The Convent of Mercy has been a religious, social and architectural landmark in the town of Carndonagh since it was first established in the late 1800s.

An impressive building overlooking the town, with the views down to Trawbreaga and beyond, the convent was home to the Sisters of Mercy, who played a pivotal role in the local community, providing education to generations of children, along with offering spiritual support to the local congregation for many years. 

In this article, the history of the convent is detailed by Sr. Brendan Burns, and below, the gallery includes images of the convent, the Sisters, teachers and pupils who frequented it. 

The Convent of Mercy, Carndonagh, early 19th century

May 1871 – June 1982

This article charting the history of the Sisters of Mercy in Carndonagh first appeared in ‘Derriana: The Journal of Derry Diocesan Historical Society’ in 1983, written by Sr. Brendan Burns.

Rev. Paul Bradley, P.P. Carndonagh, was the Founder of this Convent. He himself generously subscribed to the building fund and collected from the people of the parish. He went on board the ships at Moville and by informing the crews and passengers of his intention to have sisters in Carndonagh, and of his great need of money to build a Convent, he received generous subscriptions.

When at last the Convent was built and he applied to the Bishop, Most Rev. Dr.Kelly, for sisters to found the Community, he was refused. The Bishop said he could not allow sisters to go unless the convent was endowed. Fr. Paul was not discouraged and set about collecting again. After much labour and fatigue he succeeded in raising two thousand pounds, which he invested as a mortgage on the McSheffrey estate at Drumaville, the money to pay four per cent interest. This interest continued to pay forty pounds half yearly until the estate was purchased by the Land Commissioners, when the original two thousand pounds were paid to the Community.

Fr. Paul again applied for sisters and this time the Bishop consented. The Derry Community kindly offered to send sisters and on the third of May, 1871 the following four Sisters arrived in Carndonagh: Mother Mary Gertrude White as Superior, Sr. M. Aloysius Kennedy, Sr. M. Rose McEvoy and Sr. M. Agnes Moore who was a Novice. She made final profession in Carndonagh on August 23 of the same year.

The sisters received a warm welcome from Fr. Paul, who had done so much to establish the Convent, and from the people of the parish. On Sunday May the seventh, the house was formally opened. Rev. Fr. Brennan, S.J. preached the opening sermon. During that same year the sisters were appointed to the National School. They also started an Apostolate which has continued down through the years to the present day namely the visitation of the sick and needy.

The Sodality of the Children of Mary was established about that time. Monthly meetings were held in the Convent class rooms under the guidance of Mother M. Patrick, Sr. M. Benignus and Sr. M. Joseph. The different successive curates acted as Chaplains to the Sodality. Fathers Chapman and Campbell were the last two to fulfill that office.

In 1872 Sr. M. Rose McEvoy and Sr. M. Aloysius Kennedy returned to their own Convent in Derry.

The first Postulant to enter in Carndonagh Convent was Sr. M. Joseph Carr on February 2, 1872. Two years later, an English convert, Sr. M. of Mercy Gibson joined the Community. Sr. Alocoque Shields entered in 1878. Her life in the Community was short. She died in 1884. No other death occured in the Community for forty-three years.

Mother M. Gertrude White, who came to Carndonagh as returned to Derry in 1886.

In January 1888, Rev. McCullagh, P.P., appointed two sisters: Sr. M. Joseph Carr and Sr. M. Ethna O’Doherty to Glentogher School. These sisters walked there each morning and home in the evening. After some time kind friends presented them with a Brougham for the winter and a side car for the summer.

On the 26th September, 1898 Sr. M. of Mercy and Sr. M. Clare, who came to Carndonagh from Derry in 1892, joined a group of Derry sisters who were going on a Foundation to Perth, Australia. From the time of the Foundation a room upstairs was used as a Chapel. There was a partition between it and the Infant classroom which was also upstairs. The partition was opened every Sunday morning and the people from the surrounding area came in there to attend Mass. In the years 1904-1905 it was decided to add an extension to the existing building and have the Chapel down stairs. That is our present Chapel. It was renovated in 1962 and a new Altar was erected. The Altar was the bequest of the late Jane M. Doherty.

During the years 1910-1915 a lace class was carried on very successfully with a good attendance of girls from all over the parish. They were richly rewarded because it proved to be a most useful art in future years. They continued to work at the lace in their own homes and some of the most beautiful fine lace was sent from Carndonagh to the United States.

In the year 1929 a new Primary School was opened on the Mill Brae and pupils from the Convent School were transferred there.

During the years 1956-1958 three active sisters were called to their reward: Mother M. Benignus, Sr. M. Magdalen and Sr. M. Teresa. In 1958 the question of amalgamation arose and it was decided that we rejoin Derry from which we had been founded eighty-eight years previously.

A Secondary School was opened at the Convent in 1960 under the leadership of Sr. M. Eugenius. Sr. Margaret Mary and Sr. Frances (who came from Derry in 1969) were on the staff with a number of other teachers.

