Sr Bríd’s 90th Birthday Celebration took place on 16th February 2019 and was organised by Past Pupils, of the former St Mary’s School for the Visually Impaired in Merrion, Dublin. Sr Bríd was Headmistress of St Mary’s School from 1959 – 1987. During those years monumental changes occurred in the education of the Visually Impaired…
…including the building of a new school and swimming pool. Sr Bríd’s vision, enthusiasm and drive helped to change the educational experiences of these children dramatically and prepared them to take their place amongst their sighted peers in a manner heretofore unimagined – making 3rd Level education quite common for most. Many are now engaged as physiotherapists, translators, psychologists, teachers, telephonists and in many other remunerative occupations. One is a Barrister-at-Law and another is Medical Social Worker in Crumlin Children’s Hospital. Many have married and some are Religious Sisters. This is a far cry from the days long ago when most would have remained in Merrion in an institutional setting for life. One past pupil wrote some years ago while reminiscing on her time in Merrion:
Yes, Merrion has changed a lot since my arrival on that September evening back in 1954! Six o’clock rising had gone a long time. A sleep-in at weekends was quite commonplace. But could I dwell for a minute on Merrion’s legacy to me? I left Merrion very well versed in the 3R’s, along with knowledge of other subjects too. Merrion also equipped me with my gateway to employment – a very good commercial course. But Merrion equipped me for something else. At the moment I’m rearing an 8-year-old son with only the help of my husband. Without Merrion this would never have come about. Indeed, I don’t mean to sound too sombre, but it frightens me when I think of what might have been my lifestyle had I not gone to St Mary’s school all those years ago!
The 90th Birthday Celebration began with Mass, celebrated in the former convent chapel by Fr Michael O’Grady (Parish Priest, Cabra West, Dublin). Approximately 65 past pupils attended together with some Sisters who had been involved with the pupils – not to mention quite a few guide dogs!! Boys also attended the school up to the age of approximately seven years and some of them returned for Bríd’s celebration. All the liturgy was prepared by the past pupils themselves – organised by Christine Meenagh and Sr Eileen Cartin – a member of the Congregation of Marie Auxiliatrice (who is also a past pupil and psychotherapist). Fr Michael introduced the Mass with a lovely account of Bríd’s involvement in the development of the school. Bríd was then brought to the altar to light a special candle in her honour – to great applause! The Readings and Prayers of the Faithful were of course read from Braille – and the dogs were always very much in attendance!
After the Mass all went to St. Mary’s dining hall for refreshments and general socialisation. It was wonderful to see and hear the excited greetings amongst these past pupils who hadn’t met each other for years. Merrion was ‘home’ for all these girls for most of their early lives – a place where they forged very strong lasting friendships. They reminisced on the past and exchanged current news of families etc. It was quite obvious that their experience of Merrion was happy and one felt that the day’s celebration was a fitting tribute to Bríd.
This wonderful day culminated in the cutting of the Birthday Cake – with speeches of sincere appreciation for all Sr Bríd’s hard work throughout her years as Headmistress (and earlier as class teacher). Amongst the many cards and good wishes that Bríd received was one, which summarises all the sentiments of the others:
Dear Sr Bríd, congratulations and best wishes on your special birthday. For me you are always the lovely young Sr Kevin, full of love and inspiration, who brought light and fun to my school life.
Anne Lally RSC