independent

Friday 28 July 2017

Former French school taught the crème de la crème

FOR OVER 100 years there was a 'French School' in Bray, where young protestant ladies from all over Ireland were educated.

Some of those now grown-up ladies, who recall being teased by the Aravon boys on the train to Bray, had a reunion recently in Tullow, Co. Carlow.

Toner House, now apartments on Sidmonton Terrace, became The French School in 1864 when French aristocrat Heloise de Mailly founded the Bray school which remained open until 1966.

Former pupil Jennifer Flegg, who later became a teacher, published a history of the school in 2007, with the help of some of her former classmates, amongst them Margaret Learmond.

'I was there from 1949 to 1956,' said Margaret. 'We didn't have to speak French all the time – just at dinner time and just the top two classes.' She was one of 110 pupils at the school, both day students and boarders.

She explained that they did not do Inter or Leaving Cert. Exams but the UK version – GCEs. There was a huge reunion in the Glenview the year of the book's publication, with around 250 attendees coming from as far as Australia, America, Germany and Italy. A smaller group got together this year to catch up. The book is full of their stories and memories, as well as any surviving records.

'The last Headmistress is supposed to have burned all the records,' said Margaret, on the research that went in to compiling the history. One of the former headmistresses, Elizabeth Heatley, was the daughter of Robert Heatley, a prominent Bray builder, who bought the school for her. She was in charge from 1934 until 1955 and is buried in Enniskerry. Suffragette Margaret Robinson was Principal from 1927 to 1934.

Mystery surrounds the life of a teacher there who is buried at St. Paul's cemetery in Bray. Marie de Beaux died in August 1879 aged just 27 but nobody knows how she died.

'The French School, Bray, Remembered,' is still available at the Town Hall Bookshop and Dubray Books.

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