'It was during my time in Whiteabbey that I decided to study part time for a B.Ed. degree.'

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'It was during my time in Whiteabbey that I decided to study part time for a B.Ed. degree.'


Rosemary remembers taking up a teaching position at Immaculata School in Whiteabbey Convent. While there she studied at night for a degree in education.


Rosemary McCloskey


Trinity College Dublin




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Rosemary McCloskey

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Work and Employment


Life Story

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Abbeyville, Belfast

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Immaculata School was very different from Sussex Place. Sr. Anthony Cairns was principal and she was a beautiful lady who was so caring towards me. We became great friends. There were weekly boarders in the school, girls whose homes were too far away for them to travel daily. They would be delivered to the school on Sunday evening and taken home again on Friday afternoons. Miss Maura Donnan was the house mother for them. Sr. Margaret Daly also worked in the kitchen in the school She worked very hard from dawn until dusk, and once when I asked her about all this work and her reason for keeping at it all the time, she replied, 'I entered to do penance!' I often wondered what her idea of God was. Fr Hugh Starkey was the parish priest and also the school manager in Whiteabbey at that time 1977-79. He was a man of great common sense and he had a wonderful sense of humour. He was a great support to me when there was any difficulty as he could put another perspective on whatever the problem was and soon there would be no problem at all. I lived in the community in Whiteabbey convent for two years. In the first year Sr. Mary Mercy was the local superior and then we got Sr. Genevieve Martin as local superior. God rest their noble souls. Most of those with whom I lived in Whiteabbey have gone to their eternal rewards. Sr. Margaret Mary McGurk was in the kitchen. St Teresa Murray who was very witty and very clever, used to say to me, 'Rosemary, act dumb or you will be asked to do so many things. If they find out you can do things you will be tortured!' Sr. Teresa was a very talented lady who had spent much of her life ill with tuberculosis. She was a retired teacher when I met her. She was musical, artistic and had a wealth of stories to tell. Two ladies from the Antrim Road used to visit her frequently-the Misses Coleman RIP. They, too, are gone. I believe it was their father who founded Oranges' Academy in Institution Place, years ago .Those who wanted to pursue a secretarial careers trained in Oranges. In my second year in Whiteabbey, Sr. Margaret Mary was changed and we had Sr. Colmcille Kennedy to replace her in the kitchen. Sr. Anthony often let me drive the school minibus. The care taker, John Friel, who lived in the gate lodge with his wife and children, used to drive it a lot and take the children to the swimming baths etc. I was able to take my own class out when the need arose. It was during my time in Whiteabbey that I decided to study part time for a B.Ed. degree. When I did my initial teacher training, there were only teachers' certificates awarded. However, St Mary's had since got an affiliation to Queens University. Teaching was becoming a lot more competitive, and sisters with updated qualifications were needed and so it was agreed that I proceed with this. Sr. Veronica O'Brien who was teaching in Our Lady of Mercy Secondary School, started the degree as did Sr. Ann McKeever, but poor Ann could not keep her eyes open at the lectures, which were from 5pm until 9pm. It was just too much, on top of her day's work and so she dropped out at the end of the year. I can understand very well what that fatigue is like now, in my later years, for once someone starts droning on at that time of the evening I, too, just fall asleep. I even do that when I put on the six o'clock news, and don't surface again until perhaps 7.30pm. I found life in Whiteabbey or Abbeyville as it was known, very lonely. Most of the community retired to their rooms or to bed around 7.00pm. That was why I decided to do the degree course and not for any love of study. It was a means of getting out of the place once a week with the car! Miraculously I passed the degree in 1981.


Irish Research Council for Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences (IRCHSS)

Research Coordinator/P.I.

Dr Kathleen McTiernan (Trinity College Dublin)

Senior Research Associate

Dr Deirdre O'Donnell (Trinity College Dublin)


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