Parlour room was used by the Mistress of Studies during the time when Eccles Street was a boarding school.  In my time it had become the Staff Room.  I remember being impressed by the beautiful elegant sideboard, (highly polished and cared for, yet used on a daily basis by the nuns). The enormous double doors at the end of the room, the panelled walls with raised patterns on the wallpaper, the constantly replenished vases of flowers, the shine on the floor, the china crockery, were all glimpsed in this room when, as a student, I would have to knock on the door to pass on a message or request a favour from a teacher.

The Back Parlour
A room was kept for special guests. Like all the other parlours it was immaculately furnished and maintained. I only got into this room once, on the pretense of looking for a teacher. My memory of the room was that it was gleaming, with a very highly painted black door, which to me, looked like it was painted with lacquer rather than paint. There was a sideboard in the room with crosses under domed glass and many paintings on the walls. The back parlour was so named because it looked out onto the back of the school into the Nuns’ rose garden.

The Art Room
I loved art and drawing and went with great pleasure up the stairs to the Art Room to complete my lessons. Sr. Isnard was the art teacher during my time in Eccles Street. This room was so vast that it could hold two classes of over thirty girls, each supervised by a separate teacher. Within the Art Room I encountered many pictures of works by famous artists. Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers”, Michelangelo’s “Pieta” Constable’s landscapes, Leonardo’s “Adoration of the Magi” are some of the prints on display behind Sr. Isnard’s table.  Taking pride of place on her table, Sr. Isnard had a small artist’s human form model. I asked her about it once and she explained that it had been given to her by some students who had gone on to art college. There was a small door at the end of the Art Room which lead into the Nuns’ quarters. In my time you could totally miss this door as your eye was drawn to the enormous bookcase beside it. This book case must have been at least twenty feet wide and went up to ceiling level. I often wondered who had made it and how long it took to complete.

The Library
As a child I loved to read, so the library was my second home. The thousands of books on its shelves gave me plenty to occupy my mind and stretch my imagination. One day, during a free period, I looked up from my book and out the window I made an interesting observation (well, as a 12 year old child it was interesting). All the rooms at the back of the school, the Art room, the Library, Science Halls, P.E. hall, had four windows on each side. As one moved from the basement (P.E. hall) up to the higher floors the windows decreased in size. I was later to learn that this is an architectural technique to give a balanced perspective to a building when viewed from the outside. At the end of the Library was a small door, which I was informed by Sr. Isnard led into a small room where one of the nuns used to sleep when the Library was a dormitory.

The Concert Hall
Many concerts, fashion shows, Christmas Oratorios, etc. were held in this superb room. It was built in 1928 and contained a wonderful semi-circular gallery with burgundy red seats. During my time the walls were painted a turquoise blue colour with cream columns. This contrasted with the dark wooden floors and doors and gave the hall a unique flavour. As far as I remember the concert hall’s real name is St. Peter’s Hall. I loved to sit in the very back row of the gallery on one of the windowsills of the semi-circular windows. From there I could observe both the action on the stage and the action on the street. One of my main memories of this hall is Handel’s Hallelujah being performed by my peers. I was not involved in the dramatic/musical end of things as I had no talents in these areas. As a student I was regularly called upon to put out chairs, stack up chairs, brush the floor etc. after concerts. Not an easy task when the sun was streaming into the hall  and creating a huge glare on the highly polished wooden floor!!!!! Counting seems to be something I did quite regularly as I wandered around the school. There were five steps up to the main stage, three windows at the back of the hall and in the gallery,  two windows on the road side of the hall near the stage and one window facing into the Nun’s garden. Each window had three panels across its width.

