|Where We Live & Work|
|Lucan - The Story of Our Community|
Lucan was founded on 19th March, 1867, the Feast of St. Joseph, from the Presentation Convent, Clondalkin, Co. Dublin. The Founding Sisters were Sr. M. Borgia Costello, Sr. M. Conception Kennedy, Sr. M. Magdalen Keating and Sr. M. de Pazzi Dunne.
The initial benefactors were Capt. Robert Colthurst who left £2,000 and his brother met the additional costs. The two brothers, of the Vesey-Colthurst families, had converted to Catholicism while fighting in the Crimea and were impressed by the work of the Mercy Sisters there. On returning home, they resolved to build a convent where the poor of the village would be educated. Unfortunately the younger brother, Captain Robert, died aged 34, with his dream unrealised. After his death his brother, Major David undertook to carry out Robert's worthy pro¬ject. A two-acre site adjoining the Catholic Church was chosen. Mr, Quigley, the land¬lord, finding that the ground was needed for a convent generously offered the site as a free gift. Soon the building began. For this, Captain Robert had left £2,000. The additional cost was met by the Major out of his own resources.
The next step in the plan — expected to be the easiest — went awry twice! The Sisters of Mercy in Baggot Street were invited to begin a foundation in the convent but declined on three counts — the village was too small, the dwellings of the poor were too scattered for visitation, and they were not eager to take on the care of the church. A second group of Sisters of Mercy, this time from Goldenbridge, experimented with the foundation but found it equally un¬workable. At this point the parish priest, Rev. John Moore, whose parish included Clondalkin and Palmerstown as well as Lucan, suggest¬ed that the Presentation nuns of Clondalkin be invited.
Thus the Presentation Convent in Lucan began. The ‘new place’ was in the village of Lucan, surrounded by trees and houses interspersed slopes down to the Liffey. It was beside the Catholic Church cresting a ridge. Although new, the convent building was described as poor and cold. A mud field was in front of the house. In 1884, one wing was added to the convent. In 1919, another wing, much larger, was added. In 1923, nuns were allowed to Blessed Sacrament reserved in a small private oratory.
The first school dates back to 1867. Ventilation was bad and the health of nuns and pupils suffered. Religion was at the heart of the curriculum. Illness, truancy, unpunctuality and bad weather were problems. A private school with an average attendance of 30 pupils was conducted. In the late 19th century, pupil members rose and there was overcrowding. Every spot was requisitioned as a classroom - pro temp- the sacristy, the greenhouse and even the stairs.
The report of Mr. G. R. O' Galligan, district inspector, given three months after opening day, throws a hard cold light on the educational attainments of those little pioneer pupils of 1867: "The proficiency of the pupils is much 'inferior to what might be expected in pupils of their age . . ." The bleak note is not however unrelieved: "Under the care of the present excel¬lent teachers the school will, I expect, soon become a most efficient one . . ." Already there were some positives: "The school accounts are very well attended to; the school room is very tastefully fitted up; the supply of books very satisfactory; industrial training well attended to". Three years later the inspector Mr. W. O' B. Newell wrote: "This school has made very fair pro¬gress".
A new primary school was built in 1896 on a site was purchased from Mr. Shackleton. A strip of land linking the convent to the site was given by Mr. Edward Quigley and the annals record that ‘On May Day, 1896, nuns and children recited Litany of Our Lady as they walked in procession to enter the new St. Joseph’s Primary School’. Almost sixty years later, in 1954, an extension was added.
On 1st August, 1955 a secondary-top was introduced with Sr. Columba teaching Domestic Science, Sr. Oliver, Commerce and Sr. Rosario all other subjects. The Primary School Hall was used as a classroom by the secondary-top. Later, four rooms were built over the Primary School. The first class had 12 students and eight of these sat foir the Intermediate Certificate examination successfully in 1957. Two years later, in 1959, Leaving Cert classes began. As numbers were small, girls had to go elsewhere to do exams – in Kings Inn Street, Chapelizod. Fundraising of every type began to prepare for a new secondary school and, in 1970, the new secondary school, St. Joseph’s College, was completed.
In 1886, Australian Dean Jeremiah Doyle of Lismore invited the Srs. to establish a Convent and school in the Armidale Diocese. Mother Stanislaus D’arcy, Mother Berchmans Barnewall (Superior), Mother Ignatius Barnewall (aged 36, 34 and 31 respectively) and eight postulants (aged between 16 and 22) reached Lismore on 6th August, 1886.
