Missionaries & Clergy


Torpedoed At Sea And Unable To Swim. Co. Mayo Nurse Working On A Hospital Ship Defied Death

Story Of War Hero, Sr. Lily McNicholas Of Kiltimagh, An Inspiration To All Irish People


In our considerations for incorporation of outstanding Irish people over several centuries, World Wars1 and 2 were responsible for the deaths of a huge army of Irish people. This collection of Irish people were not fighting for Ireland’s liberty from the British Empire in that period of the 20th century. They were soldiers in foreign armies and most times conscription was not their No.1 choice.


When soldiers go to war, only the lucky survivors make it back home. Soldiers who fall in the battle fields or out on the high seas, need exceptional and urgent medical care and that is where the nursing profession excel.

From Kiltimagh, Co. Mayo, on the west coast of Ireland, Sr. Lily McNicholas, gained international acclaim for her outstanding bravery in rescuing colleagues when her ship, MV Amsterdam, a hospital ship, was returning to England with several military casualties and they were torpedoed off the Normandy Coast on 7th August 1944.


The Irish nurse, along with her colleagues assisted the wounded to lifeboats on the high seas. She gave up a place in a water ambulance to escort her patients to the deck from her ward. When Lily escaped the capsized ship, she escaped through a small hatch with her lifejacket around her. As thirty five years old Lily plunged into the freezing ocean waters, she became gravely ill but the assistance and assurances of her officer colleagues comforted her.


The Co. Mayo woman was not a swimmer but she risked her own life to save her colleagues on board their ship and when she regained her composure floating on the water in her lifejacket, she immediately began rendering assistance to her colleagues fighting for their own lives and Lily displayed total disregard for her own personal safety.

The casualties were severe. Fifty five patients, ten medical staff, thirty crew members plus eleven prisoners of war. They all perished in this sea tragedy. The total lives lost amounted to one hundred and six.

Eventually Sister McNicholas, along with other survivors were picked up by an American cutter (a small craft capable of high speeds), she continued to care for all the injured, despite the fact Lily herself was pulled from the floating ocean and struggling to stay alive.

 In the ocean tragedy Lily McNicholas, also lost her dearest nursing friend, a Scottish woman, who sank without trace and this caused immense grief to the brave Mayo nurse. The war newspapers carried pages of newsprint on the ocean tragedy and Lily McNicholas was heaped with praise for her heroism.

She was recognised for her efforts by Buckingham Palace but Sister McNicholas did not attend her Investiture at the Palace. Instead Lily decided to travel up to Scotland to meet the parents of her friend. That act signified the great humanity of Sr. Lily McNicholas from Ireland.

Lily Mc Nicholas was born on 16th October 1909 in Kiltimagh, Co. Mayo, one of ten children. Her parents were Thomas and Bridget McNicholas and the family operated a Bakery, established in 1860, by her grandparents. Lily attended the St. Louis school in Kiltimagh town.

Like many more young Co. Mayo women in the Ireland of the first half of the 20th century, Lily decided to emigrate from her native land in the 1930’s with a nursing career in England foremost in her mind.

After working for several years in a nursing apprenticeship, she qualified as a nurse and on the outbreak of World War2 with Adolf Hitler’s Germany, Lily enlisted in the war effort by becoming a reserve within Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service.

Sister McNicholas, following her harrowing war experiences at sea underwent a period of convalescence in England and then continued with her nursing career in postings to London, Bombay and Egypt.

In 1947 Lily moved to Chicago to work in a hospital and later became a company nurse attached to the U.S. International Harvester company of Chicago, who specialised in the manufacture of agricultural machinery, construction equipment, trucks, and household and commercial products.

Sister McNicholas retired from nursing in 1976 and died at a residential nursing home - Oak Lawn - in Chicago aged eighty seven on 5th March 1998.

Her funeral mass was held at the Catholic Church on 4240 West 98th St. Oak Lawn, Chicago.

