Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

St. Joseph's National School
Carlow, Ireland

Sources: Carlow Now and Then. Summer 1998


Click on all images to enlarge!
The old St. Josephs School as it was in 2007.
Image by 'Carloman'
The rear of the old St. Josephs School c.2007.
Image by 'Carloman'
St Joseph's School c.1922.
Sr. Pansy in white at back. Tony Fenelon 8th from the right in the 2nd row from the front. Miss Wall (lady on the right).

Can you identify the class of '47?
WILLIAM Piggott, originally from Accommodation Road, Carlow and now living in New Oak estate, sent in the above photograph of his class, which was taken in 1947. William, who was born in 1940, was just seven at the time the photo was taken in St Joseph's NS, Carlow.
He has been piecing together the names of his classmates and remembers quite a few of his fellow pupils. He also remembers Sr Finbar, Sr Bertram and Sr Andrew, who were teachers at the school when he was there. After leaving school, William worked as a farm labourer, among other things, before he joined the sugar factory at the age of 18.
He continued to work there until his retirement in 2005, He's now appealing to his fellow Carlovians to fill in the missing names on the photograph. If you can remember anyone not mentioned in the picture, contact me, Elizabeth Lee, at The Nationalist on 059 9170109 or email

First class pupils from
St Joseph's NS, Carlow, pictured in 1947
(back row): Michael Byrne, ?, ?, Jim McGrath, Peter Farrell, ?, ?, Jimmy Slattery, Joe Hogan;
(third row, fourth from left) William Piggott, (third from right) PJ McDonald and (last in the row) Harry Slattery;
(second row): ?, ?, George McAssey, ? Carberry and ? Behan; (front row): ?, Dan Finlay, Willie Walsh, Des Broderick, Joe Mahon and Michael Whelan.
Source: The Nationalist p. 46, 22 September 2015

St. Joseph’s School c.1947
(Front How L to R) Willie Purcell, Eamonn Dooley, Billy Galbally RIP, Lar Darcy, John Reilly, Joe Mahon, Frankie Martin RIP
(2nd Row) Denis Harte, Tommy Farrell, Paudie Kinsella, Berto Kelly, Frank Boyle, Brian McMahon, Dermot McDonald, Christy Quinn.
(3rd Row) Billy Slater, Donal Littleton, Oliver Byrne, ........ Snoddy,  Leo Whelan, Joe Fenlon RIP, John McGrath, ........ Whelan, Bobby Quill.
(Back Row) Donald Fenlon, Danny Moore, Billy Cradden, Quigley, Jimmy Williamson, Johnnie Walters, Tom Kenny Noel Walsh, Danny O’Meara.

Photo appeared in Carlow Now and Then., Summer 1998 courtesy of Billy Piggott

It is believed that this list is almost correct, but there are some gaps, so If you can shed any light on the subject then please contact The Nationalist on 059 91 70100 or email news@carlow-natlonallst.le

St. Joseph’s c.1955

St Josephs school report circa 1963/64 (below)......Mine from Dominic Dunne Facebook c.2013

St. Joseph’s N.S. Celebrating 40 years.

Journalist JOE  O’BRIEN, a native of Barrack Street, Carlow and the current Agricultural Correspondent with RTE, was a pupil at St. Joseph’s from 1960 to 1964. Here Joe, a former staff journalist with The Nationalist recalls some childhood memories from those early school days.

“One of my earliest childhood memories is watching St Joseph’s being built early in 1960. I was only four years old but can vividly recall the slates of the roof being laid by a local craftsman.

“I had already started school in nearby Old St. Joseph’s. I sat beside Francis Moloney and our first teacher was Sr. Scholastica, recently deceased. I was the sixth of eight boys and she had previously taught several of my brothers.

“There were about fifty of us in ‘babies’ class. Already the ruler had been mildly introduced to enforce discipline. After a few months, the new school was completed and off we went.

“The official opening was by Bishop Keogh on a sunny Sunday morning. We were all lined up class by class waving pennants in the bright new concrete schoolyard as he strode across blessing with Holy Water.

“There was an instant feel of adventure about the new school. Instead of a century-old building, we had sixties best! Cloakrooms with coat-hangers and metal boxes for shoes, long bright corridors, and parquet flooring in the classrooms which meant we had to wear slippers to protect the high polish.

“One day we saw what looked like a coffin arriving. After a few hours our curiosity was satisfied when it was screwed to the wall as a plant holder in the reception area, beside the rocking horse which travelled from the old school.

“Sr. Finbarr was the principal, and though the atmosphere was generally happy, the place ran with precision.

“The winters were overhung with the smell of cocoa which was given free to children in plastic mugs in the new sheds. Anyone who wanted could also have slices of bread and jam - no butter.

Highlight of the school day was break-time in the spacious schoolyard. The games were simple, 'stagecoach' and 'tig'. There was many a fight too; but bloody nosed rows were years away yet.

“After ‘babies’ we moved to ‘high babies’ when we were taught by a novice with a white veil, Sr. Bernard - now Sr. Dolores of the Cathedral parish team. She seemed to be always smiling and enthusiastic and radiated confidence about her choice of career.