Today (2008), the convent can best be described as a Mission House.
From Old Article:
Presentation Convent Lucan crests a ridge that dips in giant, abrupt strides to a green valley floor. There the Liffey foams in molten silver over a weir, slides beneath the largest single-span bridge in Ireland and then curves out of sight between its water meadows. Everywhere there are trees, interspersed with houses that step gingerly down the slope. Hugging the valley side is the old Dublin-Galway road. All the land that the eye can see once formed the demesne of the Earl of Lucan. The first Earl was Patrick Sarsfield who got his title from James the Second, fled with the Wild Geese after the treaty of Limerick and died on the battle¬field of Landen. It was a successor of his, who also lived in Lucan house, who was to bring the Presentation nuns to Lucan. He too was a soldier. It was while leading his regiment in the Crimean war that destiny began to play. The story has all the strange¬ness of truth.
In 1854 Captain Robert La Touche Colthurst of the Vesey-Colthurst family of Lucan House together with his brother Major David were posted to the Crimea with their regiments. Amid the horrors of war these non-Catholic officers were stirred by two things — the heroic devotedness of the Sisters of Mercy to the wounded and the resignation of the Catholic soldiers in the face of death. The simple outcome was logical and beautiful — they became Catholics quite independently of each other. In the exhilaration of their new-found happiness they resolved to do something of enduring value for the Catholics of Lucan. They determined to build a convent where the poor of the village would be educated. This was to be their gift to Lucan and their expression of gratitude to God for the priceless gift of Faith. Unfortunately the younger brother, Captain Robert, died with his resolve unrealised. He had been in fail¬ing health when death took him in London at the age of thirty four. A grey cross in¬scribed with his name commemorates this young officer whose dying wish was to be buried in the graveyard adjoining St. Mary's Church in Lucan, in order that, as he put it, he "might not be forgotten in the prayers of the poor".
After his death his brother, Major David hastened to carry out Robert's worthy pro¬ject. A two-acre site adjoining the Catholic Church was chosen. Mr. Quigley, the land¬lord, finding that the ground was needed for a convent generously offered the site as a free gift. Soon the building began. For this, Captain Robert had left £2,000. The additional cost was met by the Major out of his own resources.
The next step in the plan — apparently the easiest — went awry twice! It was both natural and appropriate that the first order to be invited was the Sisters of Mercy whose dedicated witness had led the Colthurst brothers to God. So Mother Kirwan, Superior of the Sisters of Mercy Baggot Street, visited Lucan to see if the place would suit her apostolate. She rejected it on three counts — the village was too small, the dwellings of the poor were too scattered for visitation, and she was not eager to take on the care of the church. A second group .of Sisters of Mercy, this time from Goldenbridge, experimented with the foundation but found it equally un¬workable.
At this point Major David, who arrived in Ireland with his regiment, saw the new convent for the first time. He also met the parish priest, Rev. John Moore, whose parish included Clondalkin and Palmerstown as well as Lucan. The latter suggest¬ed that the Presentation nuns of Clondalkin be invited. The Major was quite happy with this proposal. So Fr. Moore set to work at once. Each sister in Clondalkin held herself in readiness in case she should be asked to go. Four were chosen: Sr. M. Borgia Costello, Sr. M. Conception Kennedy, Sr. M. Magdalen Keating and Sr. M. de Pazzi Dunne.
The day fixed for the foundation was the Feast of St. Joseph 1867. There is a lovely homely touch in the Lucan annals at this point. On the eve of the feast Sr. M. Agnes went to the new convent to light the fires in welcome. Originally a member of the Carlow Com¬munity, she had done exactly the same ten years previously when the Carlow nuns came to Clondalkin.
Next day the quartet arrived by carriage. It was a day of mingled emotions — of grief at leaving their ten year old convent home, but of joy at doing God's will in spite of pain. The warm welcome of the priests and people did much to blunt the edge of their sadness. A procession was formed and High Mass began. Rev. J. Prendergast O.P. congratulated the people on the coming of the nuns who would ensure for their children the priceless gift of a good Catholic education. The first superior, Mother M. Conception Kennedy, is remem¬bered today by the window in the nuns' chapel. It shows the Presentation of Our Lady and is dedicated to the memory of Mother Conception's father who was a generous benefactor of the convent in lean times.
