The following is an account of the
early history of our school when it was an Institute for Deaf and Dumb
In 1892 at the request of the Most Rev Dr
Nulty, Bishop of Meath, MM Stanislaus opened a Deaf and Dumb School in the part
of St Joseph's which had been occupied by the sisters before they came to the
new Convent (1872). In 1896 when the new schools were opened the entire
building was given over to the Deaf Mutes. In 1907, a new school and dormitory
were built and in 1915 a new room was added. In 1925, bathrooms were built for
In the beginning, a Deaf Mute
teacher, who had been governess to Mr Richard Coffey, Newcastle, Mullingar
(himself a deaf mute and brother of Sr. Alacoque Coffey of the Rochfortbridge
Community) was engaged to teach the children. When she died about 1898, a Miss
Browne, who had been trained in Boston Spa, England, was engaged as a teacher
and also Miss Gaynor (Saynor?). They stayed a few years.
Miss Cronin, who had been trained in
Cabra, came afterwards and remained until 1903, when Srs. M Gertrude Smith and
M Antonia Kelly, whom she had trained, took charge. Afterwards, Srs. M Brigid
Brady and M Patrick Noone helped, but M Antonia remained in charge all the time
until her death in 1947 with the exception of the six years she was Superior in
For a short time, there were 30 Deaf
Mutes, but the number was seldom higher than 25. Two girls who had been trained
in the Mercy Convent, Gort, were engaged to teach the Deaf Mutes lace-making
and sewing. They were Miss Mary Hayes (1905-1910 - she later married Mr Michael
Egan and lived in Rochfortbridge village) and Miss O'Rourke. They did very
beautiful work with the pupils and most of it sold well. Knitting machines were
also installed in St Joseph's and stockings and garments were produced to
In 1917, Miss Eva Buckley came as a
boarder to be prepared for the King's Scholarship with MIss McGill which both
passed successfully. In October of that year, the mother of two little girls died
and Fr Kelly PP asked M Antonia to take the two children - Nan and Mag Kelly,
aged 3½ and 2½ years. With the Bishop's permission she did so and they remained
with us until they were old enough to train as nurses. K Birmingham came in
October 1918 and her sister in 1920. Two other came in 1921 and 1922.
From about 1920 the number of Deaf Mutes
decreased very much. Better facilities were available in Cabra and it was much
more central. Gradually the number of boarders increased until we had about 30.
The pensions from the Deaf Mutes were not sufficient to keep up the
establishment, we had to depend more on the boarders. The Deaf Mute school
ceased to exist about 1940, a few Deaf Mutes remaining on as maids, and St
Joseph's was given over entirely to Boarders who attended the Schools.
Sr M Joseph was appointed to assist M
Antonia in 1930 and on the death of the latter in September 1947, MM Angela was
put in charge.
In 1947, owing to the demand for
Secondary Education it was decided by the Council to apply to the Bishop for
permission to put St Joseph's School on a Secondary basis. The Diocesan Council
considered the matter and with certain stipulations the permission was granted.
Funds were needed and shares belonging to St Joseph's Deaf Mute Institute were
sold to facilitate matters.
- 1892: Dr Nulty, Bishop of Meath, was anxious to start an Institute
for Deaf and Dumb Girls in the Diocese. He asked Rev. Mother Stanislaus to
begin the work, to which she agreed. He secured the third part of the Arthur
Smith Bequest towards the upkeep of the Institution. Rev. M. Stanislaus
wrote to Very Rev. T Kirby, Archbishop of Ephesus, Irish College, Rome, to
obtain the blessing of the Holy Father Leo XIII for the Institute for the
Deaf and Dumb and also for the foundations sent to Kilbeggan and Yass,
Diocese of Goulborne, which was graciously granted.
