Castleisland Schools: Presentation Convent Girls

'They shall shine like stars for all eternity in the Kingdom of His saints'

– Very Rev Monsignor Tobias Kirby, Rector of the Irish College, Rome, 
 congratulating the Presentation nuns on founding a convent at Lixnaw in 1877


A 102-pg registration book for Castleisland Convent School Girls dating from the 1860s to 1947 forms part of the O’Donohoe archive.  Also a useful index of surnames which feature in the combined registers of the Boys’ National School, Convent Boys School and Convent Girls School in Castleisland (see links at the bottom of the page).


Material relating to the history of the Presentation Convent in the town is also included.1


The Presentation Convent & Church of Saints Stephen & John in Castleisland. ©Photograph: John Reidy 8-3-2015
The Presentation Convent & Church of Saints Stephen & John in Castleisland. ©Photograph: John Reidy 8-3-2015


Foundation of the Convent in Castleisland


The Convent was founded in 1846 by Mother Joseph Harnett (birth name Honora Harnett). Mother Joseph was born in 1798, daughter of magistrate, William Harnett Esq of Sandville House, Castleisland.


Mother Joseph died on 25 April 1888 in her 90th year. An obituary outlined her life achievements:


In 1837 Mother Joseph Harnett came from the Parent House, Cork at the request of the well-known Dr Hogan, PP, St Michael’s, and of Miss Maria King, to found the Presentation Convent in Limerick, the first and only religious institution at the time in the city. After nine years indefatigable energy and labour she had the consolation of seeing the foundation fully established and flourishing. Therefore, at the request of the late Venerable Archdeacon O’Leary, PP, Castleisland, she again in 1846 set out for a foundation in that town.


In Castleisland, ‘poverty and want stared Mother Joseph in the face’.  It was supposed the foundation should be given up: ‘The damp, comfortless state of their poor house brought illness to the sisters; one died, another returned to Limerick, and Mother Joseph had to brave the battle alone with two aspirants’.2


Mother Joseph’s brother, Michael Harnett Esq, then residing in Liverpool, sent his sister £1,800 to help fund the building of the convent and in 1859 he gave her £2,000 towards building the convent in Kenmare.3


The obituary concluded:


Lixnaw and Sneem were also branches from Mother Joseph’s House, Castleisland. She reached the grand old age of 90 and was 62 years professed. She possessed to the last her full faculties and never ceased to exercise her zeal and energies for the glory of God and wellbeing of her Institute. She was a true daughter of Nano Nagle.4


It is worth noting that the convent at Lixnaw was co-founded by Mary Dympna Godfrey (1851-1914) of the Godfrey family of Kilcolman Abbey, Milltown, Co Kerry.  Mary Dympna took the veil in the Presentation Convent, Castleisland in 1871.  She contributed to the cost of building at Lixnaw with a literary output disguised under title of ‘Member of the Presentation Community’.5


Literature from Lixnaw: Martyrs of Castelfidardo by Mary Dympna Godfrey who published many books from Presentation Convent, Lixnaw

Harnett family of Castleisland


Michael Harnett and his brother John made significant financial contributions to their native Castleisland.6  John Harnett died in 1883; an obituary provides biography:


Death of a Liverpool Merchant – Today (Friday) the remains of Mr John Harnett, who for upwards of half a century was a corn broker in this city, will be interred at Cheltenham. Mr Harnett, who was a native of Castleisland, county Kerry, came to Liverpool about 55 years ago and, having spent some time with Messrs Maxwell corn merchants, joined his brother Michael and established the corn broking firm of J & M Harnett. They were very successful in business and became one of the most extensive firms of the kind in the city. Mr Michael Harnett having died about eleven years ago, his brother retired from business two years later and went to reside in France and then at Cheltenham where he died on Monday morning at the ripe age of 82 years. The firm of J & M Harnett is now carried on in Brunswick-street by Mr William Harnett, a nephew of deceased and Mr Comerford.7


Michael Harnett’s generosity extended to his local parish in England. He contributed to the building of St Werburgh’s Parish Church in Chester:


The most urgent need which faced Eugene Buquet when he arrived in Chester was the building of a new church … through the generosity of two well-known benefactors to the diocese, Michael and John Harnett … the site of the present church, opposite Grosvenor Park, was acquired.8


A short, unremarkable notice of Michael’s death was published in the Cheshire Observer of 8 November 1873: ‘Died on the 5th inst at Dawstone, Heswall, Cheshire, aged 70, Michael Harnett Esq late of Liverpool’.9


Presentation Convent Castleisland from an image in the collection


Another Harnett sibling, Mary, married in 1819 to Joseph Edward Vize Esq of Whitehall Co Clare and had a large family before her early death, at Sandville, in 1829.10  


One of her daughters, Mary Catherine Vize, followed the path of her aunt and ‘received the white veil’ in Limerick in 1843.11  She was received into the Castleisland Convent in early January 1849 where she died from consumption soon after, on 2nd April 1849.


Castleisland historian, T M Donovan recalled another of Mother Joseph’s siblings, ‘a most charitable lady’ who in her late years lived in the convent:


In the terribly bad year of ’79 she clothed and fed all the poor children of the town. May God give her a crown of glory in heaven.12


Edward, another of Sister Joseph’s brothers who remained in Castleisland, rescued a young woman who was abducted in the early part of the nineteenth century:


The young woman forcibly taken away from Listowel has been found and restored to her family by Edward Harnett of Sandville and Dan Harnett of Listowel, Esqs, while grousing on the mountain of Knockgarrane in County Cork; she was confined to a cabin there at which these gentlemen accidentally called to procure food for their dogs. Her name is Elenor Collins and she is fully determined to prosecute all those concerned in her abduction.13


It was a less happy ending for an RIC constable from the Castleisland Barracks who fell in love with ‘a young maid’ from the convent later in the century. Patrick McDonagh, one of the thirteen RIC constables who resigned in 1887, travelled to America where he was to take up new employment.


During the voyage ‘he became insane … it broke his heart to leave her and made him a maniac at sea’.14


Special thanks to Eileen Chamberlain for assistance in research of this note.


Tranquility itself: Sr. Lelia reflecting in the Presentation Convent Chapel in Castleisland. ©Photograph: John Reidy 26-9-2013
Tranquility itself: Sr. Lelia reflecting in the Presentation Convent Chapel in Castleisland. ©Photograph: John Reidy 26-9-2013


Presentation Convent School Girls Registration Book


The links below allow access to the school records which include age/date of birth, address and father’s occupation.


One handwritten A4 index of surnames, Ahern to Wynn, found in register with guide to page numbers

