Tuesday, 30 June 2015


The First St Patrick’s Convent School was opened in 1856 and it served the educational requirements of the parish extremely well.  However, after more than sixty years, it was evident that a new building was necessary to meet the needs of the increasing number of pupils.  Therefore, plans were put into motion for the erection of a new school.  The new school was to be built on Deanery Avenue and as St Patrick’s Parish, like every other Parish in Newfoundland, had lost many young men and boys to the carnage of World War I, it was decided that the new St Patrick’s Convent School would be built as a Memorial to these young soldiers.  On 4th December 1921 the cornerstone of the memorial School was laid by Archbishop E P Roche, assisted by the Parish Priest, Msgr William Kitchen and priests of the Parish. 
This interesting advertisement appeared in a local St John's newspaper on 15 July 1921.  It invited the populace to a “Grand Concert and Comic Sketches”.  This Grand Concert, to be held at St Patrick’s Parish Hall, was in aid of the Memorial School.  The admission price was just 50¢.

The Newspaper ad for the fund raising concert in aid of
the 'memorial' St Patrick's Convent School

This is the St Patrick’s Convent School, built as a Memorial to the young men of the Parish who died in WWI.  There was, on the right hand side of the main door, a plaque indicating that the school was indeed such a memorial. Many generations of west end girls and boys received their education here but in due course this building also outlived its usefulness as a school and, sadly, closed its doors.  It was not the end though - at least not yet! 

St Patrick's Convent School, Deanery Avenue ,
A Memorial to men of the Parish who fell in WWI

The plaque which was attached to the right hand
side of the Deanery Avenue School entrance
In 1978, the Sisters of Mercy reopened the School as a Residential Detoxification Centre.  It was renamed Talbot House, in memory of Venerable Matt Talbot.  In time, Talbot House also closed and eventually the building was demolished. 
We have been given several names of parishioners who died in WWI.  If you know of any other parishioners who died in that war, please send their names to mcallistersmith@gmail.com if you would like them added to the list below. 
Carew,  Pte John Joseph, Regimental Number 651, Son of David and Carrie Carew, 2 Brien St, St John’s
Constantine, Pte Peter, Regimental Number 563, Son of Peter and Hannah Constantine, 20 McFarlane St, St John’s
Galgay, Pte Francis Joseph, Regimental Number 892, Son of Francis and the late Mary Galgay, 235 Water St West, St John’s
Holden, Pte Patrick, Regimental Number 555, Son of Joseph and Mary Alice Holden, Southside, St John’s
Kennedy, Pte Michael Francis, Regimental Number 255, Son of Nicholas and Margaret Kennedy, 187 Lemarchant Road, St John’s
Pynn, Pte Jack, Regimental Number 4036, Son of Daniel and Margaret Pynn, 329 Water St West, St John’s
Woodford, Pte Francis Patrick, Regimental Number 364, Son of John Joseph and Sarah Jane Woodford, 7 Convent Square, St John’s
Padre Thomas Nangle
We also remember Fr Thomas Nangle, a priest of St Patrick’s Parish from 1914 to 1916.  After the bloodbath of Beaumont Hamel in 1916, Fr Nangle enlisted and became the  Newfoundland Regiment's Catholic Chaplain.  We know that in war,  Chaplains don’t carry arms but Padre Nangle was beside his men tending the wounded, burying the dead and encouraging the battle weary.

We Newfoundlanders owe a great debt to Padre Thomas Nangle. During the War he brought comfort to the soldiers and their families.  After the War Padre Nangle was involved with the identification and re-interment of the Newfoundlanders who had died in battle.  He was also the driving force behind the creation of the beautiful Newfoundland Memorial Park at Beaumont Hamel in France. This exceptional  Newfoundlander, Padre Thomas Nangle, died in Rhodesia on 4th January 1972.

Today, St Patrick’s Convent School, Deanery Avenue, built as a memorial to our heroic dead of WWI, is just a memory.  Sadly, nothing remains but an empty space.  No trace of this Memorial can be seen.  It exists only in the mind’s eye of the diminishing number of westenders who spent their formative years as pupils there.  So, on this Memorial Day, 1st July 2015, we remember those who have died in all Wars and Conflicts but we remember especially our own heritage.  We remember the parishioners who came before us; those who gave their lives in war and the families who grieved for them. We remember the people who dreamed a St Patrick’s Convent Memorial School to honour our fallen parishioners and we remember the good people who worked so hard to make that dream a reality.  Yes, the School is gone but the memories remain.  Let us honour the memories!
This grassy bank is where St Patrick's Convent School, a Memorial to parishioners who died in WWI, once stood

Tuesday, 23 June 2015


These pictures are all from the 1979 yearbook.  I am indebted to my niece, Paula Florey, for lending me her copy & entrusting its safe keeping to me.  These pictures are proof that the Schools run by the Presentation Sisters continued to uphold the musical tradition established by the first Presentation Sisters in Newfoundland.  It is recorded that the Presentation Sisters were the first teachers in Newfoundland to introduce music into schools on a daily basis.

