School History

History of our School

The Presentation Sisters are currently 152 years in Portarlington. The Presentations Sisters’ story begins with Nano Nagle who was the foundress of the Presentation Sisters. In the year 1844, Mother Mary Magdalen Breen and two other Presentation Sisters came to Portarlington. Sadly Mother Mary Magdalan only lived for two years in her new home and after her death her two companions were recalled to the motherhouse in Bagnalstown.

In the year 1854, eight years after the death of Mother Mary Magdalan Breen, the Presentation Sisters came again to Portarlington, due to the zealous exertions of Mother Mary Angela Maher. A project she held dear in her heart was the re-establishment of the convent in Portarlington on a permanent basis. Her uncle, Mr. Edward Lyons helped her by providing an annuity of £100 plus a donation of £200 to aid the infant community. The bishop of Kildare and Leighlin approved the undertaking and informed the Parish Priest of Portarlington Fr. Terence O’ Connell who was delighted -“To welcome back the daughters of Nano Nagle, to resume the work which had been so unwillingly abandoned”

Fr. T O’ Connell generously made over to the sisters the house in which he himself lived, together with his garden and an adjoining field, at a ground rent of £6 per annum. And so it was that on Sept 29th 1854, Mother Mary Angela and her companions arrived in Portarlington at 7pm in the evening.

The Foundresses of the Portarlington Presentation Community:

  • Mother Mary Angela Maher
  •  Mother Mary John Kinsella
  •  Mother Mary Bernard Kinsella
  •  Sister Mary Theresa Donoghue
  •  Sister Mary Magdalan Kearney
  •  Sister Mary Baptist Davin
  •  Sister Mary Catherine Phelan

Sept 1854– for the first few weeks in Portarlington the infant community had to contend with many difficulties, the only furniture in the convent being a chair for each sister and a table. After a short time however, by the kindness of friends their wants were abundantly supplied.

Oct 1st 1854- The Convent was blessed and mass was celebrated for the first time

Oct 9th 1854- The Holy Sacrament was deposited in a small room connected with the large parlour by folding doors. This room served for many years as their chapel.

Oct 16th 1854- The small parlour was arranged as a schoolroom and six pupils were received. That evening Catechism classes were organised for boys and girls

1855- Rev James Maher CC laid the foundation stone for the new school on 1st May. It was decided that the new school would be an extension to the convent in the form of a wing, which was to comprise a school 60ft by 22ft (present day assembly hall).

Jan 21st 1856- The new school was opened and 100 little ones were enrolled. An industrial class was formed for the benefit of young women attending the school. However, after some years it was discontinued as the pupils preferred book learning. The children of the better class were taught in the parlour. An infant school was set up in the upper storey of an old outhouse behind the convent.

1857- Before the school closed for the summer holidays there was an exhibition and distribution of prizes, so well had the school been working. Around this time Sister Mary John used to invite the young girls into the convent for tea parties so that the sisters might teach them to act politely at tables.

1859- The school continued to flourish and in addition to reading, writing and mathematics the pupils were introduced to drawing, vocals, instrumental music and French. The district inspector reported so favourably of the discipline and progress of the school that the Rev Mother received a commendatory letter from the secretary of the National Board of Education.

1861- A bazaar to raise funds was organised by the sisters. £100 was raised and the building of a chapel, cells, a refectory and classrooms commenced soon afterwards.

1862– The new wing was almost completed and the sisters were able to take possession of the new refectory and classrooms. The children of the better class were removed from the parlour.

1867- The convent miraculously escaped being burned to the ground. The cause of the fire was never established.

1878- The Duchess of Maryborough visited. The children sang for the gathering

1893- In March Rev M. Cullen the first religious examiner for Kildare and Leighlin visited the convent

1904- In Portarlington Sept 29th was marked by the celebration of the Golden Jubilee of the Foundation of the Presentation Convent

1906- Major changes were made in the layout of the convent and extensions to the school. A large entrance hall and two new cells were built. The old infant school was changed into a kitchen, with a range, new pantries and a hall. Hot water pipes heated the entire house and school. The convent was painted and decorated. On May 1st the new school was opened and there was a procession through the grounds with the children carrying banners and singing hymns.

1930/31- A field adjoining the convent garden was sold to the sisters at a cost of £250. This was only one half of the field.

1933- The community at their own expense extended the school. Two classrooms, two music rooms (principal and secretary’s office today) and a corridor were added.

1935- The second half of the field was purchased for £150.

1939- There was a retreat in the school  for the first time for the students. Holy mass and benediction was held in the large classroom.

1946- The need to provide secondary education for pupils attending the school became apparent. It was decided to open a ‘secondary top’. This meant that the school followed the curriculum of the secondary school but officially remained a primary school.

1954- The convent celebrated its Centenary

1956- A few purchases were made for the school- two singer sewing machines and an electric cooker.

 A field was purchased in view of a new school or extension. It was locally known as Molloy’s field and was on the other side of the road.

1962- Building of the new school commenced in October

1964- The new school was opened and blessed on the first Monday in February. Each sister decorated her classroom with pictures and charts of her own choice. The old school was renovated. It was plastered and eleven new windows were put in. The cookery room (computer room today) was brought up to date. Outside this room a new set of toilets were built. A bicycle shed and lunch shed were also built.

1968- A cottage and three acres was purchased on the bog road adjoining the field previously purchased by the convent. On 29th April, 104 pupils ranging from 4-6yrs started school. To find accommodation for all of them was a problem. One sister had to take her class to the newly purchased cottage on the bog road. four new pre-fabricated classrooms were erected in the autumn

1969- The secondary school staff organised a school sports day for the first time. It was held in the CBS field

1970- More pre-fabricated classrooms were erected in the convent garden to accommodate extra pupils expected at the beginning of the next school year

1971- Five more pre-fabs for the secondary school were erected in the convent gardens

1991- Sr. Martina O’ Rourke, principal of the primary school decided to go to work on the missions. When she left the primary school got its first lay principal Mrs. Mary Egan

2000- Sr. Kathleen Ryan joined the staff. She had previously worked in Zimbabwe and came to us directly from Mountmellick where she had been principal for a number of years

2005- The parish of Portarlington gathered on Sun 24th April to celebrate 150 years of the Presentation Sisters in Portarlington. In June Nano Nagle was voted “Ireland’s Greatest Woman”.

In June 2005 the Board of Management was pleased to announce that the Department of Education and Science was in the process of appointing a design team for our new 16 classroom primary school on Station Road

2008- On Monday October 17th we moved into our new school on Station Road

2008- On Monday October 17th we moved into our new school on Station Road

2008- On Monday October 17th we moved into our new school on Station Road