Page 1 (of 102) of registration book, Ahern to Barclay

Page 2 (of 102) of registration book, Barrett to Barry

Page 3 (of 102) of registration book, Bastible to Bradley

Page 4 (of 102) of registration book, Breen to Brien

Page 5 (of 102) of registration book, Broderick to Brosnan

Page 6 (of 102) of registration book, Brosnan

Page 7 (of 102) of registration book, Brosnan

Page 8 (of 102) of registration book, Brosnan

Page 9 (of 102) of registration book, Browne to Buckley

Page 10 (of 102) of registration book, Burke to Cahillane

Page 11 (of 102) of registration book, Cahill to Callaghan

Page 12 (of 102) of registration book, Callinane to Carter

Page 13 (of 102) of registration book, Casey to Clarke

Page 14 (of 102) of registration book, Clifford to Coghlan

Page 15 (of 102) of registration book, Collins to Condon

Page 16 (of 102) of registration book, Connell

Page 17 (of 102) of registration book, Connell to Connolly

Page 18 (of 102) of registration book, Connor

Page 19 (of 102) of registration book, Connor

Page 20 (of 102) of registration book, Connor

Page 21 (of 102) of registration book, Connor

Page 22 (of 102) of registration book, Connor

Page 23 (of 102) of registration book, Connor

Page 24 (of 102) of registration book, Considine to Corr

Page 25 (of 102) of registration book, Costello to Cremins

Page 26 (of 102) of registration book, Cronin

Page 27 (of 102) of registration book, Crowley to Cullinane

Page 28 (of 102) of registration book, Culloty to Curran

Page 29 (of 102) of registration book, Curtin to Dalton

Page 30 (of 102) of registration book, Daly

Page 31 (of 102) of registration book, Daly to Dee

Page 32 (of 102) of registration book, Deignan to Divane

Page 33 (of 102) of registration book, Doherty to Donovan

Page 34 (of 102) of registration book, Doody to Downing

Page 35 (of 102) of registration book, Doyle to Dunlevy

Page 36 (of 102) of registration book, Dunne to Enright

Page 37 (of 102) of registration book, Erett to Finnegan

Page 38(of 102) of registration book, Fitzgerald to Fitzmaurice

Page 39 (of 102) of registration book, Flaherty to Fleming

Page 40 (of 102) of registration book, Flynn to Foley

Page 41 (of 102) of registration book, Foran to Geary

Page 42 (of 102) of registration book, Gheárr to Greaney

Page 43 (of 102) of registration book, Griffin

Page 44 (of 102) of registration book, Griffin to Hanifin

Page 45 (of 102) of registration book, Hanlon to Harrold

Page 46 (of 102) of registration book, Hartnett to Heanie

Page 47 (of 102) of registration book, Heffernan to Hibbets

Page 48 (of 102) of registration book, Hickey

Page 49 (of 102) of registration book, Hickman to Holland

Page 50 (of 102) of registration book, Horan

Page 51 (of 102) of registration book, Horan to Horgan

Page 52 (of 102) of registration book, Houlihan to Hussey

Page 53 (of 102) of registration book, Jennings to Kavanagh

Page 54 (of 102) of registration book, Keane

Page 55 (of 102) of registration book, Kearney

Page 56 (of 102) of registration book, Keeffe to Kelliher

Page 57 (of 102) of registration book, Kelly to Kenny

Page 58 (of 102) of registration book, Kerin to Lacy

Page 59 (of 102) of registration book, Laide to Leahy

Page 60 (of 102) of registration book, Leane

Page 61 (of 102) of registration book, Leary to Leech

Page 62 (of 102) of registration book, Lenihan to Looker

Page 63 (of 102) of registration book, Looney to Lucid

Page 64 (of 102) of registration book, Lynch to Maguire

Page 65 (of 102) of registration book, Maher to Mahony

Page 66 (of 102) of registration book, Mahony to Manley

Page 67 (of 102) of registration book, Mannix to McCaughey

Page 68 (of 102) of registration book, McCarthy

Page 69 (of 102) of registration book, McCarthy to McElligott

Page 70 (of 102) of registration book, McEllistrim to McInerney

Page 71 (of 102) of registration book, McKenna to McQuinn

Page 72 (of 102) of registration book, McSweeney to Meredith

Page 73 (of 102) of registration book, Mhaolfoghmhair Ni (probably Millward) to Moran

