Milestones in the history of Rochfortbridge

Story by Olga Aughey

Tuesday, 26th August, 2008 11:00am

As a follow-up to last weeks feature on the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Rochfortbridge celebrating its 150 anniversary, Danny Dunne, local historian and Principal of Coralstown National School, has provided more information on the formation of the Parish.

'Another milestone in the Parish development would happen as a result of two great benefactors, and they were the Fielding Family and the Coffeys of Newcastle.

'Born into a Protestant Freemason family, Eliza Fielding was fourteen years old when her mother died, and shortly afterwards, she converted to Catholicism. Her father rejected her because of this and she went to work in a business, probably in Tyrrellspass. When her father"s health failed, she returned to care for him. On his deathbed he was received into the Catholic Church.

'At this time Father Robbins was anxious to bring a community of nuns to Rochfortbridge,' continues Danny. 'Eliza suggested that the parish purchase her family home in the village. She had to pay all her father"s debts and provide for her brother and sister. Father Robbins asked the Mercy Sisters in Tullamore for a foundation of nuns, and this they agreed to give.

'Meanwhile Eliza entered the convent of Mercy in Tullamore, and following her novitiate, she was accepted into the order on August 21 in 1862. She took the name Sister Mary Paul in Religion.

'The Mercy Convent opened in Rochfortbridge in 1862 and three nuns came to live in the old Fielding home. Sister Mary Paul Fielding would later join the order at Rochfortbridge.

'In 1872, a new Convent building was opened again through the generosity of the Coffey Family at Newcastle. The work of the Convent involved the education of local girls at national level. In 1892, an Institute for Deaf and Dumb Girls was opened and would continue until the 1940s.

In 1948, the Secondary School started in a small way in 1948, and in 1963, boys were accepted for the first time and there were 62, boarders and 68 day pupils.

'A new national school was opened in 1980 to replace the older building and a large extension was opened in the 1980s at the Secondary School. But the story of the Sisters of Mercy doesn"t end there,' says Danny. 'Retracing our steps again to the work of Sister Mary Paul Fielding, her story takes an amazing twist again in 1875. Dr. McAlroy V.G. of the Diocese of Goulbourn in Australia was sent by Dr. Lanigan, his Bishop, to Ireland to procure Sisters of Mercy to work in Australia. He was advised to seek a foundation from the house in Tullamore.

'On making a return to Tullamore on Good Friday, he sought shelter in the Parochial House in Rochfortbridge as there was a terrible thunder Storm.

'Fr. Robbins was not at home, and as a storm raged outside, he decided to go to the convent to find shelter. When he arrived, spring cleaning was in progress and he was taken to the parlour. Soon the storm was left outside and the fire comforted him.

'So impressed was he with this community and deciding that fate had sent him to this place, he made his request to the sisters for a foundation. Three nuns pleaded to go, sister Bernard Grennan, Sister Mary Alacoque McLaughlin and Sister Mary Paul Fielding. These sisters were allowed to go and four postulants went with them.

'On August 21, 1875 they left Ireland and went to New South Wales, Australia. They founded the Convent of Yass and this was the mother house of the following convents there including, Murrumburrah, Wyalong, Tumut, Junee, West Wyalong, Gunning, Bermedman and Willcannia Forbes.

'Mother Mary Paul Fielding was the driving force behind and leading spirit along with her band of sisters in the establishment of these centres. Mother Mary Paul fielding died in 1905 and is buried in Wilcannia Forbes, New South Wales.'

Home cooked food at the Hazel

Owners of the Yellow Rose Café in Rochfortbridge, the Mulligan family, including mum Maura, daughter Laura and son Derek, have recently opened a restaurant to accompany their country pub, the Hazel, located in Rahugh.

Though Declan and Laura are natives of Rochfortbridge, their mum Maura comes from Rahugh, and saw the potential for a pub and restaurant in the area. When the family took over the property in Rahugh, it was severely run down, with Laura remarking 'it was nothing better than a shed!' They have now turned it into a successful business and on Sunday last, they began serving their first Sunday lunch.

Open since December 2006, the Hazel, located in a rural area, is a successful family business offers the luxury of a modern bar and lounge, complete with pool and games room, as well as a beer garden. The Hazel has live music every Saturday and Sunday night, and the craic is always mighty, with the staff offering a warm and friendly welcome. It is an ideal venue for any function or party.

'People can expect good wholesome home cooked meals when they come to the Hazel,' said Laura.

Birthday wishes!

A big happy birthday goes out to Martin Lambert this week, who celebrated his 60th on Saturday last in Lyster"s pub Rochfortbrige.

It was all a bit hush hush as it was a surprise party his family and friends held for Martin. A great night was had by all!

Shop around the corner

Jessop"s Corner Shop in the centre of Rochfortbridge was recently opened by Mark Jessop.

Mark"s mother, Bernie Walsh, was a native of Rochfortbridge and Mark has lived in the town for the last 20 years. He has owned a number of businesses before in the town, including a Euro Saver and video rental store. Though Mark and his six staff are currently in the middle of re-stocking the shop, Jessop"s Corner Shop is a general grocery, newspaper agent with deli and post office. Down the line, Mark says he hopes to open up a seating area for the Deli. Open hours are early till late.

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