EIGHTY years after the first students walked through the doors of what was formerly known as St Joseph’s convent in Kilmallock – now called Coláiste Iósaef – past pupils and staff will gather on the grounds this Sunday to share fond memories of their secondary school days.
The Sisters of Charity of St Paul the Apostle first came to Kilmallock in 1927 at the invitation of Canon John Begley PP [later Archdeacon and historian of the Limerick Diocese] where they set up a private school.
In 1933, they built a new convent, St Joseph’s secondary school. The first principal was Sr Ethelburga – Delia Gaffney who was originally from County Cavan – but sadly she only lived to see the first Intermediate results of the school, published in 1936. At this time there were 35 pupils in the school.
Past pupil Sr Cecelia Wingfield, who began attending the school in 1940, remembers distinctly the school uniform. “It was a small school of about 60 to 65 pupils. We were all very happy and proud of our school and took great pride in wearing our school uniform, which consisted of a navy blue dress, white collar and buttons, black shoes, black cashmere stockings and a navy blue beret,” she recalled.
In 1936, Sr Dymna Marie became principal and she served in this role until 1971. During this time the school expanded and increased the amount of boarders it took in. Additional facilities became available with subjects such as domestic science and art being offered. In 1970, a new section of the school was added on with woodwork and technical drawing also being offered.
In 1971, the school welcomed their new principal, Sr Teresa Holland, and a new era in education began with the school becoming co-educational. The attendance numbers began to grow and eventually in 1980, due to the large increase in day students, the boarders were phased out so that the dormitories could be converted into classrooms.
In 1983, the school celebrated its golden jubilee, and the principal, Sr Máire Lyons, together with staff and pupils celebrated the foundation of the school. In 1998, a significant building extension took place at St Joseph’s. An amalgamation with St Peter’s College saw the school named changed to Coláiste Iósaef.
The current school secretary, Bridget Moloney, has been present in the school for over half the time the school has been open and has witnessed many changes. “I came as a student first and returned here as secretary after a short break following my Leaving Cert. My first principal was Sr Una Breen, who took over in 1978 and I was actually the first school secretary hired. I imagine there aren’t too many who have spent this long in one place but I enjoyed my time as a student here.”
A current teacher on staff, Marie Hennessy, is also a past pupil. “I started in St Joseph’s in the early 1960s and I was sent because two of my aunts were amongst the first students in the school.
“Things were run tightly then, but I particularly remember Sr Mary of the Cross who was a brilliant English teacher and instilled in us a love of literature and music.”
The current principal, Seán Twomey, acknowledged the contribution of the Sisters of St Paul and said it is “fitting that at this time when we are expanding further under the Education and Training Board, that we mark the beginnings of the school.”
To mark the anniversary, all past pupils are invited to the special memorial this Sunday. Proceedings will begin with Mass at 3pm in Saint Peter and Paul’s church. This will be followed by a gathering in the school.
The school would appreciate any memorabilia or photos to be handed in or posted to Bridget in reception at Coláiste Iósaef. These will be displayed on the day and all personal pictures will be returned. Alternatively, e-mail photographs to firstname.lastname@example.org