Nano Nagle

LifeWorksCriticismCommentaryQuotationsReferencesNotes

Life
1728-1784 [Honora Nagle; var. Honoria]; b. Ballygriffin [var. Balgriffin], nr. Mallow, Co. Cork, a member of a landed |Iriswh family with Jacobite traditions; ed. privately at home and afterwards and in Paris [wIth the Ursuline nuns]; settled in Dublin with her parents; suffered the death of her parents and sister Anne; returned to Ballygriffin; returned to Ursulines in France but came back to Ireland in 1749 to open a charity school for Catholics at Cove Lane, Cork, contrary to Penal Laws and using her own inheritance 1754 [var. 1757]; opened [other] schools at Philpott Lane, N. Cork City, proverbially in a mud hovel, and soon afterwards others to the number of seven (2 for girls and 5 for boys); later gave her school[s] into the care of the Ursuline nuns whom she introduced to Ireland, 1771; est. Order of the Sisters of the Charitable Instruction of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, later called Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (or Presentation Sisters), 1775; received the habit on 29 June 1776, adopting the name of Mother Mary of St. John of God; opened first convent in Cork, Christmas Day, 1777; d. 26 April [var. 20 April]; her community received the approval of Pius VI, 1791; there is a portrait by Charles Turner (1809) and a near-contemporary poem dedicated to her by Gerald Griffin (See Poems, Centenary Edn. 1940); the Presentation (aka Christian) Brother were inspired by her educational mission. DIB ODNB

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Criticism
  • W[illiam] Coppinger, The life of Miss Nano Nagle: as sketched by the Right Rev. Dr. Coppinger in a funeral sermon preached by him in Cork, on the anniversary of her death (Cork: printed & sold by James Haly 1794), 31, [1]pp. [8o; being ESTCT124315; orig. in British Library; in electronic form from Thomson Gale, 2003; also digitally on internet [link]];
  • William Hutch, Nano Nagle: Her Life, Her Labours and Their Fruits (Dublin 1875) [q.p.];
  • Honora Nagle, Nano Nagle (1728-1784) [Biographical series] (London [1900]);
  • Maurice Leahy, The Flower of Her Kindred: A Biographical Study of Nano Nagle of Ireland, Foundress, Pioneer of Popular Education and noted leader in sociology in the eighteenth century (NY: Maurice Leahy [Grand Rapids (Michigan): Etheridge Company] 1944), xv, [1], 294, [2]pp. [subscribers' list, pp.289-94];
  • M. Raphael Consedine, PBVM, One Pace Beyond: The Life of Nano Nagle (Victoria 1977);
  • Sr. Mary Pius O'Farrell, Nano Nagle: Woman of the Gospel [for the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary] (Cork Publishing Ltd. 1996), xii, 305pp.;
  • A.P.N., Lantern Beams on the Lee:A Tribute to Nano Nagle (Bailieborough: [s.n.] 1956) [copy in TCD Library];
  • T[imothy J[ohn] Walsh, Nano Nagle and the Presentation Sisters (Dublin: M. H. Gil, 1959), xxv, 427pp., ill.
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Notes
Facts, facts (1): It is unclear from biographical accounts whether the threat of death sentence under the Penal Laws was actually operative in the period when she lived. There was only one 'judicial assassination of a Catholic priest in 18th century Ireland, and that was the extraordinary case of Fr. Nugent, hanged at Clonmel in spite of strong protests from members of the establishment. The illegality of schools for Catholics was less an issue of law than the general removal of Catholic franchise and rights of property before the law. By the mid-18th century many Anglo-Irish grandees were in debt to Catholic merchants, and the relief acts of 1762 and after flowed from this circumstance.

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Facts, facts (2): Accounts are unclear as to whether Nano Nagle became an Ursuline nun before leaving France in 1749 or gave her schools into the keeping of the order in 1771, having introduced them on account of their teaching mission. The likelihood is that she was not ordained in France and that her mission in Ireland was initially secular until she was subjected to clerical pressure to maintain her schools within a religious order (especially in view of her female identity and status within the Roman Catholic culture of the period).

Portrait: An engraving by Charles Turner, 1809, of Nano Nagle, the foundress and educational pioneer, appears in Brian de Breffny, ed., Ireland: A Cultural Encyclopaedia (London: Thames & Hudson 1982), p.81.

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Newfie connection: “The Congregation of the Sisters of the Presentation was founded by Nano Nagle in 1776 in Cork, Ireland, to provide for the education of the poor. In response to a request from Bishop Michael Fleming of Newfoundland for volunteers to establish a mission, four sisters arrived in St. John's in September 1833, and opened their first school in October of the same year. [... &c.; See the Newfoundland Heritage website @ http://www.heritage.nf.ca/.]

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