The Convent School
As time went on, mother, knowing it was next to impossible to remain with father at Cloon since the place was running into debt, got anxious about our future and decided to put us girls into a convent situated on my uncle’s estate. Located as it was on the outskirts of Gort and separated from the road by an old stone bridge, it was a lovely old place surrounded with beautiful trees that met overhead. Although mother was worried about our finances, this is not to be taken too literally. All she had to do was to apply to chancery and the whole thing would be straightened out.
We were the only boarders, and the Sisters of Mercy gave us the best suite of rooms. Of course, we supplied our own silver ware, table linen, bed clothes, etc. It was just about the same as being at home. We were well supplied with flowers and fruit out of our own garden, and the nuns looked after the meals. We had a very happy time there, with picnics and outings for us every now and then. A beautiful river ran through the grounds, and we used to spend a great deal of time playing there on its banks. Sometimes we would visit a lovely little island in the stream, connected with the mainland by a rustic bridge and when the weather was fine, we would have a picnic with our friends and relations there.
We took a great interest in the welfare of the little birds. Of course, my eldest sisters were not included in this activity. The birds that seemed to demand our special attention were the young rooks that fell down from the branches overhead and they certainly gave us great concern. We would mix up a concoction of mud and sand and stuff it down their throats, and if this did not restore their health, we made little pills of small pebbles coated with mud and administered them. Seeing how the Sisters treated the patients who were taken into the hospital, we thought we should do the same to our charges. In order that we might give them the best of care, we made a little house with branches we got off the trees and installed the little sufferers in it.
I am afraid the little rooks were not greatly impressed with so much kindness; Of course, this state of affairs could not go on for long without the nuns finding it out and you may be sure we were severely punished for it. We certainly were very sorry when it was explained to us what great pain we were inflicting on the poor little birds. ‘
Uncle James took a great interest in us, especially our education and showed his affection by being like a second father. If anything was going on that he thought we would like, he always shared that pleasure with us. My eldest sisters always spent the weekends at his home and, if there was any enjoyment for us, we too would be taken over there. Father would call and try to get interested in our studies and enquire of the nuns how we were progressing. Then he would forget all about us for weeks at a time. The Sisters quite enjoyed his visits and felt very sorry for him. If any of them were ill, he would send snipe, woodcock, and all sorts of wild fowl to tickle their appetites. Sometimes, too, he gave many directions about us which we did not like. He would stop us from going on our outings with friends and even curtail our visits to Uncle James’ home.
In the autumn, we enjoyed having trips to the nut wood and what a lovely flavour those nuts had! No matter where I’ve been, I never tasted anything like them. The trees and shrubs at that time of the year were lovely with all the glorious tints so prevalent at that season.
About Christmas time we would visit the hospital near us, which was operated; by the Sisters. Our people contributed as pleasant a time as possible. They had the place decorated with evergreens, and all sorts of mottoes, made of leaves, embellished the walls of their rooms. Large tables were placed down the centres of the wards and loaded with every sort of good things to eat, and presents of things the patients needed. Quite a crowd of property owners and other people of affluence would visit it the day before Christmas. Sometimes the old families around would get up amusement parties in the convent grounds for charity. The Goughs would lend the gondolas from their lake and would take part in the affair; others would supply tents for fortune-telling, etc., and provide lunch and music for the guests. The fire-works looked so lovely, particularly when you could see the reflections in the river. And the Chinese lanterns suspended from the trees made the scene a veritable fairyland.
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Written by Elizabeth La Hiff Lambert
Published here 18 Aug 2022 and originally published 1979
Page 0078 of Athenry History
Bridge Street, Gort, County Galway, Ireland
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