She was survived by her sisters Kathleen Madigan, Chicago and Sr. Mochua of St. Louis Convent, Kiltimagh, Co. Mayo.

 Sister Lily Mc Nicholas’s family donated historic memorabilia, including the life jacket she wore in the 1944 sea tragedy, to the Kiltimagh Railway Museum during 1989.

As a Famous Daughter Of Ireland and Co. Mayo, the enrollment and incorporation of Kiltimagh's Sr. Lily McNicholas, in our Irish Heritage collection at All Ireland Hall Of Fame @ www.scoreboardmemories.com will ensure the preservation and promotion of the outstanding heroism of Sr. Lily McNicholas around the international globe.

Tuesday, 31 December 2013 16:11

St. Oliver Plunkett - Famous Meath Cleric

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St. Oliver Plunkett - A Martyr For Ireland & His Faith

Oliver Plunkett, an Irish martyr was executed because of his religious duties to his flock and from his arrest to his execution, his spurious trials made international headlines. His persecutors were intent that there could be only one final decision no matter what defence was offered and the guilty verdict was always a foregone conclusion.

Oliver Plunkett, a native of Oldcastle, Co. Meath, was born on 1st November 1629 to a family who enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle due to their ownership of large land holdings. His early education was mapped out for him by his cousin, Patrick Plunkett, Abbot of St. Mary’s Church, Dublin, and Patrick would always be very influential in Oliver’s choice of career.

The priesthood came knocking on Oliver’s door in 1647, when he was aged just eighteen. He set out for the Irish College in Rome to study his ecclesiastical books and he was a brilliant religious scholar who impressed his superiors greatly.

In 1649, the Cromwell invasion of Ireland forbid catholics to practice their religion and catholic clergy were promptly executed when they carried out their priestly duties.

Ordained in 1654, aged twenty five, Oliver Plunkett was risking his young life by returning to Ireland at that time. At a special Catholic Convention in 1669 he was made Archbishop Of Armagh and returned to Ireland in 1670 to take on his ministry.

On return to Ireland, Oliver found his flock embattled and bewildered and his first mission was to re-establish the catholic church. With some relaxation in the Penal Laws, Oliver built new churches and colleges but the placing into law of the new Test Act once again caused havoc to the catholic church.

All his good work was demolished to the ground and he was forced to go into hiding. A further act (Popish Plot) was instigated and extremists accused him of promoting a French invasion despite his obscurity in hiding.

In 1679 a price was placed on his head for capture and whilst carrying out his duties underground in Dublin, he was betrayed and arrested and later released.

In a Co. Louth church near Drogheda, Oliver spent some time in hiding before once again becoming a prisoner. He was taken to Dundalk for trial and accused of plotting the arrival of 20,000 French soldiers and placing a tax on his ministers to support an Irish rebel army.

The British realised that a conviction in Ireland would be controversial and moved his trial to London. Found not guilty of any illegal act at his first London trial, he was still refused his freedom. A second spurious trial was ordered and a conviction was demanded by the rulers.

On 16 th June 1681, Oliver Plunkett was spuriously found guilty of high treason for promoting the Roman faith.

His condemnation decreed that he would be hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn, London, England.

Oliver Plunkett paid far beyond the ultimate price for his christian beliefs. The head of Oliver was sent to Germany before resting in Armagh and finally taken to Drogheda’s St. Peter’s Church on 29 th June 1921.

Oliver was beatified in 1920 and canonised in 1975.

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.

Saturday, 07 December 2013 21:18

Edel Quinn - Famous Cork Missionary

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Edel Quinn - Cork Born Missionary Became Legion Of Mary Explorer

An extraordinary famous daughter of Ireland whose life spanned a mere thirty six years. In that short lifetime she is known by Catholics worldwide for her great and historic spirituality in foreign lands.

The Legion of Mary was spread worldwide by the great work of people such as Kanturk, Co. Cork, born Edel Quinn.