The road wound uphill for many years. The convent was poor and cold. In front was a field of mud in which Mother Con¬ception lost her shoe on the first morning when she went out to get her bearings. Comforts were few, but hard work and trust in God worked wonders. Kind friends aided in person as well as by sending gifts. Among the first were the Morans, a family of tea merchants from India, who owned St. Edmundsbury. Mrs. Moran's delicate courtesy was almost embarrassing, for she not only catered for the Sisters until they were settled in but she even offered her footman to attend at lunch—an offer which was graciously declined but which provided grist for the mill of the wits in the com¬munity for many years.
Before the end of their first year in Lucan a postulant arrived, to be followed by a steady stream so that by 1886 the 'family' numbered seventeen. In that year an insistent call for nuns came across 12,000 miles. From far away Australia, Dean Jeremiah Doyle of Lismore invited the Lucan Presentations to esta¬blish a convent and school in the Armidale diocese. Mother Stanislaus D'Arcy volun¬teered. Accompanied by Mother Berchmans Barnewall, Mother Ignatius Barnewall and eight postulants she reached Lismore on 6th August 1886 after a hazardous journey and, within a month, they were teaching in St. Mary's College and St. Carthage's Parochial School. Since then many sturdy offshoots have shouldered their way through Australian soil, sprung from seed¬lings culled from the parent stock in Lis¬more.
Meanwhile the home convent in Lucan followed the usual pattern of physical growth. In 1884 one wing was added; an¬other, much larger, in 1919 while in 1923 the nuns, to their delight, were allowed to have the Blessed Sacrament reserved in a small private oratory.
Today looking at the convent primary school with its antennae of prefabs, right and left, and the new Colaiste Iosaf where nearly 800 secondary girls are enrolled it is hard to see, through the time-arch of a cen¬tury, the first small school with its 47 pupils. The report of Mr. G. R. O' Galligan, district inspector, given three months after opening day, throws a hard cold light on the educational attainments of those little pioneer pupils of 1867: "The proficiency of the pupils is much 'inferior to what might be expected in pupils of their age . . ." The bleak note is not however unrelieved: "Under the care of the present excel¬lent teachers the school will, I expect, soon become a most efficient one . . ." Already there were some positives: "The school accounts are very well attended to; the school room is very tastefully fitted up; the supply of books very satisfactory; industrial training well attended to". Three years later the inspector Mr. W. O'B. Newell wrote: "This school has made very fair progress".
Ten years later proficiency had improved. For proof we note that five pupils had reached Sixth Standard and three of them were monitors! If one needs a yardstick to measure the achievement of the last hundred years one must look for it here. Problems were thorny — illness, truancy, bad weather, unpunctuality ... In 1885 Mr. F. O'Carroll reported that the ventilation was bad and that the health of both pupils and nuns must suffer. Happily in 1886 a new school was mooted.
Meanwhile, a private school, with an average attendance of thirty pupils was conducted. At the hub of the curriculum was religious education. Preparation for the sacraments was done with loving solicitude. Breakfast on First Communion day was an added treat. For Confirmation the children had to go to the parish church in Clondalkin. This journey they did by brake, accompanied by the curate and the male teachers while many of the parents walked. In the vital field of religious education adults were not forgotten. Instruction was available for those who sought it while converts were prepared for their reception into the church.
Numbers in the schools crept slowly upwards throughout the nineteenth century and rocketed in the twentieth. Overcrowd¬ed classrooms were a perennial problem. In the late nineteenth century every spot was requisitioned as a classroom pro tempore — including the sacristy, the greenhouse, and the stairs! So a site was purchased from Mr. Shackleton while a strip of land linking the convent to the site was given by Mr. Edward Quigley. Thus on a May day in 1896 nuns and children recited the litany of Our Lady as they walked in procession through the convent grounds, to enter St. Joseph's primary school.
The pattern was to become familiar throughout the present century; only the details varied. A new primary extension in 1954 was followed in 1955 by the in¬auguration of Secondary education and 15 years later by the present St. Joseph's College.
Lucan is lovely. So runs the slogan. Despite its expanding circumference Lucan is still a little town with the country closing in on its streets, and with all the homeliness of an Irish village, a place where the convent plays a vital and vitalizing role through its apostolate of education.