Here are the pictures.  I hope you enjoy them and if you can help us out with any information, names, etc, please let us know at mcallistersmith@gmail.com.


Miss Eleanor  Lawton and a smiling pupil. 
Can you name the pupil?
UPDATE:  We have just been informed that this 'smiling pupil' is actually Lisa Walsh.  It is so nice to be able to name the little girl.  Thank you Lisa.  I hope you are still making lovely music!

Mr E Hajek and the School Orchestra, 1979. 
Are you in this picture?

Sister Mary Xaveria and a pupil.  Can anyone tell
us who the young man is?

Another Happy Musician!  We would love to
have a name to go with the photo.

Don't forget - if you can give us any names or stories about these photographs, we would be very happy to hear from you.  You can contact us at mcallistersmith@gmail.com if you can help with these pictures or if you have anything that you would like to have posted here on the St Patrick's Convent School Blog.

Monday, 15 June 2015


This post has been prompted by an email and a photograph which we received several months ago from Enid O’Brien.  The photo is of St Patrick’s Deanery.  Enid thought that it might be of interest to former students and parishioners who are living away from home.  I quite agree with Enid!  Enid’s sister worked at the Deanery around 1955, operating the switchboard.  Her sister was still attending school and worked there after school and on weekends.  Enid observed that it is hard to believe that they would have been busy enough to need a switchboard operator.  Good point Enid!

Historic St Patrick's Deanery

It was the dream and the firm intention of Bishop John Thomas Mullock to establish at Riverhead in the west end of St John’s a fine Church to minister to the spiritual needs of the people of that area.  His Lordship determined that this Church would be dedicated to St Patrick, the Apostle of their “ancestral land”.  The Bishop recorded in his diary for 23rd March 1852 that he had “Paid Mr Little £341 for land at Riverhead for church, schools, and a convent”.  On a rainy 17th September 1855, as part of the celebrations for the consecration of the Cathedral, the foundation stone for the new church was laid by Archbishop John Hughes of New York.
For various reasons, it was quite a few years before the actual construction of the church could begin.  So, in 1860, Bishop Mullock decided to build a temporary church until the more fitting edifice could be erected.  No time was lost in building the wooden church that would serve the Catholics of Riverhead for more than twenty years.  On Sunday, 9th September 1860, the first St Patrick’s Church was dedicated to the glory of God.  This time the ceremonies were carried out in brilliant sunshine! 
This ‘temporary’ Church stood where St Patrick’s Deanery stands today and it served the people well until our beautiful and long awaited St Patrick’s Church was dedicated in August 1881.   St Patrick’s Deanery was erected in 1884. It is a Registered Heritage Structure.  To learn more about the  designation of St Patrick's Deanery, click here.
Our thanks go to Enid for once again providing us with material for an informative post about our St Patrick’s Parish.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015


One hundred and sixty-nine years ago today, on 9th June 1846, a fire broke out when a glue pot boiled over in a cabinetmaker's workshop on George Street in St John's.

Dry weather and strong winds fanned the flames, which spread to other parts of the town.   Closely built wooden houses and numerous vats of seal oil stored at merchants' premises along the waterfront provided excellent fuel.  By nightfall, 2,000 buildings had been destroyed and 12,000 people were homeless. Damages were estimated at £888,356.