The Chapel
This was located on the top floor of the school buildings, up the narrow winding staircases, with the statues of St. Dominic and St. Joseph on the second landing. It was an impressive chapel with columns, which I always thought were made out of green marble,  but Sr. Henry told me years later that they were Faux Marble, created from a composition of stones in Italy. There were arched sections in each wall and a fantastic stained glass window over the altar showing Our Lady giving the Rosary to St. Dominic. The window was made by Harry Clarke. Above that window was a painted fresco of the Crowning of Our Lady, with some Dominican saints around the sides of this fresco. There were other stained glass windows beside smaller altars in the chapel. On the right hand side of the main altar was a smaller altar to Our Lady with as a window depicting the Sacred Heart. On the left of the main altar was an altar to St. Dominic with a window depicting St. Patrick. All of these windows were brought with the Sisters when they moved to 204 Griffith Avenue. At the end of the church were the confession boxes and the organ gallery. I often sneaked up there when nobody was around, to admire the superb architecture and artwork which surrounded me. It is such a pity that this chapel was not preserved. I am sure that there are others who also have very fond memories of spending time there.

Number 18 Hallway
Every student going to Eccles Street will remember coming through these doors. How many noticed the artistic heritage that the walls and ceiling contained? The lantern above the door was made by a past pupil Gabriel Hayes, who also made the Stations of the Cross for Galway Cathedral. This lantern depicts St. Dominic, St. Kevin and St. Thomas on different sides, with the Dominican Badge on the front. On the left hand side of the door was the Van Eyck Triptych of the Adoration of the Lamb, I always took a look at it before I went to class. Just at the base of the stairs was a picture of Our Lady with her cloak open and the Dominican priests sheltering under that cloak.

The Music Hallway
On most days music could be heard coming from the small rooms located in this hallway. I loved its glass roof and the stained glass window at the end. Like many other students I was not above sliding down this corridor, much to the annoyance of the teaching staff. They had concerns that we would slip out through the window at the end of the hallway and land on the street. I was never fully sure whether their concerns were for our safety or the preservation of the window. In any event a strong metal bar was placed across the window to prevent catastrophe.

The Science Hallway
How I loved to wander around the basement of Eccles Street. The uniqueness of the corridors, with the high paneled walls which contained windows above the top of the doors, the smells of chemicals coming from the Science rooms, the labyrinthine feel of the vast area would fit very well into any Harry Potter movie. Just around the corner from the Science hallway, down the stone steps, one found the Tuck Shop, a very important room for all students. From here you could wander back through the Science corridor and go out into the school yard.

St Hyacinth’s Hallway
This was the hallway which connected the Senior and Junior Schools. It was located on the basement level. My one memory of this hallway is the picture on the wall showing some kind of Hell image. Does anyone remember what it was? Even though this hallway was brighter than the Science hallway I found it creepy because of the pictures and so avoided it.

The Green Corridor
This was one of the corridors which housed the classrooms. We sat two by two in slanted tables which had a lift up lid. We put our books into these tables for storage. In my time there were no lockers so we had to carry all required books with us on a daily basis. I actually hated these classrooms, their dark panelled walls with windows above our head height made them quite forbidding, but they did aid concentration and study.

The Dining Room
As a day pupil I had my lunch in the dining room/lunch room. This was a vast room with enough chairs to seat almost the entire school. I was overawed with the fact that so many girls would leave home and live in a school. The windows at the end of the lunch room looked out into the Nuns’ garden. I used to try to get a seat near the window so that I could enjoy looking at the flowers and trees with all their colours, shades and tones as they changed throughout the year.

I loved sports, though I was never very good at team sports, Athletics was my forte. My memories of the P.E. hall consist of having to do deportment lessons with Ms. Mac Partlin. Does anyone reading this memoir have the complete rhyme she used to use as we walked around the room:

“Feet first, Abdominal muscles tucked in (I didn’t know what these were when doing the lessons), Shoulders back, Arms swinging loosely by your side ????”

We repeated this rhyme countless times as we marched in single file around the perimeter of the room. Sadly the lessons were a failure for me as I still slouch along when walking.

I hope you have enjoyed my little trip down memory lane. Dominican College Eccles Street was a huge part of my teenage years. It is such a tragedy that this historic building is no more. Hopefully my little trip has awakened memories among some of the readers of this book. Perhaps the Transition Year students in the new Dominican College could collate recollections, pictures,  memorabilia from the former Eccles Street and incorporate it into a museum in their new home?

