independent

Wednesday 16 October 2019

Tracing the roots of Mother Mary Vincent

david medcalf

The successors of a nun who made a great impact on education in Australia during the 19th century drew a party of her successors to her birthplace in Oylegate recently.

The successors of a nun who made a great impact on education in Australia during the 19th century drew a party of her successors to her birthplace in Oylegate recently.

The visitors from Down Under found little more than the remnants of an old wall in the townland of Pouldarrig where Mother Mary Vincent (born Ellen Whitty) first saw the light of day in 1819.

She now has a more substantial memorial at the Mater in Dublin where part of the hospital complex has been called the Whitty Building.

However, the party of a dozen teachers from a school she established were delighted to go exploring in the County Wexford countryside in order to gain a deeper understanding of their predecessor.

Ellen Whitty received her early education in a hedge school before heading off to the capital in search of work. She became a music teacher but she was so impressed by the work of the Mercy order that she joined their ranks and helped to establish the Mater before she was recruited to go to Australia where she set up schools and convents. She died in 1892 and is buried near Brisbane.

She is certainly not forgotten as last week's visit confirmed. The sisters joined Father James Cogley for Mass at St. David's church in Oylegate and had coffee in Mernagh's pub before Maura Whitty (a distant relative and family historian) took them to the local holy well and on to Pouldarrig.

Father Jim Finn, parish priest in Crossabeg, later took over as tour guide showing them sites associated with Father James Dixon, the priest who baptised Mother Mary Vincent. He too spent part of his life in Australia though, unlike her, he returned and is now buried in Crossabeg.

Before heading off to Dublin, the Australian party also took time to go exploring in the fields of Crossabeg to examine the grave of Father Patrick Whitty in the townland of Sanderscourt. Born in 1770, Father Patrick died in 1798, probably as a result of the troubles in that momentous year.

Wexford People

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