Wednesday, 27 April 2011


Mother DeSales, enjoying a sing-along, Christmas 1965
Margaret Walsh was born in Tralee, County Kerry, Ireland, on 12th February 1866. In 1882, when she was just sixteen years old, this courageous young girl left kith and kin and sailed across the Atlantic. Arriving in St John’s, Newfoundland in July, she entered the Presentation Order. After a period of formation and training, Sr Mary DeSales, as she was now known, taught at Presentation Convent until 1895.

In 1895 Sr DeSales was transferred to St Patrick’s Convent, Riverhead. At St Patrick’s, Sr DeSales quickly won the minds and hearts of the young West Enders. Back in the 1960s, one of her former pupils was still recounting the story of Sister's leave taking of St Patrick’s Convent in 1912. According to this fervent admirer, it was a sad day indeed when the school girls heard that Sr DeSales was leaving them. Tears flowed in profusion as their beloved teacher left to take up her new appointment at Torbay.

In 1919, after a period as superior in Torbay, Mother DeSales was welcomed back to St Patrick’s. Alas, in 1925, the popular Sister left St Patrick’s to return to the Mother House at Cathedral Square. The pupils of Presentation Convent School then became the beneficiaries of her teaching and musical gifts.

In 1931, Mother DeSales was elected Superior General of the Congregation. She brought all her talents and boundless enthusiasm to this post. Never losing her love of the children, Mother visited all the Presentation Schools in the Province as often as possible. After a very successful term of six years, the little Nun from Kerry was re-elected for another six year term. So it was that Mother De Sales guided and directed the Presentation Sisters in Newfoundland for twelve successful years, from 1931 – 1943.

At the end of her second term as Superior General, Mother DeSales was 77 years of age. She remained at the Mother House where she was active in the life of the community and taught music until she was in her 90s.

February 1966 was an exciting month for the Presentation Sisters in Newfoundland. The whole Congregation was preparing to celebrate the 100th Birthday of Mother DeSales on 12th February. The days preceding and following 12th February, and the day itself, were days of great celebration. Concerts, visitors, birthday cakes, flowers, congratulations and, to be sure, much joy, abounded. Mother DeSales, petite and dignified, took it all in her stride.

It is the sea kissed coast of Newfoundland which welcomes every new year to North America and so it was there  that Canada’s Centennial Year began.   As the last seconds of 1966 ticked away and the first shades of 1967 crept over the continent, 101 year old Mother DeSales was atop Signal Hill, St John’s.  With television cameras and the press in attendance, Mother DeSales and Premier Joseph R Smallwood lit the first Centennial Flame that would soon spread across the country as 1967 was born.

Just weeks after her 102nd birthday, the long and fruitful life of Mother De Sales drew to a close. On 1st March 1968, Mother Mary DeSales Walsh, former teacher at St Patrick’s Convent School and twice Superior General of the Presentation Sisters in Newfoundland, died peacefully at Presentation Mother House. Following Mass of Requiem, this prayerful, cultured and gracious lady was laid to rest in the Sisters’ Cemetery, Cathedral Square.

Sunday, 24 April 2011



I received this video from Betty Simms and it is so beautiful, I wanted to share it with  you.  


Sunday, 17 April 2011


Today, Palm Sunday, is the beginning of Holy Week so I thought it an appropriate time to post this picture. I think it will be familiar to any of you who visited St Patrick’s Convent in the 1950s or 1960s. That is when I saw it on my visits to the Convent. As a young child it was a source of great fascination as the eyes seemed to look right at you and follow you. There are two very interesting stories behind this piece of religious art. One is the story of the ‘Cristo de Limpias’ but, though of great interest, it is not the story I wish to tell here. The other story and the one I will tell is that of the donor of this ‘Cristo de Limpias’.