Caitríona Nic Giolla Eoghain - 2014

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MY MEMORIES
by
Collette Kilty (Nee Nic Giolla Eoin)
Dominican College Eccles Street 1971 - 1976

I was in Dominican College Eccles Street from 1971 to 1976. My mother had been a pupil in Scoil Chaitriona and akin to most Dominican past pupils wanted her children to experience the Dominican ethos and academic success. My father was more than happy to go along with this and my sisters and I were fortunate that we made it through the waiting lists and got to attend the school. As my Irish was not good enough I was enrolled in Dominican College, a school which at that time was in the same building as Scoil and the Commercial College. Scoil Chaitriona moved to its current premises on Mobhi Road the year after I started in Eccles Street. Like many of the pupils who travelled far and wide to Eccles St I travelled into town each day to get to School. This meant an early start as I was on a bus at 7.40 a.m. and did not get home until 5.30 p.m. A bit of a shock to the system as I had attended a primary school which was approx 20 minutes walk from home. But I was to find out over the years that my parents made the right choice for my sisters and me.

Imposing Buildings
Let me start with the building in Eccles Street. It was an imposing Georgian building comprising a number of houses between the Mater Hospital and Bertrand and Rutland School; housing Scoil Chaitriona, Dominican College Junior and Senior schools, the Commercial College, a Convent and accommodation for the Nuns and boarders. I remember standing across the road from the school and seeing the two black doors with the polished knockers, one door where the pupils entered and the other where visitors entered when calling to see the nuns. If you wanted to enter via this route you rang the bell and the grille on the door would be pulled back, you asked for the person you wished to visit, were granted entry and would then be brought into one of the parlours to await your visitor. On entering the school via the pupil’s door you were immediately met with the magnificent staircase and highly polished floors, which we often went sliding along. You more than likely were also met by some of the nuns who acted as form mistresses. There was strict discipline and if you were wearing items which did not form part of the school uniform they were confiscated just inside these main doors. In my era the Bay City rollers were one of the biggest pop groups and many pupils had tartan scarves confiscated as we entered the school. 

Uniform
This brings me to the uniform, in the 70’s we wore a maroon tunic with the VERITAS crest on the left, cream blouse, maroon cardigan and tie. Navy gabardine for the winters, a black blazer for summer with the Dominican crest on it, a beret with a Dominican badge, white knee socks until 3rd year, if memory serves me correctly it was only in the last 2 years at school that pupils could wear tights. Outdoor shoes were brogues and we all had house shoes for indoors to keep the floors clean. We also had a gym uniform, white plimsolls and Navy knickers. The idea behind the Navy knickers was that our underwear would not be on display when we did tumbles and the knickers did not show up in the shine of our shoes when you were in a standing position. Those of us doing science had starched white coats similar to those worn by doctors in the nearby hospital. Essential wearing when you wanted to sneak in and visit a pupil or friend outside of visiting hours as people presumed you were a trainee doctor. The uniforms were purchased in Alexandra’s in Dorset Street. At that time the economy was not doing well and it was standard for parents to purchase uniforms on the basis that they were going to fit you for the 5 years that you would be in Eccles Street. You always knew the first years by the length of their uniform and the 5th/6th by the shortness of theirs. I remember my uniform being midi length at the start and that my gabardine had a hem of about 6 inches on it. Unfortunately I did not grow as tall as I would have liked over the 5 years so my gabardine always had a huge hem and the uniform was still below my knee when I left.

Nuns Uniforms
While we had our uniform the nuns also had theirs. They wore a white habit with a scapular over it, a black veil with a white wimple underneath it. They wore black leather belts around their waist from which their rosary beads hung. The black veil indicated that the nun had taken her solemn vows and was therefore a fully professed nun. The Novices wore a similar habit but wore a white veil. While it was standard for nuns to wear the habit of their religious order, by the time I finished school the rules had become less stringent and many nuns were wearing simple lay clothes as the Nuns habits and behaviour were deemed more important than the clothes they wore. As pupils we always wondered what colour hair the nuns had as it was not visible under the veil. It was a shock to us when some of the nuns removed their veils to discover that some of them had beautiful strong and shiny hair and that they looked so different out of their habits.