St John's 1844, two years before the fire

This is an article, written by Wanita Bates, which appeared in the newsletter of
Conference of Presentation Sisters.
Wanita has very kindly given me permission to reproduce it here.  I am really grateful to Wanita because this gives us an amazing look into that terrible time in the history of St John’s and the Presentation Sisters.  I find this letter very poignant and it certainly shows us the quality of the wonderful women who made up the Presentation Congregation in Newfoundland at that time.  Read on and be touched and awestruck!  Here is Wanita's article: "1800s Burning of Presentation Convent, Newfoundland,  Submitted by Wanita Bates (Newfoundland)
The following is an interesting account of the burning of the Presentation Convent at St. John's, Newfoundland. It was written by one of the community to her relative in this city. Here is the article from The Sydney Chronicle, Australia, of May 12, 1847. (Taken originally from the Bengal Catholic Herald, Calcutta)
'Presentation Convent, St. John's,
June 30.
I suppose you are ere this aware of the dreadful conflagration of the 9th June. It were vain to describe the horrors of that day; none but an eye-witness could conceive them.
Immediately after breakfast, on the 9th, we were alarmed by the sound of the fire bell; we ran to the garden, and saw the fire but at a great distance; we had not the slightest fear for ourselves, we being apparently out of the reach of the fire, and I may say in the only safe part of the town.
Being so circumstanced, we occupied ourselves the entire morning in comforting the poor creatures who ran to us in their affliction, bringing us their money and all they had most precious, to keep for them.
Poor widows left their orphan children inside the gates with us, thinking them safe, while they themselves went to try and save some of their little substance.
Our convent was open to all on that melancholy morning; poor mothers fainting in our parlours; others crying frantically, who had lost their children in the speed with which they had to fly from the devouring element, amid terror and confusion.
The prospect now looked supernatural, as if the exterminating angel had come down from Heaven to destroy all. Our spirits were sunk, our hearts were bursting with grief at the desolation before us-we had scarcely any energy left.
The sisters were by turns before the most holy Sacrament, imploring the mercy of God, and beseeching him to spare his people and stop the flames; even the innocent children who were left in our charge raised their little hands to Heaven, and lisped the words" Oh, God stop the flames!"
In the midst of this heart-rending scene we had not thought of ourselves; little imagining, we were so soon to share the same fate as the creatures whom we were bemoaning.
It was now twelve-o'clock, the confusion became greater and greater, while the rapidly spreading fire was sweeping all before it still, it was not near us; but by some cause, which no one can to this day account for, the new school-house which was opposite the Convent and nearly finished, suddenly burst into flames.
It was full of shavings, and some say that on taking half burned things from the town, passing the school, some spark fell among the half dry shavings, but no one can account for it, or know anything for certain.
Some of the sisters were standing outside, when a young man, almost frantic with fright, ran over, exclaiming, "the school is on fire!" and at the same moment a shower of fire fell upon the Convent, burst in the windows, and broke all the glass.
We were in different parts of the houses, and quite unconscious of our danger, when we heard the cry of the people rushing in to save us, and calling aloud while they burst in the doors.
God! What a thunderbolt for us! And how sudden, without a moment's warning without a minute's preparation, without time to save a single article, without even a look, while leaving the spot we were standing on.
We had to leave all to the mercy of the flames - our chapel, our beautiful oratories, which we took such pride in decorating, our books, our pictures, our handsome chalices, our convent, our all, to escape with our lives.
When I got outside the door I met two of the sisters; we were almost in a state of distraction; we missed the Reverend Mother and some of the Novices; we cried out to the people, who were now gathering in crowds, to run, for God's sake, and save the Nuns.
One of them was taken out of the window by a soldier, another, as she was running to reach the hall door, found it in flames, and threw herself down a back stair, and escaped by a back way.
The Reverend Mother was regulating (working) in the cellar, quite unconscious of what was going on, when she was aroused by the voice of a man who roared to her "to bring whatever she could seize most precious : that the convent was on fire."
As she ran out the burning sparks were falling on her veil. We were now all outside, but were soon obliged to quit the enclosure, as the flames were spreading on all sides.
To describe our feelings at this awful moment would be impossible, at thus leaving our Convent where we had so lately entered with such joy, and where we were but just comfortably settled after 13 years of expectation, and where we hoped to endure days peacefully and happily.
We were hurried away to an adjoining field, where we sat down upon the grass, fainting, crying, and almost dead with grief.
The alarm soon reached the town; the terrified multitude, little prepared for this additional shock, now lost all courage and energy; they threw down whatever they were trying to save for themselves saying, "the end of the world is coming!”
Every eye was turned towards the Convent; the people forgot their own sufferings; Catholic and Protestant, men, women, and children were all struck motionless at the sight of that beautiful edifice, the pride of Newfoundland, the hope, the comfort of religion, and of the poor, our good Bishop's delight, now slowly consuming.
All efforts to save it were vain. The poor Priests were horror-stricken at the news; one of them fainted off; hardly could they approach the awful scene. One who got into the chapel through a window, in order to remove the Most Holy Sacrament, had his hand burned, for the Altar was in flames.
What a sight was now before us. Our Convent, for whose establishment we had sighed so many years, and which was just at the point of flourishing, those schools at which we used to look with such pleasure, in hopes of being soon surrounded with our little flock; and; in-a moment we were deprived of all.
The Sisters-of Mercy made their way over to us, and endeavoured to comfort us. Nothing could equal the kindness of the people: Protestants and Catholics came to offer us their houses.
The Colonel, who was in the town, rode up in haste, when he saw the Convent on fire, to render what assistance he could, but it was too late; he then most kindly came to us, spoke with our Reverend Mother, and offered his apartments in the barrack; and as we would not accept of them, he offered to erect a tent where we were, for our use, and to place a guard over the few things saved.
As soon as we were able to walk, we left this scene of desolation, for the Convent of Mercy, where we remained until evening, and then went in the Bishop's carriage to his cottage, a mile out of town, where we are still, sleeping on the floor, four in a room; but we are fortunate to have a roof over us, for on that calamitous night there were 11,000 souls houseless.
If anything could afford us consolation at such a time it is that we have the hearts of the people with us. Nothing can equal the general feeling and sympathy of all classes at our unexpected affliction; to use their own expression, "the ruins of our convent were well watered with their tears." All classes and persuasions lamented the fate of that beautiful edifice.
The tradespeople and the poor in general were in transports of grief (grief-stricken), and the poor men wept and sobbed like children, and said they did not care for their own losses if the convent had been spared.
As our provisions were gone, they feared we were in want, and came with eagerness to share their mite with us; in fact, if the Bishop can rebuild the convent we shall never want; for if these people had but one loaf, they would divide it with us. I believe a more grateful or a more generous people could not be found on earth.
We are no longer sisters of Mount Carmel, but the children of the cross. May we get grace and strength to make good use of our suffering, and to drink of the chalice sent us, however bitter it may be.
Mary Xaverius Lynch’
Sr Xaverius Lynch PBVM
Sr Xaverius Lynch was one of the founding Sisters of the Presentation Congregation in Newfoundland.  She came out to Newfoundland with Sisters Bernard Kirwan, Xavier Molony and Magdalen O'Shaughnessy in 1833.  Their Convent in St John's was the first Presentation house outside of Ireland and thus the first in North America.  Sr Xaverius Lynch founded the Convent in Harbour Grace in 1851 and was its Superior until her death in November 1882.  She is buried in the Presentation Cemetery in Harbour Grace.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015


