St. Mary's Primary School


About Us

St Mary’s Primary School was founded in 1990.

Our school is an amalgamation of the Mercy and Presentation Primary schools in Dungarvan. Although a relatively new Primary school, St Mary’s has its roots back in the 18th and 19th centuries – thanks to Nano Nagle who founded the Presentation sisters and Catherine McCauly who founded the Mercy sisters. The Presentation Convent in Dungarvan was founded in 1809 and the Mercy Convent in 1859. These two schools laid the foundations for our school today.

When we amalgamated in 1990 the Primary School, which we decided would be called St Mary’s was to be located on the campus of the old Presentation School in Mitchel St.

In 1809 four young women from a few miles outside Dungarvan decided to dedicate their lives to the education of the poor people in their parish. They were Mary and Margaret McGrath, Mary Collins and Sarah Hearne. They taught first in a house which they rented in Jail Lane, near the Tannery. To ensure that their work continued they decided that they should entrust it to the Presentation sisters. Mother Joseph Sullivan and Mother Peter Ronayne came to Dungarvan and worked in Jail Lane training the sisters.

In 1822 they moved to a new Convent and school built in Church St. – the site of the former Mercy Convent building. The foundation was made possible by the generosity of Pierce Barron, a wealthy Co Waterford landowner who donated £1000 for the purpose.

Schools from the beginning always included an element of vocational education and in the famine years the sisters introduced lace work and embroidery into schools and found sale for the goods in London and other English cities. This industrial work became a means of support for the poor families of the area. We are proud today that creative skills like knitting, sewing embroidery, tapestry and many more continue to be passed on to the children each year along with cookery and many more life skills

In 1858 the Presentation Sisters moved again to a large three story building at the Buttery, now called Mitchel St. Here the school was accommodated on the ground floor of the east wing of the Convent, until a new school designed by George C Aislin was completed in 1880. The cost of the new school was £2000.

The year 1880 was also the year in which the school was first connected to the National Board. The advantage of this was that a grant was made available to the school but the school had to follow strict rules in order to qualify for the grant.

In 1885, the Board gave permission to the sisters to teach French , Physical Geography and the use of the sewing machine in addition to instrumental music and drawing. When they looked for permission to teach agriculture they were at first refused until they pointed out that they were already cultivating their own land to supply food and also kept a dairy herd for milk and butter.(The cattle grazed on the land adjoining, part of which is now our Basketball court/ playground.)

This would involve an enrollment of at least 300 . In 1902 a grant of £7 10 shillings was received for the teaching of Science. By 1932 the 1880 school was inadequate for the numbers attending and three new classrooms were built nearby – this is the building on the right of the Mitchel`s St entrance. This housed the Primary classes.

In recent years this building was used for Sr Martina`s Montessori pre-school It is at present our parent`s room and is also being used by the infants for Aistear.

In 1959, the 150 anniversary of the convent, the foundation stone was laid for another extension, this time consisting of 7 classrooms and an administration block. The Department of Education estimated that the total accommodation requirements of the school were for 444 pupils.

The architects were Guy and Moloney who donated the shrine of Or Lady Shepherdess of Souls erected inside the Mitchel St. entrance. On the North wall of the school is a limestone relief of Nano Nagle by the well known sculptor Domhnall O Murchadha.

The next addition to our school was in 1982 and consisted of 2 new large purpose built infant rooms.

In 1990 when the decision was taken to amalgamate the girls school in town it was decided that the Presentation Sisters would be trustees of the Primary section and the Sisters of Mercy took charge of the secondary.

St.Mary’s was the name chosen for the newly amalgamated school, a suitable name as were were in the Parish of St Mary’s. The Primary school campus includes the buildings previously used by the Presentation Secondary School. A new entrance, on the Youghal road, was opened in 1997.

The most recent addition to our school was in 2015 with the opening of our ASD pre-school unit, new administration block and school entrance. These units are housed on the site of some of the secondary school classrooms which were refurbished for their present purposes.

From the very humble beginnings in Jail Lane, St. Mary’s School has grown – from an acorn to a great oak……. now with heated comfortable classrooms, a computer room, a lunchroom, halla, assembly area, libraries and kitchen, to mention but a few, we are thankful to the Presentation Sisters and the Sisters of Mercy who laid the foundations for us.

We continue the interest in nature and the outdoors with our new sensory garden, bug hotel and orchard.

The archives are testament to the great numbers of children who went before us. Our names will be stored there when we leave this year.

We are proud to be students of St Mary’s Primary School and are thankful for the education we received there, the friends we made along the way and the many skills we have acquired.

In St Mary’s we believe in TEAM work because….


St Mary’s Primary School,
Youghal Rd, Dungarvan,
Co. Waterford

Privacy Statement