16th December 2020
marks the 175th anniversary of the arrival in Gibraltar of the first Loreto Nuns in Gibraltar. They came here expressly to open a school for Gibraltarian girls, and in fact they opened two. One was a fee-paying school, which was originally situated at Don Place, where the five nuns established their convent. The other, for the poorer children, was set up in a large room at 50 Governor’s Street. Both immediately attracted a large number of pupils.
The party of five nuns were escorted to Gibraltar by the Catholic bishop, Rt Rev Mgr Henry Hughes. They were Mother Angela Kelly, the Mother Superior, and Sister Vincent Clinch, Sister Seraphia Rorke, Sister Placida Byrne and another sister thought to be Sister Josephine Underhill. The eldest of the nuns was just 28 years old.
Thus began the long association between the Loreto Nuns and Gibraltar.
Over the many years that the nuns were at the forefront of education for girls in Gibraltar, while the boys were catered for by the Irish Christian Brothers, the nuns taught in a number of schools.
In 1873, the Loreto nuns opened the Loreto Convent School at Europa Road which is still active today. It is Gibraltar’s oldest school that is still in operation. For many years, and in the period up to the World War II evacuation from Gibraltar, this was a boarding school. Many Spanish families sent their daughters to be educated by the Loreto nuns.
The nuns are fondly remembered by the older members of the community for the many years that they were at the helm of the Loreto Convent School at 6 Convent Place. The former school chapel was converted into an office for Sir Joshua Hassan when the seat of government moved there from Secretary’s Lane.
Indeed the order of the Loreto Nuns was given the Freedom of the City by Gibraltar’s Parliament in 2005. They were the first women to receive this accolade. Today, the spirit of the early nuns who arrived in Gibraltar 175 years ago is kept alive in the Loreto Convent School at Europa Road that continues to thrive.
The events originally planned for this important anniversary have had to be trimmed down hugely because of the Covid 19 coronavirus pandemic. The staff and pupils of the Loreto Convent School will nevertheless mark this milestone internally. It is also expected that a series of messages of congratulations and support will be received from abroad.