Quick Links

Quick Links

Back to top

Our Lady's College, Greenhills, Drogheda, Co. Louth

School History

Video History of Our Lady`s College, Greenhills. A short video that describes the history of Our Lady`s College, produced by our former Vice-Principal, Mr. Donal Lynch.

History of Our Lady`s College 2015/16 - A special Year in Greenhills

The school was founded on the present site in 1940 by the Presentation Sisters and was managed by them until 1986. Between 1986 and 2008 the school was under the control of a Board of Management which was made up of representatives of the Presentation Order, parents and staff. Since 2008 the school has been under the trusteeship of CEIST -Catholic Education, an Irish Schools Trust. For more information on our trustees see the links to Board > CEIST in the menus above.

The present building was opened in 1965 by, and with the financial assistance of, Cardinal Cushing of Boston. Following the introduction of free secondary education in 1968 the school expanded rapidly. Major extensions were completed in 1979 and in 1998. For more on our history, including the role of Cardinal Cushing follow the link to More history in the submenu above.

Our Lady’s College owes much to Cardinal Cushing of Boston, Massachusetts. When, in 1960, he visited the Medical Missionaries of Mary on his way to Lourdes with a group of handicapped children, a meeting was arranged between himself and Sister Ignatius Barry. Sister Ignatius described the Greenhills situation and her desire to have proper accommodation for the students. After listening with sympathy the Cardinal ended the interview with the melodious words “I’ll build your school for you.” Faithful to his word that is just what he did. As the bills for the new school arrived they were sent on to Boston by Sister Ignatius and each time a cheque arrived in Drogheda within the month. In all, Cardinal Cushing sent six hundred thousand dollars. It was a magnificent gift, indicative of the great-hearted generosity of the man.

Cardinal Cushing was also closely associated with the building of Galway Cathedral and when the Greenhills sisters learned that he was to perform the official opening of Galway Cathedral in 1965 they invited him to officially open the new school on the 10th of August. Sr Therese O’Malley in her history of the school describes part of Cushing’s liturgical role on that day as follows : “Cardinal Cushing proceeded to bless the building, using a generous dash of holy water and words not found in any book of ritual: ‘That’ll drive the devil out of you'”. He was a larger than life figure who is fondly remembered in Greenhills. His portrait hangs just inside the main door of the college.

The Presentation Order has made an enormous contribution to the education of the young women of Drogheda and its hinterland for the last 200 years. In 2013 the school celebrated the bi-centenary of the sisters in Drogheda and in 2015/16 the school celebrates seventy- five years in Greenhills.

Below is a brief history of the sisters in Drogheda and it outlines some of the milestones in the story of the sisters.

In 2015 we are delighted to celebrate seventy- five years in Greenhills. The journey from Fair street to Greenhills is outlined.

In the year 1811 some people in Drogheda appealed to the local Bishop/ Primate of Armagh for sisters to come to Drogheda. He negotiated with the Archbishop of Dublin. At the same time one of their own girls, Teresa Lynch, joined the sisters in Georges Hill, Dublin and later went to Cork to learn to be a nun for the purpose of setting up a school in Drogheda for the instruction and education of the poor female children of the town. Some inhabitants made a collection and purchased a small house in Fair St. which had a small garden at its rear and at the end of it an entrance by a great descent of stone steps to St. Peter’s Church.

On June 7th 1813, Mother Mary Ignatius and Sr. Mary Catherine Lynch (Teresa Lynch) set out for No.12 Fair St. A protestant lady sent them in a table and a few chairs, which was to be their home. On Whit Monday, 1813 the first Presentation school was opened in the Basement of the small house. On Presentation Day, November 21st 1813, another local girl Ann Fullam, who was an only child entered as a Postulant. Mother Ignatius told her beforehand of the desperate difficulties they were experiencing just to stay alive and that if had not been for their special friends and relatives they could not remain in Drogheda. Miss Fullam replied:” If I knew a poorer convent, it is there I would go. On June 16th 1814 Ann received the habit and religious name of Sr. Mary Anthony in St. Peter’s Church, West St. On September 2nd 1814, Catherine Doyle entered and in 1815 received the habit and religious name of Sr. Mary Teresa Clare. In 1817 Sr. Anthony became seriously ill with consumption and was moved on health grounds, to Bordeaux in France where she died that same year.

The sisters believed that God and the people of Drogheda wanted them there and so little by little money was found by the people to buy, extend and make better use of what they had. Vacant houses and gardens were bought as money became available. In 1858 a bigger school was necessary and a new two storey building was erected on the site of the old school room. In 1870 the Daughters of Charity set up a school for boys across the street from the Presentation Sisters in Fair St.

On June 7th 1913 the community celebrated the centenary of its foundation in Drogheda. They acknowledged the innumerable graces and blessings received over the previous 100 years. A Mass of Thanksgiving was celebrated .One year later, 1914, the Presentation School expanded further with the purchase of No 3 Duke St. on which a three storey building with a basement was erected. This building had a large Drill hall on the first floor. Girls stayed on to complete the Intermediate Certificate. The Dominican Sisters, who had a primary and secondary school, known as Sienna Convent Schools, wished to return to the Contemplative Way of Life rather than continue in Active Apostolic Ministry. In 1921 they got their wish and the Presentation Sisters were asked to open a secondary school and a junior private primary school. In 1922, St. Philomena’s High School was opened.

This led later to the closing of the ‘Secondary Top’. In January 1923 discussions began regarding the purchase of a stately house on 13 acres of land in Newtown, now Greenhills. The house belonged to two sisters, (the Misses Smyth), who had built the Cottage Hospital in 1908. The sale was transacted by Mr. Thomas Mc Auley (grandfather of Misses Anne and Ruth Savage), for £3000 plus solicitor’s fees, which had to be borrowed from the parish as the sisters did not have the money. The Presentation Order gained possession on June 23rd, 1923. Because of the “enclosure” rule the sisters arrived in an ‘enclosed car’. They used it for summer holidays, retreats, and many religious activities. Later that year a motor car was bought for £75 and a donkey and cart for £5.10.0.

