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Thursday 18 January 2018

Historic handover of Our Lady of Mercy Primary School

Credit: Photo: Philip McCaffrey

Together with the staff of the school, the Chairperson Fr. Dominick Gillooly and members of the Board of Management, fourteen Sisters of Mercy gathered in the school hall. Prayers of thanksgiving were offered for their dedicated service to education in Sligo for over 160 years.

In a speech to mark the occasion Mrs. Rosemary Sheahan, Deputy Principal gave an historical account of the Mercy Congregation's involvement in the community since Famine times and paid tribute to the Sisters for their lifelong commitment to the education of thousands of Sligo people.

The Sisters arrived in Sligo in 1846 and in less than three years they had opened the doors to their first school. Over the next number of years they acquired the building known as the Academy, which is now, St. Annes Youth Centre, Chapel St. and set up a teaching facility there. In 1888 St. Patrick's Primary School was built, the stone building on Convent Hill which is now known as Bethany.

Infants were taught in the building which is now Lifestart and in 1890 the boys school, known as "the Line School" , situated on Albert Line, now Pearse Road, was opened.

Because of the growth in popularity of the school, permission was sought and granted to build a new school, Scoil Caitriona in 1964. The opening of this establishment was a truly remarkable event. Sligo had not seen the likes of it before, such was the standard of the structure, with its light filled corridors and spacious classrooms fitted out with top quality furnishings. This school hall was the 'piece de resistance' and would become a much sought venue for all kinds of community activities.

Grants for places such as these were scarce in 1960's Ireland and monies hard earned by the Sisters were invested here to make this the school all that it is today. Girls from Junior Infants to Fourth class were taught in the new building, while Scoil Phadraig catered for senior girls in fifth and sixth classes. 1993 saw the amalgamation of all these schools into the present Our Lady of Mercy Primary School.

The sisters of Mercy brought education to this part of Sligo. But they did more than merely construct buildings. They brought the message of Christianity in the most practical and yet profound way. They gave hope that the cycle of poverty could end. They showed people how to develop their God given talents. They taught them to open their minds to the world of knowledge and learning, thus affording them opportunities that heretofore were out of their reach. They focused on developing each individual and out of that they built a strong and vibrant community.

To add to the significance of the occasion, a commemorative plaque was unveiled by the Principal, Mrs. Mary Finan.

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