Newgrange, Co Meath
Meath can boast of a proud history, unsurpassed in antiquity, as evidenced in the 5000 year old world heritage site of Newgrange, a unique cradle in pre-christian ritual.
The plains of the ancient kingdom of Meath appear to have been the first cultivated in Ireland. One of the earliest waves of population which reached our island passed upstream the river Boyne and settled amidst its wooded hills and deep alluvial plains. Christianity first entered Ireland through this river as Patrick lit the flame of faith on the hill of Slane.
Hill of Slane
Tara, seat of the great high Kings, was a centre of power and political intrigue in the country. Tara’s story is Ireland’s story. Tara’s symbols are Ireland’s symbols – the harp, the shamrock, the ancient gold
The Book of Kells is one of Ireland’s most celebrated illuminated and enduring manuscripts.
Church at Tara
In a parallel way in the modern era, the works of the Sisters of Mercy in the schools, hospitals, jails and workhouses of County Meath over more than one and a half centuries have stood the test of time as these women selflessly served the people in Kells, Navan, Trim, Athboy, Laytown and their hinterlands.
St. Columba’s Convent in Kells was founded from Tullamore in 1844. St. Columba, or Colm Cille, as he was called, built his first monastery in Durrow in the year 581. From here he sent monks to found monasteries in Kells and Derry.
Some 1300 years later the Mercy Sisters followed in his footsteps with Mother Mary Anne Doyle, Sisters Clare Cantwell and Martha Gilligan establishing a convent in Kells, not far from his original cell.
St. Columba’s Convent , Kells
The Convent of Mercy, Navan was founded from Kells in 1853. At the request of Fr. Eugene O’Reilly, Sr. Mary Catherine Atkinson, Sr. Mary Joseph Morgan and two other Sisters came to Navan. The old seminary, St. Finian’s, served as the first novitiate for the Sisters. They eventually moved into Leighsbrook House in 1857.
St. Joseph’s Mercy Convent, Navan
The convent was closed on November 5 1994 and given to the North Eastern Health Board. The Sisters relocated to St. Joseph’s on the grounds of Leighsbrook and to Aylesbury Lodge.
The town of Trim is bedecked with noble ruins from its medieval past.
Trim Castle from an unusual vantage point
Beautiful golden statue of Our Lady in Trim Convent
Trim Convent was founded from Tullamore in 1867 at the request of Fr. John O’Connell. Mother Alphonsus Kavanagh together with Sisters Columba Egan, Bernard and Alacoque Kerin were chosen to go to Trim. St. Mary’s Convent was built at a cost of £7,000 in the neo-Pugin style, remaining faithful to the splendour of the surrounding buildings.
St. Mary’s Neo-Pugin style Convent, Trim
A secondary school was opened in Athboy by Mother Evangelist from Trim in 1949. A building was provided by the parish and the Sisters travelled from Trim to work in the school.
First school in which the sisters taught
By 1954 a convent for the Sisters who were teaching there was established in Frankville House.
In 1960 a new secondary school was built beside the convent. It was a co-educational school.
In 2004, both the Vocational School and the Convent Secondary School merged under one management. The new Community School, built on a green field site, was opened on 4 November 2011. The Sisters have relocated to two small communities in the town. www.athboycs.ie
Athboy Community School 2011
Voyager’ by Irish sculptor Linda Brunker “Inspired by the ocean and all that is in it”
A shoot of Drogheda was planted in the seaside village of Laytown, Co Meath in 1944 when four Sisters moved there to run a junior school in the village. They lived in St. Mary’s Convent, previously a holiday house for the Drogheda Community, and immediately started a school in the convent kitchen. Another holiday house, St. Anne’s, then became the School until Scoil Mhuire Cnoc Carmel (Mount Carmel) was built on the grounds and opened in 1947.
Mount Carmel, first school in Laytown
In 1959, on the same grounds, Scoil Mhuire was built for girls and junior boys while Mount Carmel continued as the school for boys from 2nd class up.
Scoil Mhuire built 1959 – 1960
Then, in 1976, the boys got a new school on the same site and for the next nineteen years both girls’ and boys’ schools worked side by side but separately and independently of each other. Finally, in 1995, the two schools amalgamated as Scoil an Spioraid Naoimh and the last Sister retired from the Staff in 2007.
Marking the end of an era
Continuing in the spirit of the original charism, and adapting to the needs of the times the Sisters today work with colleagues, parishioners and others. In their work and prayer they try to meet the needs of today in a variety of ways, summarised in the branches of the following tree.