A specially designed commemorative plaque was unveiled at the former music school of the Sisters of Charity in Foxford on Sunday 16th July 2023. The school was founded by Sr Agnes Morrogh Bernard (1842-1932) alongside the Providence Woollen Mills in 1892, and Foxford Convent in 1925.
Present at the ceremony were the Bishop of Achonry, Paul Dempsey, the Parish Priest of Foxford, Fr Padraig Costello, four Sisters of Charity, Patrick Fox and Dave Howley who helped to organise the event, the Principal of St Joseph’s Secondary School, Daire McManamon, Cllr Neil Cruise and many parishioners. The plaque was unveiled by Sr Mary Roche RSC, a native of Foxford. Patrick Fox researched the history of the music school and was inspired by Nan Morris who learned music in the school in the 1940s.
The plaque depicts Mother Agnes Morrogh Bernard contemplating the flowing River Moy with its waterfall which prompted her to open a woollen mill for the relief of poverty in the district. Inscribed on the plaque are the names of Fr John Ryan S.J. who composed a pageant to celebrate the Mill’s Golden Jubilee and Prof. William O’Shaughnessy who composed the music. Nan Morris also gets a mention as the custodian of that music. Nan’s niece, Anne Case, travelled from Norwich for the event.
The Music School was opened one hundred years ago by Mother Agnes Morrogh Bernard, the foundress of the Foxford Woolen Mills (1892). She was assisted by Sr Dora Tyrrell who taught violin to the children. Gradually, as the Mill began to make progress, other instruments were purchased and as time passed, the Music School could boast of two orchestras, a senior and a junior. Concerts and musicals were held annually. The well-known Foxford Brass and Reed Band (established in 1897) was represented at the event by Eamonn Mangan in full band uniform.
On the first floor of the Music School, an oratory was the meeting place of the Children of Mary, the Mothers’ Sodality and other organisations. School retreats were also conducted there. In the 1970s it became a Commercial School where shorthand and typing classes were made available by the Sisters. The Music School is still in use by St Joseph’s Secondary School.
Reflections on the day by Sr Mary Roche RSC
Sr Mary, a Foxford native said that it was a great honour to unveil the plaque. “This music school meant so much to us. Not only was it a music school where I learned piano and violin, but also upstairs there was an oratory where we had school retreats. It then became a commercial school where Sr Rita and others taught girls shorthand and typing and got them on the road to jobs in the civil service. We used to have great concerts here as well. Maureen Ryder and myself used to play violin, standing one each side of the stage for the dancing. We had great times.”
Also commenting on the day, Bishop Paul Dempsey said: “We’re here to acknowledge the great contribution of the Sisters of Charity, 100 years since the music school was founded. Music is a great tradition here in Foxford and it goes back to the Sisters of Charity in Foxford.”
“When we actually look at what the Sisters of Charity have contributed – through their leadership, their vision, and their brilliance – they have brought so much here to Foxford and to so many other communities and parishes across the country. The Sisters of Charity have made such a positive contribution, through music, industry – the Foxford Woollen Mills – as well as through education and our schools here. They have contributed so much to people’s lives, living and deceased, and it’s great to be able to acknowledge that today.”
Thankfully, the morning was dry after non-stop rain the previous day. Srs Florence Haines and Rosaleen Heslin met some people they had taught in the Secondary School. Sr Colette met people she had worked with in the Foxford Woollen Mill while Sr Mary Roche met many friends and neighbours. The event was rounded off by an invitation to a ‘cuppa’ in the old boys’ school, now a state of the art Social Service Centre.
Sr Mary Roche RSC
For further information, read an article from Midwest Radio here.