The St Patrick's Girls are at it again - getting together, sharing memories and generally just enjoying the company of girlhood friends.  They certainly know the value of friends and take great pleasure in their long lasting friendships.
We have received news of two such get togethers.
Joan Fogarty has sent the following:
"We got together Wednesday night (27th May) for our Spring dinner. Here is a photo."
Spring Dinner 2015
Front row: Eleanor Sears Vatcher, Patricia McCarthy Philpot.

Second row: Brenda Casey Grouchy, Mary Bulger Corcoran, Rosemary Ashley Healy, Mary Fitzgerald, Kathleen Dobbin Benson, Joan Reynolds Fogarty, Joan Ryan Cobb, Bonnie Beck Byrne.
We get together three times a year: Spring, Fall, and Christmas."
This band of schoolfriends are extremely loyal and suppport each other in sadness and in joy.  They certainly are an inspiration and I hope I will be hearing news of their meetings when we are all well into our "Golden years"!
Donna Constantine Walsh sent news of a gathering organised by Donna and classmate Christine Rossiter Butler.  Their group graduated from St Patrick's in 1974.  Some of them met up at Donna's home on Sunday 31st May and Donna has sent us this photo of the group.  Donna has given us a list of the names of the ladies in the photo (all maiden names).
Back Row L-R:
Ellen Stone, Gladys Layman, Charline Whalen, Sharon Murphy, Karen Mugford
Front Row L-R: Donna Constantine, Linda Griffiths, Debbie Barron, Judy Kavanagh, Christine Rossiter, Collette Boudois, Marilyn Maher, Anne O'Driscoll
I had to post this picture too because I wanted a close-up of that wonderful banner.  I love it.  I believe I am correct in saying that it was specially made by Donna.  Nice one, Donna!
Well, ladies, once again you have all shown that friendships forged in childhool can last a lifetime.  Thank you Joan, Donna and Christine for sharing with us.  I look forward to hearing about future gatherings and seeing all those smiling faces.  The very best of luck to each and every one of you.