Page 74 (of 102) of registration book, Moriarty to Mullane

Page 75 (of 102) of registration book, Murphy

Page 76 (of 102) of registration book, Murphy

Page 77 (of 102) of registration book, Murphy

Page 78 (of 102) of registration book, Murray to Noble

Page 79 (of 102) of registration book, Nolan

Page 80 (of 102) of registration book, Normoyle to Piggott

Page 81 (of 102) of registration book, Piper to Prendergast

Page 82 (of 102) of registration book, Prendiville

Page 83 (of 102) of registration book, Prendiville to Quilty

Page 84 (of 102) of registration book, Quinlan to Regan

Page 85 (of 102) of registration book, Reidy

Page 86 (of 102) of registration book, Reidy

Page 87 (of 102) of registration book, Reilly to Riordan

Page 88 (of 102) of registration book, Robinson to Rochford

Page 89 (of 102) of registration book, Rollins to Scanlon

Page 90 (of 102) of registration book, Scannell to Seery

Page 91 (of 102) of registration book, Shanahan

Page 92 (of 102) of registration book, Shea to Sheahan

Page 93 (of 102) of registration book, Sheehy to Spillane

Page 94 (of 102) of registration book, Spring to Sugrue

Page 95 (of 102) of registration book, Sullivan

Page 96 (of 102) of registration book, Sullivan

Page 97 (of 102) of registration book, Sullivan

Page 98 (of 102) of registration book, Sullivan to Talbot

Page 99 (of 102) of registration book, Tangney to Townsend

Page 100 (of 102) of registration book, Tracey to Wallace

Page 101 (of 102) of registration book, Walsh

Page 102 (of 102) of registration book, Walsh to Wynn


An index of surnames which feature in the combined registers of the Boys’ National School (IE MOD/5) , Convent Boys (IE MOD/17) and Convent School Girls (IE MOD/18) colour-coded to indicate students from the RIC (Royal Irish Constabulary) and the EC (Established Church) can also be viewed here ie-mod-18-18-2. Information organised into columns; three columns have the headings B [Boys’ National School] C [Convent Boys] and G [Convent Girls].  A tick symbol denotes in which school registers the surname appears, and two colour codes, green and purple, denote links to the RIC and EC (see IE MOD/63 for list of RIC children with index).


