Recently, Dominican schools in Ballyfermot, Capetown, and Portstewart celebrated anniversaries, 60, 80 and 100 years, respectively. What do they have in common? They are some of the branches of the Galway Dominican family tree planted in Dublin 300 years ago. At that time, Penal laws did not permit education for Catholics. In spite of possible penalties, the Channel Row convent, in October 1719, was one of the first to open its doors to Catholic girls. Numbers increased each month for a time until it reached an average of about 20 pupils. Some remained in the school for short periods only; others stayed a year or two. The fee was £12 per annum payable in instalments.

A 1731 report noted “a nunnery in Channel Row commonly goes under the name of a boarding school.” The education was that deemed suitable for young ladies of their social status who would take their places afterwards as cultured and accomplished women. Some opted to become members of the community. The 1725 list of names shows that many of them were of the same social background as the nuns e.g. Burke, Nugent, Browne, Plunkett.

Religious Education, English, French, Music, Drawing, were taught. Later accounts also mention arithmetic, geography, history and needlework. Dancing was an optional extra, taught by a dancing master!

When the school was thriving in the mid 1740s and 1750s, for other reasons, it merited a mention in Dublin newspapers: in 1743 “a young lady died suddenly as she was at dinner”; in 1754 “some villains broke into the Nunnery and carried off several valuable goods belonging to the young ladies who board there.” [to be continued in part 6]


From Sr. Maris Stella McKeown, Archivist, Mission Area of Ireland

For more details, see this website link WHO WE ARE, with Drop down menu –HISTORY and BOOKS.
The drop down menu in WHAT WE DO provides insights into how and where the seed, planted in Dublin in 1717, has grown and sprouted other branches in the following three centuries.