In 1954, the Centenary of the foundation of the Sisters of Mercy in Ennis, the Department of Education sanctioned a grant of £176.00 towards plastering the rear wall of the convent school which was built in 1865 at a cost to the sisters of £1,000. This was the first ever grant sanctioned for the school and was granted on the condition that the sisters would take steps to obtain a site for a new school and cooperate with the Department in having one built.


A 5 acre field in Station Road seemed a very suitable site. Sr. Lelia McKenna, the then superior negotiated with the owners, Quinns, and in November 1958 purchased the site for £4,400.00. No further progress was made until 1959 when Sr Lelia came back from California, having made a foundation there. She came back with a dream, a dream of a school such as she had seen in America, the likes of which had not yet been built in Ireland. It was to be bright and airy, all the clasrooms facing south, of good proportions, each classroom self contained with bathroom and cloakroom attached. Only such a school, she said, would be good enough for the children of Ennis.


She ran into difficulties with this vision. The plans, drawn up by the architect, Mr. Thompson on the instructions of Sr. Lelia far exceeded the standard size allowed by the Department. Sr. Lelia persisted. In a letter to the then Minister for Education, Dr. P Hillery, in July 1960 she outlined her reasons: 'Our new school should exhibit the spirit of hope, confidence and initiative that our government has brought into the country in the sphere of industry. At least the capital of Clare should exhibit one school in which Clare and the rest of Ireland may find inspiration. I ask you once more to think of future generations of teachers and children whose standards of living, we hope, will be much higher than ours'

But the Department stood firm. Undaunted, Sr. Lelia enlisted the help of Monsignor O'Doherty, parish priest of Lemoore, California, where she had established a convent the previous year. He came to Ireland in August 1960 and on the promise that he would pay the cost of larger classrooms the Department sanctioned Mr. Thompson's plans.


Mr. Cullen, Limerick, was appointed builder and the contract for £180,000 was signed. The first sod was turned on the 24th September 1961 and the school was to be finsihed by July 1963. The preparation of the site proved long and expensive. It was low lying and boggy, the town sewerage running through it had to be diverted and precautions taken against flooding. The abnormal site works and the increased cost of labour and materials had sent original estimate soaring with the result that the final cost was just under £500.000. The Department paid £218.000, the Parish paid £80,000 as well as off-setting the interest in later years. Monsignor O'Doherty honoured his commitment and the Sisters paid the remainder. In 1964 their bank overdraft was £200,000 and it seemed that they would be submerged by the debt and the interest on it. As a result life was hard for the Sisters and money was scarce. Not until 1977 was the debt finally cleared.


The big exodus took place on January 7th 1965. It was a cold misty day as class by class emerged from the old classrooms, teachers and children laden down with books and equipment. Waiting to greet everyone were the Principals of both schools, Sr. Malachy and Sr. Dominic. Little faces lit up in wonder as the children stepped into the dream school which was warm, bright and spacious. The Cork Examiner of 31st August 1965 described Holy Family School as 'the school they will be copying in 20 years time'. Nearly 40 years later we can echo the same sentiments. We thank God for the vision, inspiration and initiative of all who were involved in its planning and building and pray God's blessing on all staff and children in it.

Since then Holy Family School has gone through another major refurbishment in 2000/2001. The roof, glazing and floor covering was totally replaced as was all school furniture. The buiding was officially reopened in 2003 by Síle de Valera, Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht at the time. In 2006 we replaced all blackboards with Interactive Whiteboards as part of our ongoing commitment in using ICT in education.

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