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Tuesday, 19 December 2023

Kylemore School Through The Years

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The 1920's
Kylemore Abbey school was officially opened on September 11th 1923. The spirit of the school was very much anchored around a rich interior world with the freedom to enjoy nature and friendships in a safe nurturing environment. Although the nuns ran a school at Kylemore from 1921, it was 1923 when it officially opened as Scoil Áine. Dame Scholastica Murphy was the key person in the establishment of the school and she became the first headmistress. Each month until September we will be sharing a collection of photographs from each decade of the school and a selection of these will be added to our school exhibition area in the Abbey to celebrate 100 years of Kylemore Abbey School.

The 1930's
Many of our past pupils will probably be familiar with the iconic image of the Indian princesses (nieces of Ranjitsinhji, the Maharaja who owned Ballynahinch Castle) on the school steps with their fellow pupils but it never loses its charm! Less familiar will be this very amusing image of girls enacting a scene from a play on the lawn to the east of the Abbey. The building behind them which was the original location of Mitchell Henry's 'turkish bath' was converted to a day school in the 1930s, the day and boarding schools were eventually amalgamated✏️ There are many scenes of musicals and plays both in Kylemore and even much earlier at Macmine and Ypres in our archive but this is the only Kylemore version staged outside. We love the costumes including the beard and moustache! It would be interesting to know if anyone can recognise the scene! Each month until September 2023, we will be sharing photographs from each decade of the school and a selection of these will be added to our school exhibition area in the Abbey to celebrate 100 years of Kylemore Abbey School.

The 1960's
 This decade was a crucial one in the development of the school, following the fire in 1959 and the uncertainty that came with it. As the Abbey was so badly damaged the school had to move to Bunaboghee house, the former home of Florence Henry for two years. When the pupils returned it was to a newly refurbished and expanded school with bright new classrooms and the addition of Saint Josephs which provided a more private enclosure for the nuns. As the story of the school's remarkable survival and rebirth spread, the famous Radharc documentary crew came to Kylemore in 1962 to see for themselves what had been achieved. Here we have a number of stills captured from the documentary which show some pupils attending a summer school here at Kylemore. The nuns actually charted a number of special flights to bring school girls from Paris to Dublin for their summer programme and thereby created a marketing buzz that we would be envious of today! Each month as we search through our archive we are often trying to discern the era from clothes and hairstyles, sixties fashion for twin sets and set hair is evident in quite a few of these images which we really hope you enjoy. Past pupils will be interested to see Dame Benedict O' Beirne as a young nun sharing her love of nature with the pupils.
Many thanks to Olivia Cheevers Cooke for her continued help regarding the history of the school during this era.

The 1970's
That 70s School! We bring you a charming selection of 1970s images.
In these photos pride of place is taken by the grey pinafore which was introduced early in the decade and lasted until the 1980s when it was replaced with the grey skirt, check shirt and navy jumper combination. Many people might be surprised and amused by the sky high hems but in many ways Kylemore School was a place that reflected cultural changes and allowed girls to be teenagers as well as students. These photos also have many familiar faces some who are no longer with us like Dame Mary O'Toole and Sr Gregory. Happily there are other members of the community who are still very much a part of Kylemore today just as they were during the school years, Sr.Noreen (Peter), Sr.Dorothy (as a postulant in 1977) and Sr. Magdalena are all pictured, surrounded by students.
With unmarked archive photographs there is always some guess work so maybe someone can correct us on whether the debs photo, probably clipped from the Connaught Tribune is 1970s or 1980s and the same for what looks like a fun pyjama part in the farm!

The 1980's
We bring you some lovely black and white images from the 1980s. These photographs look as if they were taken by a professional photographer and may have been for the Connaught Tribune or another regional paper. The special guest on the day is Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiaich. At the time these photos were taken, Cardinal Ó Fiaich was the Catholic Primate of All Ireland, and he was Bishop of Armagh from 1977.
Pride of place in the photos is taken by the school girls in their grey pinafores which were phased out in the late eighties, teamed with brown brogues and the blue and white gingham blouse they made quite a fashion statement! Some of the girls are also dressed in girl guide uniforms and at least one large national girl guide jamboree took place here at Kylemore in the 1980s. Girls guides met in the language room on Saturdays and in the restoration in 2019 we found some of their guide brochures and materials still tucked away at the top of a cupboard!
At this time the school was growing with strong numbers of day pupils and boarders.
The final photos added here are of some familiar and well-loved faces some of whom were with the school from the 1970s until its closure in 2010. Enjoy a glimpse around the staff room door to see the familiar faces of Mr and Mrs Smyth, Miss O'Connell, and Miss Hennelly, Miss Dempsey (who would go on to be school principal, Mr Cummins and Mrs Goff.
As always we look forward to having names and details filled in by past pupils.

The 1990's
We bring you some lovely photos from the school in the 1990s. The 1990s was a vibrant decade across the Kylemore estate and celebrations such as the opening of the restored neo Gothic Church by then president of Ireland, Mary Robinson in 1995 were a welcome distraction from studies. Following the restoration of the Gothic church the nuns then looked to the next big heritage project for Kylemore which would be the restoration of the Victorian Walled Gardens which began in 1995. The school was a very busy place with near maximum capacity in all areas. The student body was made up almost half and half of boarders from Ireland and around the world and day girls from the local area. Kylemore was performing well in sports, hockey and basketball, under the guidance of Mrs. Cummins and girls were enjoying music with Sr Karol, HEC with Mrs. Smyth and art classes with Sr Anna Sweeney. Sr Dorothy's computer lab became busier as the world wide web reached Kylemore for the first time later in the decade. Next month we will bring our final installment of school posts as Kylemore school celebrates 100 years and we will take a look at what the new millennium was to bring to the valley of Kylemore.