About eighteen months ago some of the past residents of Ballaghaderreen expressed a desire to revisit the place where they spent most of their childhood and many of their teenage years. For many of these past residents it was the only home they knew and they were determined to return to visit the old school, institution and convent.Fifteen of them arrived in Ballaghaderreen. Thirteen met in Dublin and travelled down together and another two arrived from Mayo and met the group in Ballaghaderreen. Three of the party had travelled from England. This visit took a long time to organise and it was important that the residents really understood what they were returning to since many of them had ideal memories of their time there and it was obvious that apart from one or two difficult times Ballaghaderreen was the only home they knew.
The visit was organised by Geraldine Byrne rsc and by Margaret Garvey a local woman who lives in Ballaghaderreen. Margaret is a committed friend of the Sisters of Charity, of the past residents and of the people who lived in the institution.
They all stayed overnight in Durkin’s Hotel, Ballaghaderreen. On Saturday evening they were greeted by the proprietor of the hotel and then they had dinner. After dinner they retired to the entertainment room and some of the local people who remembered the past residents and were at school with them joined them for the evening. Stories were told, songs were sung, poems were recited and memories recalled. A delicious supper was prepared for all and the group was entertained by a local band. The local priest and many associated with the Sisters of Charity and the past residents of Ballaghaderreen also called in to visit us. The night went by far too quickly and many spent the evening dancing and they did not want the night to end.
After breakfast on Sunday morning they went to the Cathedral for Mass where they were welcomed back by the Parish Priest. Then all made the journey back to the convent. This was a good experience for most but for some it was a little difficult as it was their first time back since they left Ballaghaderreen more than forty years ago. It was indeed a poignant visit. The past residents walked on hallowed ground and explored the ruins and recalled memories of days gone by.
The convent was established in 1874 and later an industrial school was set up for girls where they taught 75 girls who had no homes and no one to care for them. When the Sisters of Charity left almost one hundred years later they were replaced by the Sisters of Mercy from Swinford. The Sisters of Mercy no longer live on the site. They live in a house nearby and the residents paid them a visit in their new home before leaving the area.
The time went all too quickly and the past residents returned home at noon on Sunday. They had a lovely lunch on the way back and arrived home safely thanking God for an enjoyable and healing weekend. The following was written by one of the locals to welcome the group:
“We went in the loveliest springtime to recall another past time
Our lives touched briefly one time, in classroom or in playtime
Friends were precious that time and youth seemed there for all time
So thank you Lord for this time, for Sr. Geraldine and the springtime!”
The Past Residents meet in Haddington Road, Dublin and have met several times since their visit to Ballaghaderreen. The consensus among the group is that they had a great time and that a return visit in 2012 is a must!