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HISTORY OF DOMINICAN CONVENT AND COLLEGES, ECCLES STREET, DUBLIN

1882
28th December, Mother Antonina Hanley and three other sisters from Sion Hill founded a Convent in Eccles Street and joined by two further sisters took on the responsibility for the development and running of an educational establishment for girls. The Dominican Sisters were unique in education history in Ireland in setting out to provide for the educational needs of the daughters of the growing urban Catholic middleclass and later (with the founding of a boarding school) of rural Ireland. The passing of the Intermediate Act of 1878 opened up a new system for the education of girls, which was previously denied them. With vision, fortitude and practical common sense, these sisters set about transforming Tyrawley House (19 Eccles Street) into a Convent for the Dominican Community and starting with No. 18 into an educational establishment to answer the needs not only of the time, but for future generations over the next 100 years. The Community were supported by philanthropists, including Count Christopher Ryder, whose loan for the purchase of the premises later became a gift and was named as a founder on the trowel used for the formal founding of the new wing in 1888. Tyrawley House was not part of a terrace but had space either side of it which allowed for new buildings on Eccles Street.

Mother Antonina Hanley and No. 19 Eccles Street, Tyrawley House

1883
10th January the Day School opened for Junior and Senior pupils at 18 Eccles Street with 15 pupils. In April the Orphanage of Our Lady of Sion was opened to cater for the needs of ‘distressed and orphaned’ daughters of parents who had fallen on hard times. A few years later, this name ceased to be used and the orphanage was assimilated into the day school which was renamed Dominican College, Eccles Street.

Orphanage of Our Lady of Sion built beside Tyrawley House

1884
In September 1884 regular study for the Intermediate Board Examination commenced for the seniors and three students were presented and passed with Honours. During the years 1884-1888 12 Exhibitions, 23 Prizes, 212 Honours and a Silver Medal were awarded to pupils of Eccles Street by the Intermediate Board. The new style of curriculum established by the sisters almost from the onset was not exclusively preparation for examinations but the formation of character and cultivation of taste was very much included. The education provided ensured the girls from Eccles Street would be prepared to take their places and contribute in the academic, business, scientific, political and artistic worlds of the time, during the turbulent times of the foundation of the new State in Ireland and into the era of the establishment of Civil Rights for Women. However, it must not be overlooked that the years spent in Eccles Street prepared the majority of girls for the unique position as mothers of the next generation.

1885
University Classes opened in St Mary’s University College, the first Catholic women’s university college in Ireland. The college was co-founded by Mother Patrick Sheil with Mother Antonina to provide classes for girls who were preparing to sit for the Examining Board of the Royal University, who awarded degrees to its successful students.  From 1893-1895 Mary Hayden, First President of DCPPU, was on the professional staff of St Mary’s University College as was Eamonn de Valera.

1888
The first new block was built to accommodate the expanding number of pupils wishing to attend Eccles Street. This new block held the Junior School, Study Hall and Dormitory which later became the Gymnasium, an Art Room and the School Library. In this year Mother Antonina Hanley died to the great grief of the community.

Original Blessed Virgin's Dormitory and Students' Library, Dominican College

1891
6th September the new Boarding School was opened.

1895
No’s 20 & 21 Eccles Street were acquired and St Josephs was created with classrooms on the lower floors and the Junior Dormitories in the upper floor.

1898
St Thomas Academy for junior boys was opened in April 1898 and it flourished with many of the boys accompanying their sisters to school. The boys’ school was located in St Joseph’s No 21, then No. 15 and in 1958 moved to 13 Eccles Street. After receiving First Holy Communion these boys would continue their education in local boys’ schools such as Belvedere College, O’Connell’s and Coláiste Mhuire.

1900
From 1900 - 1909 Mary Hayden, the First President DCPPU, taught English and History to the Senior and Intermediate Classes in Dominican College.

1903
No’s 23 & 24 Eccles Street was acquired for St Mary’s University College which was briefly located in Eccles Street, then in 28 Merrion Square, moved to Muckross Park and back to Eccles Street for the last nine years until University College, Dublin opened up to Women Students in 1909.

1907
The building of the Chapel Block commenced in 1907 in the space between Tyrawley House and No 20 with a frontage on Eccles Street.

New Chapel Block built beside Tyrawley House, Eccles Street

1908
September St Dominic’s Training College for Teachers was established by Mother Peter McGrath at 17 Eccles Street which provided second level teacher training for young women who wished to qualify for the Secondary Diploma granted by Cambridge University. This college ceased when the Higher Education classes commenced in University College, Dublin in 1911. Louise Gavan Duffy, one of the founders of DCPPU, was a student of college and obtained the Cambridge Diploma in 1912.