Donated to the Children of Mary, St Patrick's,
by Mary McCarthy Gomez Cueto
(Click on the picture to enlarge it)
 The inscription on the base of the statue informs us that it was presented to the Children of Mary, St Patrick’s, by Mary McCarthy Gomez Cueto. Who was Mary McCarthy Gomez Cueto? I suspect some of you have heard of this lady. For those of you who haven’t, here is the story of another St Patrick’s alumna.

Mary Conception McCarthy was born in St John’s on 27th April 1900. She was the daughter of Thomas and Ann McCarthy. Her uncle, Professor P J McCarthy, was a well known St John’s musician who accompanied the silent films at the Nickel Theatre. The family was well off as Thomas McCarthy was the proprietor of a successful grocery business located at 439 Water Street.

On the corner of Leslie Street and McKay Street, in the west end of St John’s, is a very large old house, set back a little from the road.  As late as the 1970s, and possibly even now, this house was commonly referred to as “McCarthy’s”. This had been the home of several of Mary’s uncles, including Professor Patrick McCarthy. Mary lived with her parents and sister, Rose, at 23 Patrick Street. Later the family lived on Waterford Bridge Road. Mary was educated at St Patrick’s Convent School and at Littledale.

Young Mary McCarthy was as talented as she was beautiful and she took part in many theatrical productions in St John’s. She studied piano and voice under her uncle, Professor McCarthy, and then under the noted Professor Charles Hutton. Mary possessed exceptional musical gifts and she eventually went on to the Boston Conservatory of Music to further her studies.

One night at an opera in Boston Mary was introduced to a wealthy Spanish businessman, Pedro Gomez Cueto. Pedro, who was considerably older than Mary, was smitten. The feeling was mutual and Pedro made the journey to St John’s to ask Thomas McCarthy for the hand of his daughter in marriage. Thomas was either reluctant or prudent, or perhaps both, because he asked the couple to wait a year. He told the couple that if after a year they still wished to marry he would give them his blessing. For a year the two carried on a long distance romance as Mary, to please her father, remained in St John’s where she taught music. As in all good love stories, the end of the year saw the couple as much in love as ever and still wishing to marry. Thomas agreed and Mary and Pedro were married. A 1922 edition of the St John’s 'Daily News' informed the populace that on 21st May 1922, Miss Mary McCarthy and Pedro Gomez Cueto were married at New York.

Eventually Pedro’s business interests dictated that the couple live in Cuba and Mary soon made herself at home on another island in another sea. The young bride immersed herself in the life of her new country. I say “new country” because Newfoundland was then a country, not a province as it is today. Among her many activities, Mary helped found the Havana Philharmonic Orchestra, she and a priest founded an orphanage for boys and she was the organist at her church in Havana where she also directed and sang in the choir. Mary still made frequent trips to St John’s, visiting with family and friends and sometimes performing on the St John’s stage.

Mary McCarthy’s life in Cuba was happy and busy until 1954 when her beloved Pedro died. Pedro had amassed a considerable fortune and he left his widow a sum of about four million dollars. Mary, who never remarried, remained in Cuba running Pedro’s business. Then in 1959 Fidel Castro came to power and the business was nationalized and all Mary’s assets, save her home, Villa Mary, were confiscated and she was granted a monthly pension of about $10. To make matters worse, in 1962 the United States imposed a trade embargo against Cuba. The fortune that Pedro had left Mary was in an American bank, the First National Bank in Boston. The embargo meant that Pedro’s widow was unable to access the money that was rightfully hers. Mary refused to leave her adopted home because Cuba and its people had become very dear to her. Besides, Pedro was buried in Cuba and Mary was determined that she would one day rest beside him. The United States refused to release her assets so the wealthy widow was forced to live the rest of her life in poverty. Mary supplemented her meagre pension by teaching singing, piano and English. I like the thought that Mary taught English. It makes me happy to think that somewhere in the world there are Cubans speaking English with a St John’s accent! Those who interviewed Mary in her last years all said that she spoke “St John’s English but Castilian Spanish” and that she “retained her St John’s accent to the end of her days”. Good for you, Mary! (Sorry for that little aside but it pleases me no end that Mary never forgot her roots.)

