img010 400Loreto College Cavan is a Catholic, all girls’ secondary school. We recently celebrated the 90th anniversary of the foundation of our school. It has a long tradition of excellence in education and is regarded as one of the most prestigious schools for girls in the north east region.

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Loreto College, Cavan first opened its doors to students in 1930. The house at Drumkeen was purchased from Mr. Andrew Mc Carren, a local businessman.

On May 1st 1930, four Loreto sisters arrived in Cavan to take possession of the house, namely Mother Louis Kevins, Provincial, Sister Antonia Byrne, Superior, Sister Bernadette Warnock, Assistant and Sister Urban Joyce. Preparations began immediately to transform the building into a convent school and, after extensive alterations, the school opened in September 1930 to receive 39 boarders and seventy six day pupils.
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By 1932 the building was considered too small and a new building was completed in 1933. School activities flourished, debates were organised in both English and Irish, hockey, camogie and netball were played enthusiastically and horse riding was popular
During 1940- 1941 a veranda was erected to join the old building and the new.

A third storey was added to the original house in the 1950s to facilitate the boarders. Classroom extensions were added in 1968. A new school building was opened in January 1973 comprising Science Rooms, Home Economics Rooms, Geography Room, Staff Room, Career Guidance area and general classrooms. A major extension was added to this in 1977 containing a Gymnasium, Changing Rooms, Music Room and Hall.

Our Earliest History

img004 400The following description of the formation of the school and its early history was written by on of the sisters. It illustrates some of the challenges faced by the nuns in establishing the school.At the meetings of the Knights of Columbanus, the necessity for a Secondary School for the girls of the Diocese was discussed. The matter was put before the Bishop, Most Rev. Dr. Finnegan. He gave his sanction for application to be made to the principal Teaching Orders. Members of these accepted invitations to see some of the places available for the school – namely Moyne Hall, Aranmoney, Catholic Presbytery and Drumkeen. After various discussions, His Lordship decided to invite the Loreto Nuns to undertake the Foundation. Mother General, Mother Raphael Deasy, accepted the invitation. From the places available she selected Drumkeen. The townlands of Drumaloe, Drumlark and Drumkeenwhich comprise this estate were part of the territory of the O’Reilly’s, this particular portion belonging to Myles O’Reilly, The Slasher. It was confiscated in 1603 and given to Llewellyn Saunderson. It passed in 1903 from Saunderson to to Colonel Clements. In 1917 it was purchased from Mrs.Clements by Mr. Andrew McCarren, The Bacon Factory, Cavan. He sold off all the timber of commercial value and grazed the farm. In May 1930, he sold it for a substantial sum. It is a freehold propertyof 216 acres – about 20% 0f which is under woods and bog.img005 400On May 1st 1930 Mother Louis Kevins, Provincial, Sister Antonia Byrne, Superior, Sister Bernadette Warnock, Assistant and Sister Urban Joyce left 53 Stephen’s Green travelling by motors and arrived in Cavan at 11a.m. There Mr. And Mrs. McCarren waited to hand over the keys.

The newcomers found themselves in an empty house, with piles of heavy luggage stacking upin what had been a billiard room. James Reilly opened boxes, lit a fire, helped to put up beds, to prepare for mass the next morning, in fact from that moment he became a most faithful friend carrying out with ability during those first years the multiplicity of orders, which had to be given, to transform the scene of his 26 years of labour, into a convent school. At 5p.m. they received a deputation of the gentlemen who had been instrumental in bringing them to Cavan – Andrew McCarren, P.V. Smith, P.F. Baxter, Peter Soden, Dr. Terry O’Reilly and Mr. King, Postmaster, are the names recorded. Several speeches were made.Rev. P.V. Rudden, President, St. Patrick’s College, arrived to say mass on May 2nd. From this day Fr. Rudden became an untiring friend, who lost no opportunity of furthering the spiritual, educational and material interests of Loreto. It was decided to open the school from May 15th to June 27th – a remote preparation for September. Three rooms were prepared. Thirty seven children arrived by motor, bicycle and bus varying in ages from three and a half years to eighteen years. 

img006 400The school during these early weeks was financed by Mother Provincial with the help of some money in the form of fees paid by the students.While these first classes went on, there was a feverish activity to get things going for September. Means of transport was the biggest immediate difficulty - the back and front avenue were made twice their original size to permit bus traffic. Loreto Halt was applied for and carried through, advertisement articles were placed in the Press explaining who they were and the work they proposed to do!  Prospectuses and uniforms were prepared. Extensive alterations were necessary in the house - the basement with mud floors and ceilings - shouldered with tree trunks had not been inhabited for over thirty years. The attic was in a similar condition. Light was supplied by an ill-working private plant. A horse hired from Mr. McCarren pumped the lake water. A Belfast firm laid pipes from the spring well to the house- vegetables were planted.On the last Sunday of August, the nuns were desirous to let the people see the place. A notice was put in The Anglo Celt, that Loreto College would be open to visitors from 2pm to 7pm. This brought a continuous stream of interested folk, and at least 600 visitors were shown over the house. 

