Saturday April 14 was a day tinged with great sadness in the town of Dungannon as it marked the day the Sisters of Mercy departed from the Convent that had been the nuns’ home for 118 years. That’s the bad news, the good news being that they will still have a very valued presence in the town and the community.
It was back in 1894 that the Sisters of Mercy came to Dungannon from Dundalk at invitation of Right Reverend Monsignor Dean PJ Byrne PP VG.
They immediately took charge of the newly-erected primary school, which Dean Byrne had prepared for them beside the Convent, actually starting to teach the children from the very next day after they set foot in the town.
And their vision was to be seen right from the outset because, appreciating the need for post primary education, they set aside a small room to facilitate those who wished to continue their education after the age of fourteen.
At the beginning of the 20th Century, St. Patrick’s Academy was built on a site procured by Dean Byrne on the Killyman Road, just below the parish Church. Sisters, their staff and post primary pupils, moved from the Convent school to this new building, which was to be the home of secondary school pupils, boys and girls, for almost seventy five years.
From very humble beginnings, the school quickly increased in numbers and former pupils of St.Patrick’s Academy are found in many parts of the world.
In the 1960s temporary classrooms were erected to cope with the increasing enrolment and, given that this was not a very satisfactory arrangement, it was decided to negotiate with the Department of Education to procure permission and a grant for a new building.
Approval given, a site secured on the Killymeal Road. This building, wisely carrying on with the good name of St.Patrick’s Academy, was opened in September 1975 and, since then, hundreds of pupils have enjoyed, and are enjoying, the most up-to-date facilities and excellent accommodation - and this is all down to the wonderful work instigated by those first Sister of Mercy nuns.
Indeed, the Sisters of Mercy also played an instrumental role in the establishment of the town’s St.Patrick’s Intermediate School on the former Donaghmore Road site half a century ago, it having outgrown the original building and now in a state-of-the-art new premises on Killymeal Road.
They came from a well-established community in county Louth border town in mid-summer of 1894 and first pupils were benefitting from the superb teaching from July 3 and the first Mass in the chapel convent was celebrated on July 16 by Cardinal Logue.
Under the first Mother Superior, Sister Kevin McGrath, the original residents of the superb now-listed building in Northland Row were Sister Gabriel Clarke, Sister Claver McGivern, Sister Benignus Farrell, Sister Josephine Carey and Sister Borgia O’Beirne and they were later joined by Sister Philomena Boyle and Sister Catherine Plunkett.
There are four nuns still in Dungannon, this reducing to three in the next few weeks since Sister Ann will be going to live in Lurgan.However, Sister Anthony, Sister Philomena and Sister Marian will moving to Killymeal Road to the house ponce occupied by Father Faul and Monsignor McEntegart.
We are blessed to have them.