Amazing Facilities
When I think back on it now it’s amazing the facilities that the school had, they would be the envy of many a school now. There was the science room, library, concert hall, art room where two classes could be held at the same time, badminton hall, gym room, playground with basketball and tennis courts, large form rooms where we hung our coats and stored our shoes and could sit and chat, a church, the nun’s gardens etc. In addition to the above there was also the refectory where the boarders and day pupils had lunch. Camogie and school sports day events were held in the Dominican facility at Shandon Park.

Broad Curriculum
Dominican College was concerned with the development of the whole person therefore the curriculum was very broad.  In first year I had 12 subjects with time also built in for Physical Education as it was known at that time. Irish, English, Maths, Music, History, Geography, Science, Latin, Art, French, Civics, Religious Education. After first year you could drop two subjects and then concentrate on nine subjects for your Intermediate Certificate (there was no public exam for religion). While classes may have been streamed we were not totally conscious of it and always believed it was based on the subjects we had chosen to study. Classes were either L for Latin and science or H for Home Economics. I was in 2L -6L during my tenure in Eccles Street. Maybe that accounts for my lack of cooking skills. One of my sisters in the H class is a superb cook.

Importance of Fun and Culture
While there was a strong focus on academia, fun and culture was also very important. As part of our weekly gymnastics class we played volleyball, tennis, basketball, camogie and badminton and had teams entered in various inter schools competitions.  I loved camogie which we played in Shandon Park and I was a regular to be found in the badminton hall behind the nun’s garden. Like now fund raising was very important and many great events were held over the years. The main ones that come to mind are the Christmas bazaar, the concerts and the 10k walk. The school had great support from a parents committee and the organisers of these events really pulled out all the stops. We had the wheel of fortune run by Sr. Isnard at the Christmas Bazaar. During the day you bought a ticket then Sr. Isnard would spin the wheel and when your number came up you got a prize. The parents committee always managed to get big named bands to play in the concert hall after the 10k walk. I remember the Indians (one of Irelands biggest “show band” bands) playing in the concert hall. I can tell you that many of my friends who attended other schools were clamouring to go on the walk and raise funds to be allowed attend the post walk concert. In order to attend the post walk event you had to have completed the walk in full and were only allowed in if your card had been fully signed at the 10 stages along the route.

The Lanthorn
The annual class picture event for the Lanthorn was very important. We all made sure we were looking our best when we had our pictures taken in late spring in the beautiful Nun’s garden. There was always great excitement in the school on these days and even more excitement when the Lanthorn came out as we all raced to get our copies to see how our pictures looked and to read the stories written by current and past pupils. Then there were the “Brides of the Year” wedding pictures of past pupils, we always looked at the style of the past pupils and pondered what we ourselves would wear if we were getting married.

The church holds special memories for me, for it was here that we got the opportunity to listen to the nun’s singing their Gregorian chant and where many a pupil could be found in the days leading up to exams, seeking divine inspiration on the exam papers. The Church had beautiful Harry Clarke stained glass window; a joy to behold especially on very sunny days.

‘The Hen’
Our school principal was Sr. Henry or the Hen as she was fondly known. If we wanted to see her for any reason we would go to visit her in the parlour. It was here also that we went on the evening of our debutantes’ ball. This was an event that the nuns really looked forward to each year. Each pupil and their beau were presented to the nuns, got a photo taken and were given a little gift as a reminder of the final major event of their time in Eccles Street. In the 70’s we did not have the same amount of fussing as there is today. You may have gone to the hairdressers to get your hair done, if you were lucky like me your mother made your dress, the guy called for you at your house, brought you chocolates and / or flowers, came in had a few photos taken and then the two of you headed off to Eccles Street. In most cases your father drove you to the school and then brought you to the hotel where the Debs was taking place. I remember my boyfriend of the time winning one of the prizes on my debs night; a ladies electric razor. I recollect one of the nuns telling me afterwards that they were hoping one of the pupils would win it as they expected the winner would have been embarrassed by it and everyone would have chuckled and teased them; how times have changed.

Two Events
Generally current affairs were not of major interest to us as students however two events interfered in our student days.

