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Celebration mass to mark end of an era

PUBLISHED: 15:48 08 May 2008 | UPDATED: 11:02 03 July 2010

JUST a stone's throw from Great Yarmouth's bustling holiday heart with its cheeky postcards and gifts lives the last sister of St Louis.

Sister Rosalie Corish is the only remaining nun from an order which has seen a total of 80 teaching nuns working in fee-paying schools they founded in an era spanning almost 70 years.

JUST a stone's throw from Great Yarmouth's bustling holiday heart with its cheeky postcards and gifts lives the last sister of St Louis.

Sister Rosalie Corish is the only remaining nun from an order which has seen a total of 80 teaching nuns working in fee-paying schools they founded in an era spanning almost 70 years.

Irish-born Sister Rosalie's work took her to London and West Africa before coming to Yarmouth seven years ago, not as a teacher, like the others, but as a companion to the remaining trio of nuns who have now moved on, two

to nursing homes and one to Newmarket.

But now the curtain is officially coming down on the convent, with around 150 invited guests garnered from as far as Africa and Ireland, among them former pupils and Sisters, coming for a celebration mass at noon tomorrow.

It means adding the final pictures to a folder brimming with sepia snaps, silver jubilee souvenirs and press cuttings which reveal the order has not been without controversy.

Sister Rosalie, 74, who lives close to St Mary's Roman Catholic Church in busy Regent Road, said: “What we are actually celebrating is our life and work here since 1920. When nuns leave a place there is usually a closing ceremony - we just do not walk off and say nothing - so we decided to invite our past pupils and parish friends to a celebration.”

“The sisters have left Yarmouth one by one by one and I am the only one left.”

Among those attending is former pupil Mary Lovewell-Blake, 68, of Fleggburgh, who co-ordinates the old girls' association which sees between 60 and 80 old school chums get together every other year for lunch at Gorleston's Cliff Hotel.

She said: “It's the end of an era. Once Sister Rosalie leaves that will be it.” The sisters of St Louis first came to Yarmouth in February 1920 and founded St Mary's School in Albion Road, which was already functioning but understaffed. Apart from teaching, the sisters visited the sick and needy at time when TB and fevers were rife and benefits unheard of.

In time they also founded another school, St Louis High School, in North Drive - which closed despite a vigorous campaign to save it in 1971 - and St Edmunds Secondary School in Kennedy Avenue Gorleston, pupils there eventually transferring to Notre Dame in Norwich.

They continued at St Mary's School until 1996, when it moved to Gorleston with Peter Cleary at the helm, and only one teaching sister on staff, Sister Brenda, who kept the flag flying well past retirement.

Mrs Lovewell-Blake recalled that manners and discipline were important to the nuns, who insisted girls always wore their hats. Getting caught eating chips on the market in uniform would carry some sort of punishment, although girls who got the bus could not be kept behind.

She added that when the playground chums, some of whom were now grey-haired grannies in their 80s, met up they were full of chatter as they had been as schoolgirls, and never

wanted to go home.

When they first arrived the nuns lived in Nelson Road and then in a row of knocked-together large terraces in Albion Road which were sold in October.

The celebration mass will be

followed by a buffet at the Hadleigh Gables Hotel close to new apartments where the old high school used to stand.


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