- 1893: Father
Fagan arranged for a charity sermon to be preached by Most Rey Dr
McCormick, Bishop of Galway, to clear off the debt on the Institution. The
Pope gave a medal of his Episcopal Jubilee to be placed first in the box
that it might bring a blessing on the work. Most Rev. Dr Nulty gave £50,
and parishioners £132. This, with offerings from well-wishers brought the
total to £300, which completely wiped out the debt. Dr Kirby also sent a
piece of marble from the tomb of Saint Callistus in the Catacombs given to
him by Pope Pus IX which he brought to Pope Leo XII to be blessed for the
Institute. The piece of marble was inserted in one of the class room walls
and can now be seen in the present study hall, in St Joseph's boarding
school. He also sent a picture of Our Lady of Mercy (similar to the one
sent to Our Mother House, in Maggot Street, by Leo XIII which is a copy of
the miraculous picture in the Church of St Prudentia in Rome) by Fr Keane
to Dr Nulty for St Joseph's school. A Deaf-mute teacher was engaged to
teach the deaf mutes who came to St Joseph's.
- 1897 & 1898:
When the new schools were opened, the entire building of St Joseph's was
given over to the Deaf Mutes who had occupied part of it since 1892. On
Christmas Eve, Dr Nulty died RIP. He always took a great interest in St
Joseph's Institute and bequeathed Canal Shares for the upkeep of the
- 1899: In 1899 a
public Concert was given. The Deaf Mutes acted "The Babes In The
Wood" in signs. They also danced the Skirt Dance, Tarantella and Jig.
- 1909: In this
year the garden at the back of the Convent was made and fruit trees were
planted. The Sisters in St Joseph's took over the garden beside the house
and gave £200 to the Convent for it. The Bishop gave permission for two
men to be appointed to collect for the Institution, but it was not a
success and after a few years was abandoned.
- 1910: A fire
broke out in the turf shed in St Joseph's. Some of the children
(deaf-mutes?) saw the blaze and came to tell the Sisters about it at 2 am.
They thought it was tinkers had a fire lit [sic]. The Sisters arose
immediately, roused the teacher and sent her out to rouse the people to
come to help. A number of them came immediately, M Egan, N Boyhan,
Fraynes, Bradleys, etc. The children (deaf-mutes?) kept a chain of buckets
of water to them. The men broke down the roof of the shed with hatchets
etc., between the fire and the coal-shed, where there was about 15 tons of
coal and a cask of paraffin oil. In a short time they had the fire
extinguished and all was safe again. The Sisters in the Convent knew
nothing of what had happened till the next morning. The people can always
be counted on to help when needed.
- 1912: The paling
around St Joseph's was erected with permission from the Rural District
Council at a cost of £10.
- 1915: The long
room in St Joseph's was built where the entrance from the road to the yard
- 1921: The
Sisters in St Joseph's were terrified one night - a number of lorries
stopped in the village and some of the Black and Tans came to the door and
hammered on it to get in. Fortunately someone told them it was a Convent
and they went away.
- 1925: The number
of Deaf Mutes in St Joseph's was gradually decreasing and although the
Sisters wrote to all the councils, very few new pupils were procured. The
number of boarders gradually increased. The following is a copy of an
advertisement in the paper, dated 30th June 1925:
"Do Not Neglect The Afflicted."
THERE IS AT
A School for the Teaching and Training of
Any person knowing of uneducated Deaf
Mute Girls should write to
Convent of Mercy
and 1940, the number of deaf mutes continued to decrease. Better facilities
were available in Cabra, Dublin and it was more central for most people. By
1940 the deaf mute School had closed. A number of deaf mutes remained on the
staff of the Convent and St Joseph's school, which by then had become a
boarding school for pupils to the Primary School, and in 1947 to the new
Secondary School. A number of deaf mutes who died in the 1940s and 1950s are
buried in Meedin Cemetary in Rochfort Bridge parish. The last of the resident
deaf mutes was Mary Ellen Geraghty. She died on 4th August 1991, and was buried
in the New Cemetery Rochfort Bridge - the first burial to take place there, on
the 6th August, 1991. RIP.