The transfer of Sean Mac Stiofán chief of staff of the provisional army council (who was on hunger strike in the Curragh) to the Mater Hospital in November 1972. Given all that was happening during these troubled times there was plenty of Gárda presence around Eccles Street especially when two members of the IRA tried unsuccessfully to free Mac Stiofán from the hospital on 26th November 1972.  This led to delays in getting to and from school.

Another event was the Dublin bombings on 17th May 1974.  It was customary for pupils from Eccles Street to walk down Parnell Square/Street to O’Connell Street and Talbot Street for their buses home and on Friday evenings some would have coffee together around town before heading off to their respective parts of the city. When we heard the news of the bombings we were concerned that some of our pupils could have been injured. I know that my sisters and I were not home at our usual time and my mother was petrified for our well being until we walked through the door. As we did not live in the global communication age we have now; with few families having telephones; it was to be a few days before we knew all our friends were safe.

I had an enjoyable few years in Dominican College Eccles Street, made many friends and have lovely memories of my time there.  The Dominicans were known for assisting parents setting discipline, etiquette and behavioural traits in their children, all qualities which we past pupils still use today. Thanks to both my parents for sending me to Dominican College Eccles Street and thanks to the nuns for giving me a good education and such happy memories.

Collette Kilty (Nee Nic Giolla Eoin) - 2014

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MY VISIT TO THE MANSION HOUSE, DAWSON STREET, DUBLIN
by
Collette Kilty (Nee Nic Giolla Eoin)
Dominican College Eccles Street 1971 - 1976

I paid a courtesy call to the Mansion House on Wednesday the 11th   November 2015, where I was greeted by a very kind gentleman called Richard. The Lord Mayor Criona Ni D’hálaigh  came in and we had a lovely chat and gorgeous tea.  Criona was very friendly , a gaelgoir, so we spoke a little in Irish. She was exceptionally busy but gave me plenty of time and escorted me all around the Mansion House to admire all the portraits, furnishings etc.  We were comparing notes as my Uncle Andrew  Clarkin had been Lord Mayor in the 1950’s, and I was able to tell her stories about him and also the other Lord Mayor Alfie Byrne. I visited the mansion house a lot.  Every week-end at all the Céilis as a member of Árus Thomas Ashe (Thomas Ashe, 14 Parnel Square) Gaelic League Society.  I also visited when Uncle Andy was Lord Mayor.  He did not live in the Mansion House, but as we were family, we could potter in to see him if he was not at a meeting or some official business.  I those days it was not as official as now. The Mansion House has been refurbished since then and looks very different but lovely.  I was not aware it had been decorated and made more user friendly.  Central heating has been installed, walls painted, carpets changed as the old ones had worn out.  All the lovely fire places are still there, the Victorian clock, the very long dining room all gorgeous, (the dining room had originally been two rooms but in the 1760’s was changed into one large room). The mahogany extending dining-room  table  is Victorian, and was the table the Cabinet members of the first and second Dáil sat at. It is still used to this day.  The Round Room and Supper Room originally known as The King’s Room was built to the design of architect John Semple junior for the visit of George IV.  It was constructed  in six weeks – a feat which was only possible because it was built with a temporary roof (this was replaced  later with a slate roof).  I remember it with lovely drapes of blue and gold up high on the ceiling, all gone now.  The supper room was built to afford additional space for civic events. There are Lord Mayor’s Coats of Arms and Chains of Office, some in the Mansion House and  some in City Hall.  Both places well worth a visit. The Dublin City Seal goes back to the 13th century. The Lord Mayor’s Seal is a  replica of the seal of Provost of Dublin. The Lord Mayor’s Coach was made in Dublin  by William Whitton of Dominick Street and made its first appearance on November 4th 1791 for the Birthday of William III.  It is a very beautiful coach.  It is on show for the RDS Horse Show and St. Patrick’s Day Parades (as far as I know). My reason for visiting the Mansion House was to ascertain if my uncle’s chain of office was still there. It was and I was allowed to try it on.  Uncle Andy would have been proud of me. The staff he carried is in the City Hall.
I conclude with thanks to Criona and send many good wishes for the 1916 celebrations.

Collette Kilty (Nee Nic Giolla Eoin) - 2014

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