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St Mary’s Rural Domestic Economy School In 1890s Sr Pelly began the building of a residential technical school, with boarding accommodation for twenty girls, on the Mercy Convent grounds The Portumna. Contractor, John Martin built the school at a cost of £2,000. It received an annual grant of £140, coming partly from the Portumna Board of Guardians rates and partly from the Science and Arts Department, South Kensington, London. The school opened in 1898 and became known as the St Mary’s Rural Domestic Economy School. The girls, all from a rural background who intended to live on the land, were taught skills in cookery, dairy management, poultry-keeping, gardening, household management, laundry work and needlework. Instrumental music was also taught there. The school had three principal objectives (i) The training of farmers’ daughters and other girls in improved modes of dairying and general household management; (ii) The training of domestic servants (iii) The special instruction of girls about to become technical instruction teachers. In the Convent of Mercy grounds is located what is believed to be part of a motte and bailey, representing the first Norman settlement in Portumna. The Convent of Mercy, Portumna, a daughter house of Loughrea, was founded in 1882 and opened a residential Domestic Science School for girls in 1898. The founding manager was Sr. Mary Joseph Pelly. The convent may have run the school for some years prior to this as the third report of the County Committee mentions that the school was funded by the Board of Guardians (Portumna Union) and had been in operation for many years. Under the 1891 Act Boards of Guardians were empowered to make grants available for agricultural education and training. The school was established to give “instruction in the science and practice of Cookery, Laundry Work, Dairy Management, Poultry Management, General Housework, Domestic Economy, and Needlework. It had three principal objectives: 1) The training of farmers` daughters and other girls in improved modes of dairying and general household management. 2) The training of domestic servants. 3) The special instruction of girls about to become technical instruction teachers. The admission requirements for prospective students were as follows: Pupils had to be sixteen years of age or older. Applications for admission had to be signed by a “responsible person” who was well acquainted with the prospective pupil. Pupils had to be able to read, write “with a fair hand”, spell with tolerable correctness, and have a knowledge of the basic rules of Arithmetic. As pupils had to take part in all the work of the school and household they were required to supply serviceable dresses and aprons of plain washing material. In addition they were required to bring one good outdoor dress, hat and jacket, a pair of towels, house shoes, hair brush and comb, tooth brush, and clothes brush. Whilst people might smile at the clothing requirements it should be remembered that it was always expensive to kit out children for boarding school. Pupils from outside the Portumna Rural Union area had to be selected by either their Local Authority(Union) or Committee and submitted to the County Committee for Technical Instruction for final approval. At the end of term (one year’s training) an examination was held under the auspices of The Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction for Ireland. Prizes were awarded for best exam results, neat-ness, and best notebook. A second terms training could be supplied if required. Non resident pupils were admitted at a fee of ten shillings (€0.58) per quarter. In July 1890 the Dublin architect, William H. Byrne, advertised for competent builders to construct a new convent and chapel at Portumna, the foundation stone for which was laid by Bishop Healy in June 1891. In February 1892. Byrne sought tenders for the building of a convent school in Portumna to accommodate 200 pupils. The edifice was to become one of the finest examples of cut stone masonry and carpentry workmanship in the area. The school opened on 14th September 1893 to cater for educational needs of the girls and infant boys.