THURLES’ Ursuline Convent School marked the end of one era and the beginning of another on Friday as 225 years of service to the town of Thurles was marked by the opening of a new multi-million euro extension.
Clergy, past pupils, parents, students, and members of the board of management gathered to watch Principal Sister Berchmans cut the ribbon on a long-awaited extension housing new classrooms, computer rooms, storage, and science labs. Sister Berchmans is retiring and will be replaced by the first lay Principal, Mary Butler.
Sister Berchmans recalled the day, back in 1983, when they opened the then ‘new school’. Built for 400 students, the school body soon outgrew that building, and more space was necessary to house all the classes. Now with 735 students, the extension will offer much needed space for the Ursulines to continue to grow and flourish.
Sister Berchmans paid tribute to all those who helped bring the extension to fruition, especially the late Sister Ursula, who started up the Board of Managment, and chaired it until her death in 1995. Also to Sister Rita, who chaired the board until 2005, and to Sister June Flannery, the Education Officer for the Ursulines in Ireland. “And a special thanks to Sister Margaret Flanagan, who was my full back throughout this long and arduous task. We cajoled, persuaded, begged, did everything, to at least 15 executive officers in the Department of Education, and nearly as many Ministers,” said Sister Berchmans. Deputies Noel Coonan and Michael Lowry were instrumental in making the school’s case at Department level. A design and construction team led by O’Hora Architects and Duggan Brothers brought the extension to completion.
“We had so many false dawns, and I want to thank all the parents who supported us down through the years. It wasn’t just the extension you supported, you supported the sports hall back in ‘98, which cost nearly a million euro. You supported the new astro turf buildings, which was another million, and you supported the car park - so many different projects that have been completed down the years.”
Sister Berchmans said the Board of Managment and staff work so hard to “develop every aspect of a student’s life, we encourage them to get involved in all the musicals, and every sport under the sun, the arts, public speaking. We are very happy that our school is very busy, hard working and consistent. I’m sure these buildings will advance the ever changing field of education.”
Mayor of Thurles Michael Cleary congratulated the school for its 225 years of service to Thurles. “Thousands of students have gone through these doors. The Ursuline is part and parcel of the fabric and community of Thurles. They contribute to the economic well being with over 50 staff, and the contribution of boarders. They have also added a very important spiritual and religious contribution which is well appreciated.” Mayor Cleary gave credit to the many students who have excelled in academia and on the sports field. “The most important aspect is the ethos of the Ursulines. They produce good, decent people. I praise all the past staff and pupils of the school, and especially to Sister Berchmans. And I wish Mary Butler all the best for the future.”