Nano Nagle - Cork woman Established Ursulines Convents
Nano Nagle, a spiritual missionary hailed from the beautiful Blackwater vales that stream around north Cork right down to the eastern shorelines. Born at Ballygriffin, Killavullen, between Mallow and Fermoy in 1718, Nano’s life began at a time when England ruled Ireland and sought to eradicate the catholic religion in Ireland.
Nano Nagle’s forebearers were prominent land owners but their christian values were not finding favour with the authorities and great swamps of their lands were forcibly hijacked from the family.
Such history was uppermost in young Nano’s mind and later in her adult life she sought to help the suppressed and needy people to survive.
Her parents were Garret and Anna and their first born child was Honora who became better known as Nano in the family realm. The parents had seven children and educating them in the catholic tradition was a difficult task in the political climate imposed by British rule in Ireland.
Hedge schools, classified as illegal, facilitated many children to obtain a basic religious awareness behind closed doors. The penalty for hedge teaching, when discovered, meant great sacrifices for the teachers and the families of the pupils.
Nano’s affluent family was the means to sending her to France to gain a proper schooling. On return to Ireland she settled in Dublin for a short term before returning to her Ballygriffin roots near Mallow.
The Cork missionary soon realised that oppression was rampant and vowed to aim to contribute to improving Irish society.
The Ursuline nuns in France took young Nano into their convent and she began a whole new life of spiritual devotion.The call of her native homeplace finally took her back to Cork city and she walked the cobbled streets rescuing young girls from poverty.This act placed a price on her head but Nano continued relentlessly.
She took refuge in mud cabins to teach over 200 children and then decided to open her first school off Shandon Street, Cork.
In a short period Nano had seven new schools operating for boys and girls and she financed all the projects through her families financial kindness.
Nano’s next assignment was the establishment of the first ever Irish Ursuline convent in 1771.
However Nano was not on common ground with the aspirations of her Ursuline order as it inhibited her determination to work solely for the poorest in society. This matter resulted in the establishment by Nano of a new order for nuns and the Presentatios Sisters were founded in Cork on Christmas Day 1777 at Douglas Street, Cork city.
Nano Nagle’s passport in Irish history clearly identifies this north Cork lady as a Famous Daughter of Ireland. She died in 1784.