Jottings of my Life in Tyrone, Ireland –Taylors Hill Convent

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Taylors Hill Convent

We had been at Tyrone about a year when another event happened: Mother wished us four sisters to go as boarders to the Dominican Convent for a few years to finish our studies. It was beautifully situated on Taylor’s Hill just outside Galway, surrounded by trees and large fields gently sloping down to the sea. From it there was a lovely view of that famous stretch of water, Galway Bay.

We had such nice friends and companions there that we did not feel the time passing, and the summer vacation that lasted two months was at hand. At Christmas and Easter we were not allowed to leave for home because the holidays were too short, and it would cause quite a lot of extra trouble getting the classes into shape again. It was the rule never to allow us outside the grounds during these vacation periods, but our friends could spend each day with us, and we could wear any clothes we liked when going to the reception room instead of the regulation black. Since that was the order of the school, white collars and cuffs were worn to relieve the dark dress.

Of course, with us remaining in school during the holidays, we came in for great attention, as was to be expected. You should have seen the tremendous hampers of good things to eat: wonderful consignments of wild birds, fruit, wines, cakes, etc. We always shared with our school chums anything that was sent to us on such occasions. Then, after Easter we would keep counting the months, days and minutes until the summer holidays arrived. Although we were as happy as school girls could be at the convent, I was always glad when the time came for us to leave it for a while and enjoy the unrestricted pleasures of home and the company of my mother and brothers. In fact, after such a glorious time with them, I hated the thought of returning to school again. If I only had had the good sense to understand and value those precious years how much happier and contented l could have been. But it seems as if it matters not how easy life is, there is always something we long for just beyond our reach.

Taylor’s Hill convent was screened from the inquisitive eyes of those who passed along the road, and also from the villas on each side of it by a very high wall, while the remainder was left open to the sea. This wall often caused us a lot of trouble as we were forever wondering what the people on the other side were doing, and I was often punished for trying to look over it. There was only one way in which that could be done, and that was by looking from the skylight windows in the dormitory.

Now it so happened that my chum, Emily Redington, and I were being punished for something or other – I forget what – and we were sent up to the dormitory for the rest of the afternoon. So, we thought we would climb up and look out of the window which was just over my bed. We took all the pillows from the rest of the cots and piled them up on mine. This enabled us, or rather me, to push my head through the ventilator (for that is what the windows really were) and see what the neighbours were doing in the next residence.

I could tell from their voices that they were playing tennis and I wanted to see how the game was progressing. I had just managed to squeeze my head through the window when my chum said, “Hush, I hear one of the Sisters coming up, I think I heard her footsteps on the stairs.” Naturally I got very frightened, and my friend jumped into her bed and covered up her head, when to my horror the pillows crumpled up beneath my feet and I was held prisoner with my head caught in the ventilator. I was nearly strangled being held in that position with my feet dangling in thin air. After a fierce struggle my head worked loose, and down I came with a flop on the bed and nearly somersaulted into the arms of the good Sister. Of course, I apologized to her, but she reported it to headquarters. I was severely reprimanded and informed that the next time anything like that occurred I would be sent home in disgrace. I need hardly say that the admonition was quite unnecessary as I was so frightened it had a lasting effect on me and I had no intention of trying it again.

We had our own ideas of getting even with any girls who sneaked on us.’ There was one little girl who, although only six or seven years old, was always prying into our affairs and making trouble. So, one day a group of us caught her and told her we were going to put a wasp under her clothes so it could sting her. We found a dead one and placed it in her pants just to frighten her. Of course, she thought it was alive, and kicked up such a rumpus that we thought she was going to have a fit. A number of girls carried her back to the convent and, when the Sisters found out what we had done, we were all sent to bed without any supper. I will never forget how hungry we were after being outside playing all afternoon.

Speaking of supper reminds me of the visits the Provincial of the order used to make when on tours of inspection. Whenever he came, it was a red-letter day with us. He was one of those dear old gentlemen who seemed to know just what we school girls would enjoy most. Discipline was relaxed as much as possible, and we were given a sumptuous repast in the evening. Fruit pies, cakes, sweets and tarts were served in profusion, together with all the tea, cocoa or lemonade we could drink. I often wondered why our heads were not swollen the next morning from the quantity of things we could eat, but it just went to show what a good healthy stomach can stand.

We remained at the convent for nearly three years. Looking back on them now, I can see what happy years they were, although at the time, perhaps, we did not know how well off we were in spite of the trouble we seemed to get into for disobeying the rules. The Sisters were monuments of patience and kindness, and although they were strict disciplinarians, they were loved and respected by all of us.

Taylors Hill Convent

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About this record

Written by Elizabeth La Hiff Lambert

Published here 22 Aug 2022 and originally published 1979

Page 0085 of the Athenry History archive.

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