A Brief History of The Sisters of St Paul in Kilfinane

Scoil San Pol
kilfinane Coshlea Historical Society

The Most Rev. Dr. O’Dwyer, Bishop of Limerick, laid the foundation stone of St. Paul’s Convent, Kilfinane, on the 2nd June 1904. Mr. T. A. Walsh from Kilmallock was the builder. The building was completed in 1905.

They rented a house, still known as The Priory

Four Sisters of St.Paul had already arrived in Kilfinane on 15th October 1903. They were Mother Ignatius Caley, Sister Vincent Marie Murphy, Sister Loretto Madigan and Sister Benedict Johnson. They came on the invitation of Bishop O’Dwyer, and were generously
aided by Dr. Lee and his family. They had travelled from Holyhead to Dublin and by train to Kilmallock station. Rev. J. Carrick, parish priest of Kilfinane, met them at the station. A long car, carpeted with straw was awaiting the party. After what seemed like a very long
and very slow drive they arrived in Kilfinane. They rented the house still known as The Priory from Mr. Sam Harris. The people of Kilfinane came in their droves to welcome the nuns. During the afternoon schoolchildren came and “peered through the windows to catch a glimpse of the nuns”.

On the ruins of the old school

From 1903 the Sisters taught in the primary school. The school was held in the old Penal Chapel. Boys occupied the left side of the building, girls on the right and infants in the centre. In 1908 the Primary school was burned down during the night. On the ruins of the old school, the old national school took its place. The school was completed in 1910, enlarged and much improved by the addition of a Cookery and Laundry Classroom. It was now reserved for girls and infants. The children attending the school received a thorough elementary training in all the ordinary subjects of National Schools.
Both piano and violin were taught as well as singing, painting, cookery and laundry. Religious training and instruction were subjects of first importance. The Sisters continued to teach in the Primary school until 1996 when the last sister left.

These girls were prepared for the Oxford and Cambridge

In 1914 it was considered necessary to build an addition to the convent, as the community had increased from six members to twelve. A wing, containing a fine Community Room, three bedrooms and a basement was completed by March 1915. The community chapel was also enlarged. In the meantime the Convent was open to a few boarders. These girls were prepared for the Oxford and Cambridge examination. They stayed in the convent having their own dormitory and dining room. Classrooms for them and for the day pupils were a room in the Convent Basement, a room in the national school and the well-known “Class Room”, a tin shed, moved from site to site as it became necessary to provide a space for later buildings. A big step forward was taken in 1926 when Mr. James Ryan built Arus Pol. Originally it had four classrooms, two music rooms and some sleeping accommodation for a small number of boarders. Pupils now came from far and near. Some stayed in digs in the town. Probably the best known of these digs was “The Jail” where Mrs. Heffernan looked after the girls. In the late forties, as the number of boarders was increasing, more accommodation had to be provided for them. It was then that Arus Bride was erected, again by Mr. James Ryan.

In 1968 Scoil Pol became co-educational

In the late sixties Donagh O’Malley, minister for education, announced that free education would be available for all. In 1968 Scoil Pol became a co-educational school. Boys and girls were accepted into first year that Autumn. This led to a huge increase in
numbers and a proliferation of pre-fabricated buildings. In 1987 the new Secondary School was opened. An extension to that school is currently in progress.

Katie Leahy, the first postulant from Kilfinane, entered Selly Park at Easter, 1904 and it is estimated that more than one hundred pupils of the school have joined different Orders of Sisters in the past hundred years. The vast majority went to the Sisters of St. Paul.

Comments about this page

  • My mom is sixth from the right “Nellie Barrett”. Eileen is still going strong at 94 years in New Jersey! Her sister, “Aggie Barrett” is top row fourth from the right. Alice passed away in 2000 in New York. Wonderful to find this photo. I would love to find any other photo’s of their siblings: Cornelius “Con”; Kathleen; Moyra; Edmond “Eddie” Barrett

    By John McIntyre (05/10/2022)
  • My mam is in the photo at the top, fourth person on the first row Kathleen O’Connor

    By Teresa Kerwin aka Webster (28/09/2022)

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