Edel had wonderful qualities of beauty and humour and was especially pretty, and had no shortage of male admirers. In the barony of Duhallow in North Co. Cork, many suitors were known to greatly admire Edel, and at twenty she had an opportunity to enter into marriage.

Her hesitation was not greatly understood and Edel did not want to confide or whisper her real cause for this reservation. She was a young and beautiful woman full of gracious living, and also a devout Catholic who took her great religious devotion more seriously than most Irish people.

 There was great disappointment when Edel finally acknowledged, that marriage was not in her immediate plans. When she finally conveyed her decision, she knew she was making the right choice for both persons. Her calling was to spread Christian virtues and she felt she could best achieve her objective by joining the Poor Clare Nuns.

When Edel declined a life of marriage and perhaps her own children, Edel’s world fell apart. She was diagnosed with Tuberculosis and she was then unable to join the Poor Clare order. After a brief period of convalescence, Edel decided to emigrate to Wales and later to England and work with the Legion of Mary Society, where she established a counseling service for prostitutes.

Her voluntary work soon attracted many more women prepared to pioneer her charitable work.

Her state of ill health was always a source of concern but despite her disability, Edel went to Kenya, Uganda and South Africa, to set up new Legion of Mary missions. Her missionary work became greatly recognised and soon she received international headlines and the society soon spread far and wide in many corners of the world.

Most of this Legion of Mary acclaim was attributed to the Cork missionary. Her disability finally curtailed her mobility and she died at Nairobi, Kenya, on the 12 th May 1944, aged just thirty seven years.

Ireland - the land of saints and scholars, reared many famous daughters, but this Irish missionary is unique in our history.

Edel Quinn established her own rights for inclusion in any roll call of Famous Daughters of Ireland.




Catherine McCauley: Founder Of Mercy Order Of Nuns In 1831


The foundation set up by Catherine McAuley on 12 th December 1831 was called the ‘Sisters Of Mercy’ and developed internationally to become the largest religious congregation of women in the English speaking world. The ideals and aspirations set out in her memorandum only sought to help the needy and poor in society throughout the world. Care and human consideration was her prime criteria amongst the majority who followed Catherine into the Mercy order.

The founder was born at Stormanstown House, Santry, Co. Dublin, on 29 th September 1778.She suffered the huge trauma of losing both her parents, whilst still a very young child, and she was adopted by the Callaghan family of Coolock, Co. Dublin.She lived a happy and contented childhood and her new foster parents were very well endowed financially.

On the death of the Callaghans in 1822, Catherine, aged forty four, inherited a large fortune, and by this time she had become a deeply religious woman and hadvisions for a new life helping reform attitudes of society.

She professed charity and care of those in need and these founding principles were wholly adopted by the sisters who followed her into the new religious order.

From her large inheritance she allocated substantial monies for the founding of a special school and hostel for working mums, whose children would use the facility. The premises was located at Lower Baggot Street, Dublin.

In 1829 she now decided, at the age of fifty one, to enter the Presentation Sisters at Grange’s Hill and took her vows in 1831.

Soon after she financed herself to pioneer a new order for religious women called the ‘Sisters of Mercy.

The  main objectives would be educating poor girls, caring for poor women, visiting the sick and spreading the word of God.

During her short life as a nun of just twelve years, the Dublin born missionary established a total of fifteen Mercy Convents in various parts of Ireland.

Under her spiritual guidance the Mercy Order spread internationally with convents all around the world and young women all eager to enter the Mercy Order of Nuns in different continents.

In Ireland Mercy Convents abounded in all of the 32 counties. Towns, large and small, were building new convents to cater for education of children from all backgrounds. The pioneering work of the Dublin founder left a huge legacy of goodwill and as the centuries expanded, the original etoss of the founder became a source of concern for thousands of Irish people around the globe.

Catherine McCauley, Famous Daughter of Ireland, died on 10 th November 1841, aged just sixty three years.

Catherine McCauley is buried in the convent grounds of the Mercy Order in Baggott Street, Dublin