It’s December 21st. The weather in Listowel is balmy, mild and damp and I have just been listening on the radio to a past pupil of mine describe how she is going to spend her first Christmas in Australia, far away from her native Listowel. I fell to thinking back to the fifties of my youth when some of our brightest and most hard working were living in immigrant communities in England and the U.S.
Since famine times, emigration has been part of our culture. It has connected our little island to the big world. It has enriched our knowledge of the world and our gene pool. I don’t deny the great heartache and loneliness it has caused but I acknowledge the positive effects it has had on us all.
I am now retired and so have time to join lots of local clubs. I am struck by the number of people I encounter who have spent many years abroad. They now live in Listowel and its environs and are the backbones of these groups. Some are returned emigrants; some the descendants of emigrants; some have very little Irish in them at all. They all contribute to the fabric of the rural Irish community they now call home.
This is Presentation Convent Listowel. Over the years it housed many powerful women. The contribution of these women to Listowel life is largely forgotten by historians.
Doesn’t this old photo take you back? This was when nuns were nuns. I recognise Sr. Gemma and Sr. Cyril but the rest are unknown to me. I’ll seek out their names today.
This photo was taken in 1994. By then nuns had become sisters and were allowed a certain individual identity.
Today there is no-one in the convent. The remaining sisters are scattered and a way of life is no more.