Even in old age, Mary remained feisty and outspoken. She fiercely disliked Communism and she was not afraid to voice her disgust when the grounds of the orphanage she had founded became part of a Soviet nuclear installation. Nor was she reticent in her criticism of the Americans’ seizure of her property.

In 2002, Mary suffered a broken hip and thereafter she was confined to a wheelchair. Increasing age brought increasing health problems and in 2007 the Canadian Government intervened, strongly stating that Mary needed money to meet her medical bills. Washington finally condescended to allow her about $96.00 a month from her own money! In all her difficulties, this steadfast lady drew strength from her Catholic faith. Deeply religious to the end, Mary recited her rosary several times a day in front of a statue of Our Lady.

On Friday, 3rd April 2009, just weeks short of her 109th birthday, Mary McCarthy Gomez Cueto died. Her final wish was granted when she was interred with her much-loved Pedro in Cementerio de Cristóbal Colón in Havana, Cuba. All over the world television reports and newspaper obituaries told the story of the extraordinary life of this St Patrick’s girl.

That is the story of the donor of the ‘Cristo de Limpias’ which used to have a place of honour in the visitors’ parlour at St Patrick’s Convent. I wonder if the statue is still there or if, like many other religious objects and devotions, it was swept away in the raging tide that followed Vatican II? Does anyone know?

Thursday, 14 April 2011


As readers of this blog are aware, anyone with a connection to St Patrick’s is invited (nay, begged!) to send us stories, anecdotes, pictures, or anything to do with school days at St Patrick’s. Well, anything that won’t get us sued!

These two delightful little anecdotes are from Elizabeth Noseworthy née Meaney.

This story will have meaning for those of you who went to school before the Nuns got rid of their old, all enveloping habits, and Elizabeth’s younger brother, Doug, is really the star of the story.

Elizabeth was in Grade Four and her teacher was Mother John. Remember Mother John? She of the no ankle socks in summer and no slacks in winter! One day Elizabeth’s mother came to school to see Mother John and Doug, who is seven years younger than Elizabeth, was with her. Now Mother John, though a little eccentric, was a kindly soul and she always had something in her pocket as a reward for a good child or a right answer. But do you remember Nuns’ pockets in those days? What pockets they were!

The nun’s hand would disappear into a slit in the side of her habit and down, down, down she would reach before finally emerging triumphantly with the object of her search. Well, this particular day, little Doug was to be the recipient of Mother John’s munificence. Doug’s eyes widened in wonder as Mother John’s arm was swallowed up by her ‘pocket’. Then, to his amazement, the Nun straightened up and held out to Doug a plump and lovely orange! As you can imagine, the child was delighted as well as fascinated. Elizabeth didn’t say what Doug’s lasting memory of the occasion was but she and her mother never forgot Doug’s comment as they made their way home. In almost awestruck tones the little boy said, “Mother John gave me an orange, out of her stocking!”

Elizabeth’s other story is from Grade Six and some of those who were in her class that year may well remember it because it caused a fit of girlish giggling that did not meet with the approval of our teacher, Sr Mary Immaculata.

Now, all you classmates of Elizabeth’s just cast your minds back to Grade Six and the usual procedure at noon. At twelve, we all stood for the Angelus, and then knelt for the Rosary. This was followed by various Litanies. Finally, we went home for lunch, or as we called it then, dinner.

Now that you have the picture, we are all kneeling and escape is drawing closer as forty plus girls whiz through the response, “prayferus”, “prayferus”. Of course, as we kneel there we all have our hands reverently joined in front of our chests. Between the thumbs of her joined hands, Elizabeth is unconsciously twiddling a button on her uniform as Sr Immaculata works her way through the Litany of Loretto. Sr Immaculata, who was probably omniscient, sees this and somewhere between “Seat of Wisdom” and “Refuge of Sinners” she shouts “Elizabeth Meaney”. To this she receives a fervent response of “prayferus”!  Needless to say, this is followed by a fit of giggling which only subsides when Sister fixes one of her best glares on us.

