Training Colleges

In the early 1830s Catherine McAuley started training courses in the Baggot Street Convent to qualify able students who wished to become governesses or teachers in various schools throughout Ireland. A letter written to her by the Bishop of Dromore, in January 1836 supports this view:

I am informed by Mrs. Brydon, principal of a most respectable establishment for the education of young ladies in this town [Newry], that she is in need of an assistant in her school. She has applied to you with hope of obtaining ... a young woman well-qualified for such a situation ...
Centenary lecture by Sr M Angela Bolster on 'Catherine McAuley, her educational thought and its influence on the origins and development of an Irish Training College' delivered in Dublin, 1977, p. 2.

This was two years before the establishment of the National Board's Training Institution for male teachers in Dublin at Marlborough Street School and shows how farsighted Catherine McAuley was in providing educational opportunities for young Catholic girls of ability. When the principle of denominational training was accepted, the 'Sedes Sapientiae' (Seat of Wisdom) Training School in Baggot Street was recognised as a Teacher Training college for girls in 1883 and later transferred to Carysfort Training College, Blackrock, Dublin. Until then only 27% of Catholic teachers and 52% of Protestant teachers had graduated from training colleges.

Both the Mercy Convent, Baggot Street, and the Irish Sisters of Charity, King's Inn Street, Dublin now gained limited recognition as Training Schools for Monitresses under the National Board. The Powis Commission (1868-1870) showed that 205 girls left convent national schools during 1867 to act as teachers: 104 of these to national schools, 18 to other schools; and 83 as governesses to private families. Another 46 entered religious communities in the same year and many of these were also likely to teach.

Viscount Morley wrote about the benefits of attending Baggot Street Training College in 1894:

... Can well understand the eagerness for admission. Young women come up from all parts of Ireland, rough and unkempt, are put into the civilising mill: books, baths, infinite tidiness and order and the friendly guidance and sympathy of the Reverend Mother and Sisters. I must say these women please me vastly.
Quoted in O'Keeffe, Our Lady of Mercy College, Dublin, 1977, p. 20.

By 1903 there were five colleges in Ireland where women were trained as national school teachers:

Central Training Establishment, Marlborough Street Dublin.

Our Lady of Mercy Training College, Carysfort, Blackrock, Co. Dublin.

Church of Ireland Training College, Kildare Place, Dublin.

St Mary's Training College, Belfast.

Mary Immaculate Training College, Limerick.


  1. Catherine _____ started training courses in the year ____ to qualify able ____ who wished to become _________.
  2. Why was Viscount Morley 'vastly pleased' by the Baggot Street Training College in 1894?


  1. Research the contribution Catherine McAuley made to education in Ireland.
  2. Research the history of any of the training colleges mentioned above.
  3. Research the contribution the Sisters of Mercy made to education in Ireland.
  4. Research any aspect of the Protestant contribution to education in Ireland.
contents index