Laurel Hill Colaiste Principal Aedín Ní Bhriain with students Christine O’Brien, Ciara Deegan and Sophie O’Callaghan signing the book of condolence Picture: Oisin McHugh
PEOPLE who knew Dolores O’Riordan during her time in secondary school in Limerick have paid tribute to the “delightful, unsophisticated” student who embodied the “alternative girl” and inspired a generation of women and musicians, both in the school and across the world.
Dolores went to Laurel Hill Colaiste FCJ, and the Limerick city girls’ school was the place where she fostered her musical talents and “had an easy relationship” with her teachers.
“She was a delightful, unsophisticated, sensitive student, who enjoyed her time with us. She was a bright, kind, good-humoured girl, who loved her family, her friends, and had an easy relationship with all her teachers, both lay and FCJ sisters,” said Anne Mordan, a former principal who was deputy principal back then.
“She would tell you her family news, how she felt, what was engaging her at the time. I recall that she told me once, at the end of class, that she now played at Mass in her local church. She told me that she had saved up for an electric keyboard so she could do so.
“I asked her to bring it to school and next day, and she gave me a great rendition of her church hymns in the chemistry lab at lunch time.
“I always used to ask many of the students, ‘what do you think you’ll be when you’re older?’ and Dolores would always say that she wanted to be a famous singer. There was something so uncanny about it because she never wanted anything else, it was like she knew she could do it and that was that,” remembered Ms Mordan.
Former Limerick Leader journalist Kathryn Hayes, who now teaches at UL, remembers being in the school with Dolores.
“Everybody knew Dolores, because she was a really colourful character. She was loud, funny, she wore luminous pink socks. She was very flamboyant. And she sang. When she sang, you could hear a pin drop. There’s a beautiful chapel in Laurel Hill, so we used to have Masses there. She’d barely open her mouth, but the acoustics of the chapel and her voice – it was just hair-raising,” said Kathryn.
“I was in the school orchestra with her, and we also used to play in slogadh and the feis ceoil. When she was playing the spoons, she could make them talk. She used to play the piano in the assembly hall at lunchtime, and people would just sit around listening to her,” she reminisced.
“She didn’t conform, she was different. She still succeeded while being different and alternative. She was a fantastic role model in that respect, because there were other girls in Laurel Hill who dreamed of being rock stars, and who were alternative in their hearts, especially as young teenagers, and I think she very much embodied that. She was so nice about it as well, she wasn’t mean or intimidating or ‘cool’. She was just a country girl who was a bit different, in a very approachable way.”
And Dolores has continued to inspire young, local women in her school. This week, current principal Aedín Ní Bhriain signed the book of condolence with sixth year music students Sophie O’Callaghan, Christina O’Brien and Ciara Deegan.
They are all taught by Ms Orla Colgan, the music teacher who taught Dolores.
“We here to express our deepest sympathy to the family, to show how proud we are of Dolores and all she’s achieved,” said Sophie.
“We all study music and we would listen to her songs and watch her performances. There are pictures of her hanging in our music room.”
Dolores loved her old school so much, she invited its choir to play at her rock‘n’roll wedding in Holycross Abbey.
Ms Mordan looked back on a brilliant day spent at Aherlow House Hotel.
“What a glorious occasion and Dolores was a beautiful, radiant bride. It was my first time seeing a wedding cake in the shape of a guitar!”
The teacher, “saddened” by Dolores’ untimely death, recalled her involvement in many school shows – “her talent was so obvious”.
“I recall one concert staged in The Belltable, and while all other parents were happy to view their offspring from the stalls, Dolores’ Dad and Mam found their way to the stage wings. They loved Dolores and she loved them. I seem to remember she spent many a free – and non-free – class tinkling the piano in the school hall, serenading her pals,” said Ms Mordan.
“I offer my sincerest sympathy to her family, her children and her friends, to whom her loss is shocking. Go dtuga Dia suaimhneas síoraí di. I have no doubt that she has joined the heavenly choirs already.”