Thanks for these two little anecdotes, Elizabeth. It was great to hear from you and I hope your reminiscences will encourage others to share theirs with us too.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011


St Patrick's girls just love getting together and enjoying the company of old friends.  A grand reunion, for all St Patrick's Girls, was held in 1987.  This reunion was a big success and several of the alumni who attended were well into their 80s. 

This particular photo is of some of the class of 1960 with Miss Howard, their Grade Three teacher.  There must be lots of photos of the 1987 reunion around.  If you attended that reunion and have a class photo or any individual photos, we would love for you to share them with us.  You can e-mail them to me at

Class of 1960 at 1987 Reunion
(Click on the photo to enlarge it)

1)  Alice Hennessey, Bernice Rose, Geraldine Hearn, Doreen Walsh, Eileen Maher, Betty Simms, Bernadette Grouchy, Barbara Sharpe

2)  Marie Kennedy, Judy Comerford, Miss Howard, Mary Kennedy, Alice Prim, Mary Neville, Sheila Bulger, Patsy Whiffen, Elizabeth Meaney

Tuesday, 5 April 2011


Mrs Pennell's Grade 5 Class, 1979
(Click on the picture to enlarge it)
1) K Beer, L Taylor, K Hender, Z Hearn, B Churchill, B Sloan, J Worthman, D Burke, Mrs A Pennell

2) K Walsh, V King, S Tucker, M Maher, K Reardon, D McDonald, P McAllister, R Kerrivan, A Kavanagh, P Doyle

3) K Bishop, B Flynn, C Broderick, K Barrett, M Hammond, T Pretty, W Dicks, P Brown, K Walsh

4) J Dunn, C Dinn, M White, S King, K Dray, A Power, M Tucker 

Monday, 4 April 2011


I am grateful to Frank McAllister for reminding me about the fundraising which took place in the early 1950s in aid of the “new school”. You will notice that submissions for this blog are invited from former teachers, ex-pupils or ANYONE with a St Patrick’s connection. Frank isn’t a former teacher or an ex-pupil of St Patrick’s but he certainly has connections! His mother, aunts, sisters, (including me), nieces and lovely wife are all St Patrick’s girls!  So, Frank is right in there!


I hope other brothers, husbands, etc, will also get in touch. If you were involved in raising money for the “new school”, PLEASE tell us what you did and let us all enjoy the memories.

Here is Frank’s story.
“The newest addition to St. Patrick's Convent School in St. John's was completed in 1953. Prior to that the old school was adjoining and bordered on Deanery Avenue and Convent Square.

In building the new school most of the students took it upon themselves to help by raising money with many kinds of projects. Some girls put on skits and did many different kinds of theatrical things such as plays, concerts etc.

My sister, Doreen, a student at St. Patrick's, had one of these projects at our house. She made all kinds of treats, i.e., fudge, cookies, etc, and invited all her friends . We played bingo and cards. I won two bars of green pine tar soap playing bingo! This was the first thing I had ever won.

My Aunt May, who was an ex-pupil of St Patrick’s and a wonderful singer, sang the well loved "Molly Bawn". It seems that whenever there was a get-together, poor Aunt May would always be called upon to sing.

All the money raised from the sale of sweets and from the bingo and cards went towards the erection of the school.”

We will hear more of Frank’s memories of St Patrick’s soon. Thanks Frank.

Friday, 1 April 2011


Are any of you St Patrick’s girls into philately?  If you are, these first day of issue stamps will be of interest to you. The two stamps were issued in Ireland in 1975 to mark the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Presentation Sisters in 1775. Nano Nagle could not have imagined that she would be so honoured hundreds of years after she began her work among Ireland’s poor.

Stamps Honouring Nano Nagle
(Click on picture to enlarge it)