The following is an account of the early history of our school when it was an Institute for Deaf and Dumb Children.

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 the children.

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 the Convent.

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 order.

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 3 and 2 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.


 

"Do Not Neglect The Afflicted."
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THERE IS AT
ROCHFORT BRIDGE
MULLINGAR
A School for the Teaching and Training of
DEAF MUTES.
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Any person knowing of uneducated Deaf 
Mute Girls should write to

THE SUPERIORESS
Convent of Mercy
Rochfortbridge
Westmeath.

         Between 1920 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.