Iona Presentation College

Cove Lane/Dunbar Plaza

Location: Cove Lane

Nano Nagle secretly founded her first school in 1754 in Cove Lane with about 30 students. This site, opposite the corner of Cove Lane & Dunbar St. Cork, Ireland, later became the first Presentation convent in 1775, and the centre of the Sister's outreach into the rest of the world.

After the death of Nano's father, Garret, in 1746, Nano returned to Ireland from Paris where she had been educated. Upon return to Dublin to be with her grieving mother, Nano was horrified by the widespread poverty that she witnessed. Nano returned to Paris with the intention of entering the Ursuline convent, however, upon consultation with her spiritual director and mentors, she was advised with conviction that she should return to Cork to provide education to the deprived children. A Cork Annalist recounts that her "Jesuit confessor warned her that 'eternal salvation depended on her listening and responding to God's voice".

Nano Nagle founded her first school for the poor in 1754 in Cove Lane, Cork, with about 30 students: a rented premise of mud brick. In doing so, Nano defied the Penal laws of the time that restricted education for Catholics. This first school was established for girls to be explicitly educated in their Catholic faith, whilst also teaching them employable skills so that they would be able to work and financially support their families. The students learnt skills including reading, writing, arithmetic as well as needlework and lacemaking. Within a period of nine months, Nano was educating 200 students.

Four years later, in 1757, at first alone, Nano had opened seven schools, five for girls and two for boys where she sought to provide a basic education and religious instruction for her students. With the support of her family, especially her uncle Joseph Nagle, Nano established a network of schools in Cork. Not everyone in Cork at the time welcomed her initiative; there were times where she was insulted in the street and on occasion, her students were dismissed as 'beggars brats'. These actions did not deter Nano as she staunchly remained firm in her outlook: to teach both from her heart and her own experience. Nano Nagle knew very intimately the transformative power of education and stood by her personal conviction to educate the poor of Cork as a method to opening the door of justice.

Adapted from Source:

  • NEAA Module 1: Nano's story