On September 8th, 1940 a boarding school was opened in Greenhills. Some years later the boarders went into Fair St. daily for their education. In 1951, due to lack of space in Fair St., financial constraints of the boarding school and the 13 acres in Greenhills, a decision was taken to transfer all secondary education to Greenhills. Major fundraising was undertaken by St. Peter’s Parish and a number of ‘ Nissan Huts’ were bought to provide classroom accommodation and Our Lady’s Day and Boarding School was born.

Fourteen years later a ‘brand new school’ was built, blessed and opened on August 10th, 1965 by the late Cardinal Cushing of Boston. He heard of the sister’s financial need through Sr.Ignatius Barry to whom he was introduced by Mother Mary Martin foundress of the Medical Missionary of Mary sisters,

He uttered the ‘magical words’: “I’ll build your school for you”, which he did at a cost of 200,000 dollars.

Our Lady of Lourdes Church, the former Nurse’s Home, Presentation College Our Lady’s Greenhills and Galway Cathedral are a testament to the late Cardinal, the people of Boston and the USA.

On August 14th 1967, because of the many religious vocations, four sisters: Mother Ignatius Barry, Sr. Consilio Buckley. Sr. Nora Buckley and Sr. Teresa Baugh (a past pupil of Fair St. and Greenhills) left Drogheda to set up a new convent in the parish of St. Clement of Rome, Metairie, Louisiana, USA

Vatican Council : October 11th 1962—December 8th 1965. As a result of Vatican11 the abolition of ‘enclosure’ came into effect. This brought the congregation one step nearer to what Nano Nagle had envisaged when setting up the congregation. She never intended the ‘enclosure’ restriction but in order to be recognised as a Religious Congregation by Rome: ‘enclosure’ was imposed.

In July 1972, a seminar, the brain-child of Sr. Joan Brosnan: (Sr Aloysius to some of you readers), took place in Greenhills. Three hundred Presentation Sisters from all over the country attended. On-going meetings led to the setting up the Union of the Presentation Sisters in 1976. This Union is under the leadership of a Congregational leader… a Mother General, instead of the local Bishop and sisters now minister in all five continents.

By the mid 1970’s the Primary school and St. Philomena’s Private Primary school in Fair St. had become very over-crowded. Much consultation took place in the parish regarding primary education provision for girls. This resulted in St.Brigid’s becoming a Junior school and from June 1974 . After the girls completed second class they transferred to the new spacious and modern Presentation School on the Ballymakenny Rd. The Presentation ‘ethos’ continues in the school which is now under the trusteeship of the Archdiocese of Armagh.

Going back a decade and a half a long road to realise the dream of a School Gym was embarked on by members of the then Parent’s Council in Greenhills under the capable leadership of Mr Paddy Brennan, Mrs Josephine Moran, Sr. Elizabeth Maxwell, their team of Teachers and Parents with the support of the Sisters who donated the walled garden for a Site. On May 17th 1985 the Greenhills Sports Complex was blessed and opened. Since then it continues to be used by the wider community as well as the student/ school community.

A new day dawned in September 1986 when Mr Padraig O’ Broin was appointed as an ‘Interim’ Principal and in March 1988 he became the First Lay Principal in a Presentation school. In September 1990 Our Lady’s College celebrated the Golden Jubilee of its’ foundation as a boarding school.

October 22nd 2007 marked another major day when the entire school community of Our lady’s College assembled in the Greenhills Sports Complex to mark in prayer the handing on of the Presentation Trusteeship of the school to CEIST (Catholic Education Irish School Trust).

In 1990 it was decided for “Health and Safety” reasons Fair St. Convent as well as the Duke St. Buildings were no longer viable places for the sisters to live. The parish bade ‘adieu’ to the sisters in August 1990. No.12 now houses the Law Chambers of B.V.Hoey & Company and remains largely unchanged.

So what of Presentation Sisters today, 2015 in Drogheda? Four sisters live in community in ‘the stately house’ in Greenhills bought ninety years ago. Jesus said “The Harvest is great but the labourers are few”. The challenge for us as Presentation sisters, at a time of diminishing numbers choosing religious life in the western world, is to increase participation of like-minded people and community-oriented organisations in advancing a Vision of Faith that seeks a more Just and Inclusive Society. One such new group is the Friends of Nano Nagle who have taken on the onerous task of organising this Bi-Centenary Year. This began on 12.12 2012 with the launching of the Commemorative Calendar which gives you an abbreviated story of the 200 years in word and many, many photograghs all of which have their own story to tell. April 26th 2013, the 229th anniversary of the death of Nano Nagle in 1784, brought a large gathering of friends to St. Peter’s cemetery to recall the memory of Nano Nagle and to celebrate the lives of the 96 sisters who lived and worked in Drogheda over the two centuries.

June 7th 2013, the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, witnessed a further gathering in Fair St. Sincere thanks to Mr. B.V. Hoey for giving permission to have a Plaque mounted on his building to mark the Site of the former Presentation Convent founded on June 8th 1813.

This feast is on major importance to the Presentation Congregation as on Christmas Eve 1775 the Society of the Charitable Instruction of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was set up by Nano Nagle and her three companions and given papal approval by Pope Pius VI fourteen years later. However in 1791 the time of Jansenism, a heresy which exalted the divinity of Jesus and downgraded the reality of His being human, a new title was suggested to them by the then Bishop of Cork: The Presentation of Our Blessed Lady.

A photographic exhibition is also in the planning.