The Community School was opened in 1973 and Sisters Eugenius, Margaret Mary and Frances taught there. Sr. Frances returned to Derry in 1975.

Sr. Immaculata, Principal of the Primary School, started a class for mildly handicapped children in 1974. Sr. Margaret came from Derry in 1961. She was on the staff in Glentogher until 1965 when she was transferred to Moville, Sr. Matthew replaced Sr. Agnes who retired through ill-health as principal of Glentogher School in 1965 and remained for six years.

In 1971 the school passed from the hands of the Sisters. They had taught there for eight-three years. In 1978 permission was granted by the North Western Health Board for the opening of a Day Centre in the vacant classrooms at the Convent. The Care of the Aged Committee are responsible for the Centre. It is run efficiently by a staff of three: Sr. Catherine, Vera Doherty and Mary McLaughlin. Willie Doherty is responsible for transport.

(June 1982)

Fr. Paul Bradley was born in Doon, Draperstown, Co. Derry: He was Ordained in Maynooth in 1823. He died on 8th Nov., 1872.

Convent of Mercy, Carndonagh, Co. Donegal

The following four Sisters came from Derry, on May 3, 1871 to start a Foundation in Carndonagh:

Sr. M. Gertrude White, Superior. She returned to Derry 1886
Sr. M. Aloysius Kennedy. She returned to Derry in 18T2.
Sr. M. Rose McEvoy. She returned to Deny in 1872.
Sr. M. Agnes Moore, Novice. She remained and was Professed in Carndonagh.
Sr. M. Clare came from Derry in 1892. She went to Australia on 26th September, 1898.

Sr. M. Agnes Moore, Derry; Religious Profession 23 Aug. 1871, Died 1914
Sr. M. Joseph Carr, Newry, Co. Down; RP 22 October 1874, Died 1915
Sr. M. of Mercy Gibson, Bloomsbury, London; RP 11 Sept. 1877, Died 1922
She went to Australia on Sept. 26, 1898.
Sr. M. Alocoque Shields, Pomeroy, Co. Tyrone; RP 7 May, 1878, Died 1884.
Sr. M. Patrick Breen, Maguiresbridge, Co. Fermanagh; RP 23 Aug. 1887, Died 1933.
Sr. M. Bernard O’Doherty, Carndonagh, Co. Donegal; RP 22 Jan. 1887, Died 1948.
Sr. M. Columba Hynes, Athlone, Co. W’rneath 23 Aug. 1887; RP 23 Aug. 1887, Died 1933.
Sr. M. Ethna Doherty, Carndonagh, Co. Donegal. 23 Aug. 1887; RP 23 Aug. 1887, Died 1931.
Sr. M. Frances Duggan, Dublin. 21 April 1888; RP 21 April, 1888, Died 1931.
Sr. M. Ignatius Kileen, Tynagh, Co. Galway; RP 11 May 1901, Died 1916.
Sr. M. Aloysius Timoney, Cookstown, Co. Tyrone; RP 11 May 1901, Died 1916.
Sr. M. Malachy Carew, Doon, Co. Limerick; RP 26 May 1901, Died 1951.
Sr. M. Brigid Ryan, Thurles, Co. Tipperary; RP 4 Jan. 1911, Died 1951.
Sr. M. Benignus Boyle, Owenteskna, Co. Donegal; RP 25 April 1917, Died 1956.
Sr. Teresa Crawley, Lower KilleavY, 5- ** Co. Armagh; RP 25 July 1921, Died 1931.
Sr Philomena O’Doherty, Glendermott, Co. Derry; RP 16 Sept. 1922, Died 1929.
Sr. M. Dympna Mullin, Lurgan, Co. Armagh; RP 16 Sept. 1922, Died 1980.
Sr. Joseph McGilion, Omagh, Co. Tyrone; RP 5 Aug. 1929.
Sr Anthony McGourty, Ballinaglera, Co. Leitrim; RP 29 March 1930.
Sr. M. Agnes McManus, Belfast; RP 29 March 1930, Died 1970.
Sr. M. Brendan Burns, Ballinamore, Co. Leitrim; RP 15 Oct. 1937.
Sr. M. Magdalen McGinley, Carrick, Co. Donegal; RP 12 April 1938, Died 1958.
Sr. Teresa O’Donnell, Glenties, Co. Donegal; RP 7 June 1939, Died 1958.
Sr. M. Eugenius Keely, Gort, Co. Galway; RP 11 March 1941.
Sr. M. Catherine Farrelly, Ballinamore, Co. Leitrim; RP 10 October 1942.
Sr. M. Gertrude Griffin, Loughrea, Co. Galway; RP 10 Oct. 1942.
Sr. Margaret Mary McKinney, Culdaff, Co. Donegal; RP 11 Aug. 1953.
Sr. M. Immaculata Boyle, Owenteskna, Co. Donegal; RP 11 Aug. 1953.
Sr. M. Philomena Callaghan, Carndonagh, Co. Donegal; RP 20 May 1958.

-Sr. Brendan Bums, Carndonagh

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