RTE’s Mary Wilson joins other past pupils at special Ballingarry school ‘gathering’

RTE presenter Mary Wilson was one of the past pupils to return to her alma mater for a ‘gathering’ celebration at the Presentation Convent, Ballingarry on Saturday.

RTE presenter Mary Wilson was one of the past pupils to return to her alma mater for a ‘gathering’ celebration at the Presentation Convent, Ballingarry on Saturday.

The popular presenter of ‘Drivetime’ on Radio 1 described it as a very special occasion and something that should be done more often.

For some it was their first time returning to their Alma Mater in over forty or fifty years, others returned to reconnect with friends and take a trip down memory lane as they scanned the many wonderful photographic displays prepared by Ms. Rosaleen O’Dwyer searching for friends and memories.

In the words of former boarder Feena Horan Coghlan, Clontarf who was retuning after 53 years - “I get the feeling once again that you’ve got to stay here in Ballingarry such is the warmth of the atmosphere.”

These sentiments were repeated time and again by the many past pupils who travelled to Presentation Ballingarry on Saturday last as part of the gathering celebrations. A group of Drangan friends who were pupils in the late 1970s took a trip down memory lane as they recalled times down “The Cannon’s Walk.”

Jayo Kinnane commented on how innocent times were then and how happy he was to catch up with former friends and teachers.

RTE’s Mary Wilson said she felt nostalgic and that we should gather more often. Mary went on to comment on the great sense of occasion she felt as she joined Jayo and John Birmingham as part of the celebrations in the place where according to Mary “it all started.”

Counsellor Mary Hilda Kavanagh reiterated the words of Mary Wilson when she too thanked Mrs Cahill, Principal and the staff for the great sense of occasion and she was especially impressed when John Birmingham was able to give the exact definition of Economics which Mary had taught him in 1977!

Helen Ryan Lynch and her sister Patsey McGrath Lynch from Murroe Co. Limerick, nieces of the late Sr. Paschal, who is buried in the convent cemetery recalled their time as boarders and paid tribute to the Sisters whom Patsey described as “gifted and selfless.” “It was home from home” said Helen “we are so grateful for the foundation we got here in the 1960’s.”

Deep in conversation were lifelong friends Sr. Theophane Doyle, Presentation Sisters, Thurles and Kathleen Cullen, Kiltegan, Co. Wicklow who first met as boarders in September 1949. Kathleen recalls how her mother told her “go wherever you like but wherever you go you must stay” and stay she did until she and her friend Sr. Theophane did their Leaving Cert in 1949. Sr. Theophane commented on how difficult it was for Kathleen’s family to travel at that time from Wicklow and considered how fortunate she herself was that her parents were able to visit as she was from nearby Killenaule.

Molly Corcoran Hayes, a boarder in 1959 from Pallasgreen, Co. Limerick also complimented the fantastic photographic display and fondly recalled her time in Ballingarry as did Sr Nell Chambers Convent of Mercy, Ballymote and past pupil Marjorie Prendergast Chawke who left in 1962. Closer to home were Catherine Stapleton, Horse and Jockey, Eileen Fennelley and Bonnie Dunne together with Mary Jo O’Donnell, Josephine Dunne, Peg Lahart and Noreen Bambrick. Eleanor Fennelley and Eileen O’ Meara. .

Current staff members were delighted to meet the many former staff who returned for this great occasion. These included former Principals Sr. Patricia Wall, our very own “flying nun” and Mr. Tom Fennessey. They were joined by Sr. Kathleen Barrett and Sr. Teresa Walsh who still gives so generously of her time and talents to the students of the school.

Mrs Mary Ryan Maher and Mrs Mary Ryan Hennessey together with former retirees Mrs. Eileen Maher, Mrs. Carmel O’Brien, Ms. Marie Cotter, Mrs. Kathleen Simpson, Mrs Anne Lacy and Ms. Martina Creedon seem to not only have drunk from the fountain of knowledge but also the fountain of youth so well were they looking.

As people mixed and mingled you got a sense of being part of a very special story which began over 140 years ago when four very brave sisters set out from Thurles and began another page in the story of the Presentation Congregation.

With the new multi million Euro extension about to begin, Mrs. Teresa Regan and former boarder Brenda Carey were giving people an opportunity to “ Buy a Brick in the Wall” and have their name or a quote embedded for time immemorial in the new building. These bricks are available to purchase for €20. – buy one and you too will be part of this great story.

Though people were reluctant to leave, Mrs. Cahill brought the evening to a close by thanking all who attended and all who helped in the organising of this wonderful occasion. In particular Mrs Cahill paid tribute to Mrs. Rosaleen O’Dwyer who single-handedly prepared each photograph for the display and Mr. Dowling, Deputy Principal made a presentation to Ms O’Dwyer in acknowledgement for her hard work.

As people drifted away into the warm evening sunshine you felt that the love of the sisters who had dedicated their lives to this great school was surely smiling down on all who had gathered and celebrated what they had started, work which we look forward to continuing into the future.

In the words of St. Peter at the Transfiguration “It is good for us to be here.”

Teresa Regan.