Nazareth House 1902- 2002

100 years of care for Derry's children & elderly

For the last 100 years the Sisters of Nazareth in Derry have earned a place in the hearts of all the people of the city for their sterling work and commitment to looking after the children and elderly of the city.

The names, faces and building of Nazareth House, Bishop Street may have changed in the last 100 years but the ethos hasn’t.

Since 1892 when Nazareth House first opened its doors to the needy of Derry the sisters have remained committed to providing care and help to all those who need it. And since 1902 Nazareth House has provided first class education for the children of Derry.

Earlier this week the 370 pupils of the schools, dressed in their trademark blue uniform, joined with staff, former teachers, past pupils, members of the clergy and parents for a celebration of what they call ‘the birthday of Nazareth House’.

All over Derry, people have commented on the great strides that Nazareth House has made over the last century.

Not only have they enjoyed both academic and personal success on a large scale with past and present pupils but they have won many prestigious awards and enjoyed massive success at Derry’s Feis.

Sadly the Nazareth’s children’s residential home closed in 2000 however Nazareth House remains committed to education, and the care of the elderly.

Nazareth House School also encourages the children to get to know the elderly in the home and the children have regular contact with the elderly by performing shows and organising Christmas concerts for them.

Children sit side by side with the elderly in the building’s small church and learn to have respect for their elders.

Speaking yesterday to the ‘Journal’ school principal, Sister Bernadine said it was wonderful to have reached the 100 year milestone in the school’s history.

“We have had a marvellous week”, she said. “To celebrate the anniversary we had Mass in the school on Wednesday with Father Donnelly and Father Keaveney. Many of our ex-members of staff who have dedicated years of their life to the school also attended and shared their memories of the school. Many parents of pupils, past and present also attended.

“The whole school joined in the service. And for the first time we had our nursery class in the hall for a school gathering.

“We were completely inundated with flowers from parents who made donations to decorate the hall. We had so many, I wondered where I was going to put them all?

“As part of the celebrations we have also installed a statue of a Guardian Angel in the Assembly Hall.
“We decided to do this to remind ourselves of how unsafe the world can be for our children today. We encourage the children to keep safe and pray to their guardian angels.

“One of the most touching moments of the day was when we were presented with a link from the past from E.J. Toye solicitors. They presented us with the silver trowel that was used in 1902 when the cornerstone was first laid by Bishop John Keys O’Doherty.

“The detail and inscription on the trowel is wonderful and it is a wonderful keepsafe for us to have.”

Nazareth House is a much changed place since it first opened in 1892.
“Nazareth House first opened as home to provide care for the orphans and the elderly of Derry.” said Sister Bernadine.

“Then in 1902 the cornerstone of the Nazareth House Primary School was laid marking the beginning of the building of the school.

“What most people don’t realise is that when the building was first erected here in 1902, it was revolutionary. It was an incredibly modern building which had gas, electricity and running water whilst many other homes in the city didn’t.

“When the school first opened there were big changes in store for our residents as we opened our doors to other children of the city. It brought great enrichment to the school not only to the residents of Nazareth House but also the pupils who came in.

“This in turn led to children living in our residential home attending other schools in the city. With the older children moving out it made room for children to come in from the local area.

“We had boys coming in to us from Termonbacca and infants from the Waterside who were too young to join the Waterside Primary School.”

Sadly, however the residential home for the children closed in 2000 and the children were moved into independent establishments.

“I think that the closing of the children’s unit was one of the saddest changes we had.” said Sister Bernadine.

“No longer did we hear the children’s voices after three o’clock. When school ended the house was run more like a home and we had real aspects of home life there.

“However the closing of this unit has allowed us to expand the school and enabled us to open up our Nursery Unit and we find this a wonderful help to pupils moving into Primary One. Children who are just three-old are now pupils at our Nursery School.”

Recently Nazareth House had a school inspection and the reports acknowledged that the school operated: “ a caring ethos which permeates the life and work of the school.”

Courtesy of the Derry Journal
By Erin Hutcheon