1 Series reference IE MOD/57 which includes a souvenir booklet, Presentation Convent Castleisland, 150 years of service to the people of Castleisland, 7th October 1846 - 7th October 1996.  Further reference see historical sketch (with image) in Kerryman, 16 January 1976, 'Kerry's Eighth House founded in a famine year'. In 1905, a number of Presentation students were commended for skill in shorthand and typewriting. Miss J Fitzgerald, Maria Fitzgerald, Minnie Brosnan, Julia Kearney, Kate Kerin, Nora Begley, Etty Crowley and Kate O'Sullivan received certificates for speeds of 70 to 100 words per minute.
2 Obituary, Irish Examiner, 4 May 1888.
3 Ibid. 'After a few years struggling, it was discovered Kenmare was wholly unsuited to the requirements of the Presentation Order and subsequently was handed over to the poor Clares'.
4 Ibid.  The death of the Rev Mother Ignatius of the Presentation Convent, Castleisland 'supposed to be one of the oldest nuns in Kerry' was recorded in January 1908.  Rev Mother Ignatius O'Connell celebrated her Golden Jubilee in 1904 - on that occasion, a fund 'to alleviate the costs of' the new convent schools of Castleisland' was inaugurated.  Subscriptions included one pound from 'two little Shanahan children' in Abbeyfeale  and £100 from Archdeacon O'Leary. The death of Mother Mary Magdelen Brennan, native of Kilkenny, who had celebrated her Golden Jubilee as a nun, occurred in 1913. Mother Mary De Sales Carrick died on 8 February 1915 in her 79th year, a native of Dublin and more than half a century in religious life. Mother M Teresa O'Leary died on 1 June 1932 at the Presentation Convent, Castleisland, in the 69th year of her age and the 44th year of her religious profession.
5 'Few if any convents in the country have done so much for the Irish language and for Irish history'.  Mary Dympna wrote a number of books to help pay off debt incurred in the building at Lixnaw, taking up her pen 'in such a way that very few who have seen her books know her to be the author ... invariably published under the name, 'A Member of the Presentation Community, Lixnaw'.'  Among many titles, The Postulant and Novice Studying her Vocation translated from the French of Abbé Leguay by a band of novices (1879); The Martrys of Castelfidardo Translated from the French (1883); Maxims of St Catherine of Sienna (1890); A Gem from the Diamond Mine (1892); Sprays of Shamrock (1907 - 'a collection of sayings and prayers of St Patrick, St Brigid and other Irish saints dedicated to 'the Irish-born religious'); Lays and legends of Our Blessed Lady: affectionately dedicated to the Children of Mary (1908); The O'Connell Reader (1908 - 'The compiler deserves praise for her scrupulous care in naming the sources from which she has drawn her materials').  Also, dates unclear:  Presentation Manual; Stepping Stones to Irish History; Life of Blessed Benedict Joseph Labre (translated from the French); At Our Lady's Altar.  Further reference, see obituary in Sacred Heart Review, 18 July 1914, 'Death of a noteworthy Irish nun'.
6 £200 was subscribed in 1847 to the Irish Relief Fund and £25 for the relief of the poor of the Castleisland neighbourhood. In September 1849, Rev J O'Leary, parish priest of Castleisland, acknowledged £250 from Michael 'towards building a school to be conducted by the ladies of the Presentation Convent in that town'. The sum of £3,000 was acknowledged in 1857 towards the construction of the convent in Kenmare 'one half for the cost of the building, the other half for the maintenance of the convent of Castleisland' and an equal sum 'for a similar purpose in Liverpool' (Dublin Weekly Nation, 7 November 1857, 'Convents in Kerry').
7 Liverpool Mercury, 2 March 1883.
8 Catholicism in Chester: A Double Centenary 1875-1975 (1975) by Sister Mary Winefride Sturman, OSU. Michael's wife Elizabeth, widow of Alfred Augustus Joseph Grainger Esq (1805-1838) of Pendre, Holywell, Tywysog, Co Denbigh and Munich, Germany and daughter of George Roskell Esq, JP, Major in Flintshire militia and Mayor of Flint, who Michael had married in 1841, contributed to the erection of the presbytery beside St Werburgh's.
9 His widow Elizabeth died on 5 February 1898 aged 84 and was buried in the Roskell family grave at Pantasaph cemetery, Flint, Wales.
10 Died Sunday morning at Sandville, Co Kerry, the seat of her brother, William Hartnett Esq, Mary, wife of Joseph Edward Vize Esq of Fire-hill Co Clare (Freeman's Journal, 20 May 1829).
11 In Limerick Miss Vize daughter of J Vize Esq of Clare-street, a protestant, grand-daughter of the late Dr Vize of this city received the white veil ... Miss Vize is a maternal niece of the respected Superioress of the community amongst whom it was her lot to enter (Limerick Reporter, 23 May 1843 & Freeman's Journal, 25 May 1843). A paternal ancestor of Miss Vize, Edward Joseph Vize Esq of Ballynatten Co Tipperary 'although a Protestant held thirty-two estates in trust for Roman Catholics during the penal laws ... this high minded Protestant gentleman returned these estates and titles to the rightful owners' (Dublin Weekly Register, 3 June 1843). Miss Vize was professed in 1845 by Right Rev Dr Ryan at the Presentation Convent, Sexton-street, Limerick.
12 A Popular History of East Kerry (p179).  This would seem to be Anna Maria Harnett. The family tree appears as follows: William (1793-1856), Arabella (1794-1839), Edward (1796-1871), Mary (1797-1829), Honora (1798-1888), Jane (1800-1833), John (1801-1883), Michael (1803-1873), Anna Maria (1804-1885), Nelson (1804). Eldest son William married Anne, daughter of William Meredith and Alicia Orpen on 5 May 1825; sons born in March 1826, June 1827 and William in March 1830 (a daughter, Elizabeth, was born in October 1828). Anne died at Sandville of 'rapid consumptive decline in the prime of life' on 3 December 1830. One of William's sons, Edward, was gazetted to a Coronetcy in the 15th Dragoons in June 1848. William died on 8 February 1856 at Oxford-terrace, Hyde-park, London aged 62.
13 Southern Reporter, 12 September 1826. Edward, a magistrate, married Mary Ellen, eldest daughter of William O'Sullivan Esq of Carriganass Castle, Co Cork on 30 April 1836. The announcements of sons born at Sandville were published in March 1841 and September 1843. Edward remained at Sandville until about 1850 when he appears to have taken up residence at Castle View, where he died on 1 May 1871. His son William O'Sullivan Harnett married Clara, daughter of George Stokes, in 1875; daughter Ellen married Louis Kuhling Esq of Hull in 1862 and daughter Minnie married Christian Kuhling Esq of Cottingham, Yorkshire in 1874. Sandville was occupied from circa 1850 by Robert Acheson Thompson whose wife was Christina-Frances, daughter of Francis-Christopher Bland Esq of Derryquin Castle and Lucy Herbert of Brewsterfield. He remained in residence until his death on 27 June 1871.
14 Kerry Evening Post, 1 June 1887, 'The Resignation of the Castleisland Constables'.  Patrick, son of J McDonagh of Skreen, Co Sligo, recovered and later returned to Ireland (see IE MOD/64).