All expressed delight at the prospect of Secondary education for the girls of the diocese. Dr. Finnegan, the Bishop was a staunch friend of the nuns and a generous benefactor to the College during these early years.On September 8th 1930 there were 39 boarders and 76 day pupils. Sisters Evangeline McDonald, Gerard Gorey, Sabina Fegan and Euphrasia Myles joined the Community. Misses Cecily McGrath, Carmel Somers, Celia McGovern, R. Murphy and E. O'Mahony completed the teaching staff. School routine went on without interruption.

img008 400A few weeks experience proved the 'spring well' to be completely inadequate. It filled in only at the rate of 300 gallons in 4 hours. The nuns had been told it was inexhaustible. Plans had to b made for new supplies in all Departments. It was decided too that another winter of classes in the old coach house would sound the death knell of the school and so it was decided to build. Several plans were submitted by Mr. T.Cullen, Architect. With the approval of Mother General the building was started in June 1932 and completed in January 1933. (This building is the present Concert Hall building.)
After the first inspection of classes by Mr. Close, Mr.Duane, Mr. McKenna, Mrs. O'Donovan and Mr.Heller (1930-1931) they were recognised by The Board of Education, grants were paid and increments were drawn. In the year 1931-32 Loreto became a B school and drew each successive year the special grant for Irish.In 1932 they had to convert a cow house into sleeping apartments. 'Ard Mhuire' housed six secular teachers and four nuns that winter. The centre portion served as a recreation hall for the girls. In it, drill was taught to gramaphone music. This house was later converted into a dairy, barn, farmhouse store and trunk room.


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As was mentioned earlier, the most difficult problem of the early days was that of the water. The spring well was piped to the house, while water was brought from the lake by horse pump. This water was discoloured and hard. The daily pumping by horse went into hours and the cost was astronomical. Then a dam was put down in a ditch near the spring well, this never actually ran dry but the water was hard, principally supplied by mountain streams. This water was collected in a tank which had to be made and was pumped by the same pump as the spring water. It meant the pump was on for hours. The man's time up and down made it costly. The use of the same pipes for both waters was another drawback. They had explored now all channels. Mr. McCarren, having great difficulties with the urban water supply, determined to sink a well. He succeeded and advised Loreto try the same experiment. A good spring well was located - the boring took over a year. Seventy five foot of boulder clay had to be got through before rock was reached at 183 ft water was found and deep well apparatus was erected. It pumped 600 gallons per hour. The water was analysed by a Dublin city analyst and considered very good. The water is hard as limestone is the prevailing rock in Co. Cavan.School activities flourished during the beginning years.

img011 400Debates were organised, both in English and Irish; games were played with great enthusiasm, hockey, camogie and netball being the selected ones. Horse riding was also part of the activities in the early years. During the year 1940-41 a necessary improvement was made in the erection of the verandah joining the old building with the new. The erection of a third storey to the original house to facilitate boarders was acomplished in the late 1940's.

The Crest

School CrestThe crest is the badge worn by all students in Loreto schools throughout the world. The design includes four symbols:

    The Cross – the emblem of salvation
    The heart of Jesus – symbolizes His personal love for us
    The pierced Heart of Mary – depicting her courage as a guide to us
    The anchor – the symbol of hope encouraging us to trust Him

The crest is surmounted by the title ‘Mary Queen of Angels’. This reminds those who wear it of the protective presence of Mary.

At the bottom of the crest are the words which bring us comfort on our journey through life. They read, “I will always trust in the cross”.

The IBVM / Loreto Network


The Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, often called “the Loreto Sisters,” was founded by the Englishwoman Mary Ward in 1609. Today the IBVM Sisters minister on 5 continents in 24 countries (see map above and list below).
Our administrative centre is at Casa Loreto in Rome, Italy. Altogether there are:
• 70,000 Loreto students worldwide
• 3,500 teachers in Loreto schools
• 1,400 support staff employed in Loreto schools
• 119 Loreto schools in 12 countries on 6 continents:
Europe – Albania, Gibraltar, Italy, Ireland, Spain, United Kingdom.
Australasia – Australia.
Africa – Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Zambia, Mauritius, Seychelles.
North America – Canada, United States.
South America – Ecuador, Peru.
Asia – Bangladesh, East Timor, India, Nepal.

Click here to visit the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary website.