Sr. Euphrasia prepared us in First Communion class. We were so pure that year that even the desktops were Formica white. “Breakfast on the Big Day was in the Mercy Convent itself where the suited boys with white rosettes enjoyed jelly and buns. 7/6d was about as much as lads collected during the course of that day in 1962; a fortune then but pitiable by today’s standards.

“I missed making Communion with the rest of the class through illness, but instead Sr. Euphrasia gave me ‘high tea’ in the convent, and presents of sweets and holy statues.

“Another annual piece of excitement was the May Procession. We all had to assemble in the school on a Sunday morning with our white sashes, and join with all the other schools and sodalities for Benediction on the steps of St. Patrick’s College. The nuns wore special garb that day in addition to their wimples, belts, beads and veils. Out came their extra-long sleeves and white capes.

“Every now and then the class got a chances to play with the band instruments. We were given drums, triangles, maracas and tambourines to experiment with. The noise was terrible and we knew it even then.

“When we went to Mother Carmel in first class, the tone became a little more serious. The fun seemed to end and instead arithmetic, Irish and spellings loomed in our lives.

“The arrival of television was having a huge impact on everyone in the early sixties. TV aerials were put on every chimney in town. As I recall it, television had no greater impact than on the sport of boxing. Those were the days of the big fights involving Floyd Patterson, Sonny Liston and Cassius Clay - and the schoolyard fervour was palpable.

“Historical events like space travel and the Vatican Council were underway , but we were more fascinated with more tangible innovations such as the new ride-on lawnmower with which Joe ‘Jugger’ Brennan was cutting the school lawn; the new electric floor polisher, and the ‘mod’ music scene of the Clancy Brothers and Jim Reeves.

“Second class was our last year in St. Joseph’s. Our teacher was the colourful principal, Sr. Finbarr. She was elderly, lively and excitable. She loved talking about her native Kerry. She used a special bamboo with a hooked handle for slapping, but mostly the threat of the ‘big hard cane’ was sufficient to maintain order.

“Despite that, Sr. Finbarr had a great sense of fun and relished telling exaggerated stories. She had her favourites. Her pet in our class was Georgie Mealey, on whom she depended to carry out many of the chores connected with the running of the school. “Sadly, Georgie died earlier this year.

“I recall some of the highs and lows of that year. There was great excitement when Aidan McKeown had his appendix removed and groups of us trooped up to visit him in St. Brigid’s Hospital. On the other hand we were truly stunned when Padraig Harvey’s father, the Garda Superintendent, died suddenly. Padraig and his mother moved to Donegal permanently shortly afterwards.

“Every year at the end of June, the nuns organised a ceremony of farewell. Pupils were lined up around the statue of St. Joseph (whose arm was invariably broken) in front of the school to wave off the senior classes as they left the premises for the last time and made their way to the new world of the Brothers.

“In June 1964, our turn came to say goodbye, and we were waved off. “However, we were looking forward to the rough-and-tumble of the CBS and we didn’t look back.

“Even though I have nothing but the happiest of memories of St Joseph’s, we rarely saw the nuns ever again. We took for granted everything they had done for us, and though change was everywhere in the sixties, we simply assumed that St. Joseph’s would be staffed entirely, eternally, by the Sisters of Mercy.

“Now forty years later, the nuns are gone, but St. Joseph’s continues - with lay teachers. The boys learning and playing there today are forming the memories which, in turn, will give them much pleasure in forty years time.”

Source: Carlow Nationalist on Friday June 16th 2000

Notes from another ex-pupil:

The old St. Josephs School building which was administrated by the Mercy Order of Nuns is now the Citizens Advice and Community Services Centre in St. Joseph's Road, Carlow near the Railway Station and adjacent to this is the new St. Joseph's School, built in the early 1960s.

The original building is the first one you pass when you turn left out of the Railway Station. It was originally a two room school and my Father went there about 1915. When I went 40 years later it had the two front rooms added and still had dry toilets. The Mercy Sister's also had two additional rooms in the Bishop Foley Schools. I can still smell the raincoats hanging on the hooks over the radiators in the cloak rooms.

The long garden opposite the Railway station possibly still belongs to the railway. In my time CIE had a stable there and Mr Nolan (I Think) from Burrin Street had two Shire Horses there. They were used to pull a float with goods delivered by rail for onward delivery to businesses premises in the Town.

Thomas Thompson's used to send a man up to the station every day on a "Wrigley" a small three wheeled machine with a two stroke engine. God help him he used be plagued with young fellows coming from school trying to jump into the back of it. He had a long rope and used to try and whip them away.

We don't appreciate what a good education the religious orders and their lay colleagues did for us, the very small few bad apples destroyed the good name they had. Many of us would not be where we are today without the effort those people put in.

There exists a school photograph, I have a poor newspaper copy from the Nationalist taken on the day that Gerry Darcy started as Primary Teacher there in the late 1950s. I wonder if we could tap into the Nationalist archives, some one must have them in safe keeping. I have sent an email to the Mercy Convent to try and find out if the old Roll books of St Joseph's are still there.

Oh and have a look at the Mercy boarding school web site: Images of St Leo's, the photographs of the facility are unbelievable. They must have been taken during summer holidays when the girls were away. If you were looking for a boarding school to send a child to you would not be impressed. The place looks forbidding and scary!

PP Jan 2007

On the other hand, we didn't have running water, lockers or a library in Arles NS but it does look very cold but clean.



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