The Story of St. Mary’s

Catherine McAuley, the foundress of the Sisters of Mercy, was a pioneer in Irish Education. Her primary objective was the relief, education, and protection of the poor. The Sisters of Mercy took up residence in New Ross in 1853, initially in Priory Street, and from 1856 in South Street. The move to South Street made it possible for the Sisters to become involved in the provision of education at the Primary and Secondary levels (Junior and Senior Departments).

The Senior Department began in 1856 as a private day secondary school teaching English, Arithmetic, needlework, knitting, lace-making, deportment, elocution, and Religion. It was known as St. Mary’s, an “Academy for Young Ladies” and had about 6-7 pupils in each class. In 1917 it became a secondary school for the first time by entering the examination system of the then Intermediate Board prior to the foundation of the Irish Free State when all of Ireland was part of the United Kingdom. Curriculum: Irish, English, Maths, History, Geography, Home Economics, Crafts, Art, Music, Religion, Commerce and Typing. It continued as a secondary school under the Department of Education after the founding of the State and in 1926 opened a Boarding School to complement the Day School.

Sr. Mary Antonia Doyle, a native of Wexford town, was the first Principal of this school. The first lay teachers to join the secondary staff were Miss Frances [Fran] Riordan in 1927 and Miss Kay Bolger in 1932.

Throughout the nineteen-thirties, forties, and fifties the number of pupils steadily increased necessitating a move to the premises of the old St. Joseph National School in Michael Street in 1945. The introduction in 1967 of Free Secondary Education for day pupils by the then Minister for Education, Donagh O’Malley, was adopted by the Mercy Sisters which resulted in a dramatic increase in pupil numbers and the need to find more extensive premises. At that time the former Good Shepherd Convent in the Irishtown came on the market and was purchased by the Sisters. The school premises were transferred to the Irishtown in 1968. The first male teacher, Mr. Seamus Doyle, was appointed at this time.

Occupying at first part of the original Good Shepherd Convent premises (the Old School) the school soon needed additional accommodation due to the continued increase in pupil numbers. The Boarding School closed in 1977 and its premises were used for a time by the extended-day school. In 1981 an extension to the school premises (the New School) was blessed and opened. This extension consisted of a number of general classrooms and specialist rooms for Science, Home Economics, Art, Music, and Drama.

The 1980s saw a continued increase in student numbers. Two new classrooms – “The Bungalow” – were built in 1984. In 1993 an international-size Sports Hall with changing rooms, showers, toilets, and a dining area was blessed and opened. In addition, some new classrooms and a second science room were built. In the summer of 1994 the Old Assembly Hall was converted into four classrooms and another classroom was converted into a Technology and Technical Graphic room.

In the summer of 2003, a new Administration Suite was developed. In 2005 a new entrance lobby was opened alongside a student social area. Throughout the school, a number of Pastoral Care/ Learning Support rooms have been developed in accordance with the Mercy Philosophy of Education. In 2006, to mark the 150 years of St. Mary’s, a beautiful Commemorative Garden was established along Sports Hall Avenue and a major redecoration of the whole school began as well as phased improvement of the existing facilities.

In 2008 grant aid from the Dormant Accounts fund and financial support from our Parents’ Council saw the library relocated to a central position in the school and further developed and adapted to the needs of a modern progressive school.

Since 1856 ownership of St Mary’s and responsibility for the quality of its educational service have rested with the Sisters of Mercy. The Mercy Congregation has been part of a collaborative project with four other congregations to transfer their secondary schools – including St Mary’s – to a new trustee body called CEIST, which took over from the congregations the trusteeship of 112 voluntary schools throughout the country.

CEIST aims to continue to nurture and support the Catholic ethos of St Mary’s and other similar schools so that a values-based education can continue to be available as a choice to parents and young people in the Irish educational system. The CEIST Charter, which could be summarised in the following quotation, expresses the values we endeavor to live out in school;

“Opening minds to the lifelong search for a wisdom that is deeper than information, for an understanding of life that goes beyond knowledge, for an appreciation of the dignity of the other that is respectful of difference” – Mons. Dermot Lane

Welcome to this CEIST school. However, to its students past and present and to its associates, the school is likely to remain known as “the Mercy” – an appropriate title for an establishment that owes its existence and extraordinary development to the Sisters of Mercy, New Ross.

Principals of St. Mary’s
Sister Mary Antonia Doyle1919-1930 approx
Sister Mary Josephine Conway1930 approx.–1959
Sister Mary Oliver Aspel1959-1971
Sister Mary Perpetua Kilroy1971-1976
Sister Mary Hartley (formerly de Lourdes)1976-1982
Sister Maureen Freyne1982-1987
Sister Margaret Quirke, F.C.J.1987-1992
Sister Mary Clancy S.S.L1992-2001
Mr. Gerard Watchorn2001-2003
Mr. Gene O’Sullivan2003-2011
Mr. John Michael Porter:2011-
Deputy Principals of St. Mary’s
Mrs. Louise Hennessy1971-2000
Mr. Gene O’Sullivan2000-2003
Mrs. Maureen Carroll2003-2008
Mr Paul Deavy (Acting)September-October 2008
Mrs. Eva Duhig2008- present (Mr. Paul Deavy – Acting DP 2016/17)
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