1909
The Rosary Chapel, located on the top floor, opened in 1909. The chapel was beautifully designed with green marble columns with carved capitals. The chapel had a beautiful stained glass window in the apse depicting the Rosary by Harry Clarke and a dome with a fresco of Our Lady and these features delineated the chapel on the façade on Eccles Street. There were five arched bays with stained glass windows, wrought iron screens and an organ gallery. The stained glass windows and Lantern are now in the Convent, Griffith Avenue and the screens were installed in Scoil Chaitríona, Mobhi Road. The organ is now installed in Athboy Church and the Pearse Altar is in St John’s Church, Monkstown, Co Dublin. The Statues from the side altars are located in the grounds of the Convent and College, Griffith Avenue.

1909
No’s 16 & 15 Eccles Street were acquired.

1911
Dominican Hall was opened to provide a residence for female university students at 49 St Stephen’s Green. The hall remained open for students until 1966.

Past students celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the foundation of Dominican Hall, 1962

1913
The Lanthorn Yearbook of Dominican College was first published in 1913. Successive issues of The Lanthorn from its first number in 1913 until 1971 and the special Centenary Lanthorn of 1982, contained details and photographs of the sporting and artistic activities and educational achievements of the current pupils of the colleges. The achievements of past pupils in the academic and business worlds, marriages and births and visits to the school to see the Sisters were recorded. The Annual Report of DCPPU was also included which detailed the social and sporting activities of the members of the Union. Copies of the Lanthorn still lovingly retained by past pupils were used to obtain many of the images used in the Website.

1914
A number of dedicated Past Pupils decided it was time to establish a union that had been in discussion during the previous year. The main purpose of the new Union was to provide a basis where they could meet socially and thus retain many of the friendships made during their school years. On 6th June 1914 the first meeting chaired by Louise Gavan Duffy was held at Dominican College, Eccles Street by kind permission of Mother Prioress and a provisional committee was formed. It was decided to circularise all past pupils and convene a general meeting in November of that year. On the 11th November 2014 the first President of the Union was elected, together with Officers and Committee. Professor Mary Hayden MA D Litt, the first President, remained in office until her death in 1943

1925
The building of the New School Block commenced between Tyrawley House and 17 Eccles Street and was completed 1927. This block contained the Concert Hall, St Dominic’s dormitory, science rooms and music rooms. The beautiful Concert Hall (St Peter’s Hall) was opened in June 1928 with a splendid concert. It was a large auditorium with dark wooden floor, large stage area with heavy navy blue velvet curtains and a wonderful semi-circular gallery with three round arched windows on the street facade.

View of Dominican College Eccles Street, showing the new School Block and Concert Hall

1928
22 Eccles Street was acquired and Scoil Chaitríona was founded there, a year after Irish became a required subject in the curriculum, where all subjects were taught though the medium of Irish.

1930
The Commercial College was established to prepare girls, who had completed their secondary education, for examination in Shorthand, Typewriting and Book-keeping and careers in the business and financial worlds or government services. The curriculum also included classes in religious knowledge, languages and grooming and all students were prepared for interview. Students were highly successful in obtaining jobs in the Civil Service, Banks and Law Firms.

Students and Graduates of the Commercial College, many of whom went on to become Civil Servents. Pictured above are writing assistants (1937) and Civil Servents (1943)

1937
The new Junior School building - St Hyacinth’s built on the site of the Old Drill Hall - was opened to its 200 little pupils in 1937. The building was later extended in 1965 with the addition of two upper floors. It consisted of three classrooms on the first floor. Halfway up the staircase to the second floor there was a door out to the nun’s garden. On the second floor there were three more classrooms where the girls were prepared for First Holy communion. The school looked out onto the Nun’s Garden and the Playground where the Annual Junior Drill Display was held.

St Hyacinth’s Junior School, Eccles Street, showing the later extension

1941
St Anne’s School for Domestic Economy was opened at 14 Eccles Street during the War years to provide a one year specialised course in Household Management. It was designed to prepare senior girls for the management of a home. It also prepared girls for the Entrance Examination to the Domestic Science Training Course, St Catherine’s, Sion Hill or entry to other Home Economics Teacher Training Colleges.

Students of St Anne's School for Domestic Economy, located at 14 Eccles Street

1965
St Thomas Academy closed as more accommodation was required for the increase in numbers of second level students. The boys entered the Junior School with the girls and the Junior School was co-ed until it closed 10 years later.

1965
St Anne’s was closed.

1966
No’s 12 Eccles Street was acquired.

1972
Scoil Chaitríona transferred to Mobhi Road. As Scoil Chaitríona had outgrown the accommodation available in Eccles Street, it became necessary for the school to relocate, so in 1970 building of the new school in Mobhi Road commenced.

1975
Junior School was closed in 1975 to allow for the expansion of the senior school. Following the introduction of Free Second Level Education in 1967, there was an increase in pupils seeking places in Eccles Street.

1978
The Mater Hospital Management commenced negotiations with the Dominican Community in furtherance of their intent to acquire the entire block of buildings occupied by the school to provide for the expansion of the hospital.

1978
Commercial College closed

1982
The Centenary of the Dominican Convent and Dominican College was celebrated in Eccles Street.

1984
Convent and Dominican College, Eccles Street transferred to 204, Griffith Avenue. School Buildings demolished.

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