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Dublin – George’s Hill

THE STORY OF OUR COMMUNITY

GEORGE’S HILL, DUBLIN 7

Presentation Convent, George’s Hill, Dublin 7 was founded on 20th August 1794. Teresa Mulally, a humble woman of independent means had, in 1766, quietly started a Catholic school in Mary’s Lane for the poor girls of inner-city Dublin. Striving to ensure its future, she had purchased a plot of land on George’s Hill in the hope that she would get a religious community to continue her work of teaching poor Catholic children. She even had a convent and school built on the plot of ground which was approx one rood in size. It was in the city centre of Dublin, north of the Liffey in Halston Street Parish. It was surrounded by streets. Newgate Prison and the Central Criminal Court were across the street.

The founding Sisters were Sister M. Francis Xavier Doyle and Sister M. Ignatius Doran, both of whom had previously taught in the school. The convent was a four storey building with basement, the entrance being on the George’s Hill side. The initial benefactor was Father Philip Mulcaile S.J., Mrs Coppinger and Mr. John Bray.

In 1906, a large school room was taken in to the Convent which offered room for a Novitiate and four cells. In 1953, the two top storeys of the Orphanage were taken over to provide eight additional rooms for the Sisters.

The first school dates back to 1794. It consisted of a large room on the ground floor of the Convent. Later, a further large room in the Orphanage was acquired.

When the Sisters took over the school in 1794, Teresa Mulally did not wish that the pupils would get a Summer vacation. When the Sisters stated that they needed time to recoup their strength and have time for their retreat, Teresa relented.

No amount of literature could capture the wit and wisdom heard all around our streets. The children have inherited this quick wit and humour. One example of this is when five girls from 6th class had a row and were sent to the Principal. She sat the girls down and each told her their story. Then one of them “piped up” “Sure sister, you couldn’t believe the Hail Mary out of her mouth. She tells lies all the time and they’re not even true”. Sister had to brace herself to prevent a smile at this critical moment in the argument!

During the 1916 Rebellion, the George’s Hill Convent and Schools were between two firing lines. A machine gun was placed by the military in the street opposite and they fired at their opponents at the other side of the buildings. Windows and walls were pierced with bullets. For two days and nights, destruction seemed inevitable. However, by Saturday evening a truce was made and George’s Hill was saved.

Many additions were made to the school over time. In 1862, a new school with four large classrooms and basement was erected adjacent to the convent at the cost of £1,700.9.10. In 1906, an addition was added costing £4,179.4.9 In 1908, A school for junior boys was erected which cost £1,600.10.7 In 1930, the tenement houses erected by Teresa Mulally, foundress, were evacuated and reconstructed to provide an Infant Department. This cost £3,213.11.4 And in 1972, a new Primary School was opened. The total cost was £189,374.4.6 The Department grant at the time was £157,395.99

A Secondary-top was introduced in George’s Hill in 1954 – a classroom in the Primary School was taken over. A new cloakroom and sanitary block was erected in 1955, the cost of this addition was £12,000.00. The Board of Works defrayed two thirds of the cost.

In 1969, the Sisters were granted full Secondary School status by the Department of Education. In 1972, the old Primary School was renovated to meet the needs for a Secondary School. The cost amounted to £3,000 which was paid by the Community.

George’s Hill school is situated in a deprived area. The children of the locality would have no hope of secondary education unless free education was made possible. The problem of unemployment was acute in the area. In 1969, the enrolment was 325 pupils and teaching staff numbered 15. Accommodation was sufficient. George’s Hill Primary School was the main feeder for Secondary School. In 1980, the intake was 80 pupils, 43 were from Primary School and 37 from other schools. A decline in the population in the inner city was noted and the secondary school was phased out in 1988 and closed in 1990. A re-union for Secondary pupils was organised that same year.

1966 marked the be-centenary of the foundation of the first Catholic school for girls in St. Michan’s Parish by Teresa Mulally. The bi-centenary celebrations consisted of Solemn High Mass celebrated by the Archbishop. A pageant – “The Story of George’s Hill” was presented to a large audience in the nearby Fr. Matthew Hall, Church St. Both Primary and Secondary Pupils took part in the Pageant.

The school was located in the inner city area and the problems of unemployment, alcoholism, poor housing and working mothers were acute. These problems made the task of teachers difficult. With these difficulties in mind, a curriculum change was initiated in 1985. An early school-leavers programme was introduced for a weak second year group and a vocational preparation and training programme was started for post-Intermediate Certificate students.

Other ministries included: Nagle Rice Club for teenagers, Youthreach Programme, Mothers Club, Typewriting Evening Classes, Adult Education Classes, Personal Development Classes, Eucharistic Ministry, Retreat for Parents, Training Parish Choir, Red Cross and Home School Liaison.

In 1994, the Sisters vacated the Convent and took up residence in a new building on Halston Street. The convent was converted into apartments. The closure was due to the fact that the number of Sisters in the community had decreased greatly and after months of discernment, it was decided to donate the convent, old primary school and orphanage to Focus Ireland to be converted into apartments for homeless people. This would be in keeping with Teresa Mulally’s vision.

In 1992, the convent, chapel and school were handed over to Focus Ireland to give accommodation to people with special housing needs. There are 7 units of accommodation in the complex.

Current ministries include teaching in Primary School, Child Protection, Family Ministry, Marriage Tribunal, Prison Visitation, Ministry of Senior Citizens, Hospitality and Archival work.

There were many foundations from George’s Hill. In 1807, Mother Xavier Doyle and Sr. Angela Bigger went to 67, James Street to found a Convent. Mrs Cruise had left her house and property to them. The community moved to Richmond Rd, Fairview in 1820 and to Terenure in 1866. On 7 June 1813, Mother Ignatius Doran and Sr. Catherine Lynch founded Drogheda Convent. Mother Angela Bigger and her sister, Sr. Clare Bigger founded Killina, Rahan, in July, 1817. Mother John Hughes, Srs. Teresa and Gertrude founded Granard Convent in 1871 and on October, 10th, 1882, the community moved to Portadown. All the foundations were autonomous houses.

In 1880, Mother John Hughes accompanied by her sister Sr. Agnes Hughes of Doneraile Presentation Convent and Sr. Teresa Chaloner of Manchester Presentation Convent, sailed to America and founded the “American Indian Mission” at Nebraska, Dakota.

The formal opening of our Heritage Centre took place on June 22nd 2002. Sr. Margaret McCurtain O.P. gave a most encouraging and inspiring address. The centre incorporated a display of artefacts and graphic panels telling the story of our foundress, Teresa Mulally and the Presentation Sisters. The setting up of the Centre was carried out with the help of Orna Hanly and Team, 20 Ormond Quay, Dublin.

President Mary Robinson visited the school in 1993 and opened the Exhibition of the Arts and Crafts in the School Hall. President Mary McAleese honoured the school and staff with a visit in 2001. She complimented the teachers, the parents and children for the work that had been achieved.

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