Letter from Nano Nagle to Miss Mary Angela Fitzsimons 20 July 1770


Letter from Nano Nagle to Miss Mary Angela Fitzsimons 20 July 1770


Penal Laws, Catholicism, Ursulines, Nano Nagle, education, poverty, poor, eighteenth century


Letter written from Nano Nagle, Cove Lane, Cork to Miss Mary Angela Fitzsimons, Ursuline monastery, Rue St. Jacques, Paris.

Nano is presently in Bath, England, visiting her brothers, who until lately were unaware of her work in setting up poor schools in Cork. Nano felt the need to keep her actions secret from them as she was ‘sure they would be the first to oppose me’.

While aware that her actions run contrary to Penal statutes, Nano is determined to press on. She has recently objected to a suggestion put forward by Mr. Bryan Keating, [merchant, South Mall, Cork] and Dr. [John] Butler [Bishop of Cork], to seek Protestant approval for the new foundation in Cork.


Nano Nagle


Ursuline Convent archive, Blackrock, Co.Cork


Sisters of the Irish Ursuline Union




Caroline Maguire, National University of Ireland, Maynooth


Property of the archive of the Ursuline Convent, Blackrock, Cork












Cork, Ireland
Paris, France
Bath, England, United Kingdom

Original Format



‘Though I did myself the pleasure of writing to you lately, yet [I am induced to write again] by a letter I received from our worthy friend [Dr Moylan] who acquaints me with the sudden death of his sister-in-law. She was a most amiable person and I am most sincerely sorry for her. He says he resolved to leave Cork in about twelve days if the ship be ready and the wind fair. I always admired his zeal; and this is a great instance of it: to leave his afflicted family and tender father. This shock revives all the trouble he had for the death of his eldest son, for if anybody ever died of grief, his daughter-in-law has. Yet, notwithstanding Mr. M's fortitude to leave his friends in this situation, if his father who is old and sickly should fall ill, it won't be in his power to depart as soon as he expected. Nor can I imagine it possible he will let him go, as he can hardly bear him out of his sight when he is in urgent affliction.


As I heard you thought I came [here] for my health: as you are so good as to interest yourself in my regard, I was afraid it might have made you uneasy. [I beg] to assure you that, thank God, I never was better, and it was not to [take] the waters I came nor have I tasted them. I came to see my brothers and be sure it was with much ado I could prevail on myself to pay this visit. I did not acquaint you with this tour, as I wavered so much with myself that I may say [that] till I was in the ship I was not sure of coming — it was so much against my inclination to leave my children, and only to serve the foundation I never should have prevailed on myself.


Our friend, I have reason to think, spoke with a prophetic spirit by what has happened. For my own family would otherwise never have the opinion they have at present nor ever [have] interested themselves as they do for its success. You must be [have been] surprised when you heard that they knew nothing of it. You heard what was true; the young lady that told you that my sister Nagle says was the first she heard of it and could not believe it at all, she told her so. I fancy you don't forget [that] I wrote to you [that] when I began my schools my own immediate family knew nothing of it. So the same method I was resolved to take [now], as I was sure they would be the first to oppose me. Never said I one word to them till I saw things had such a prospect of succeeding, which I was sure I never could have persuaded them of if they did not see it. And it gives them all great pleasure that I should be the means of promoting such a good work, and my sisters-in-law are as eager to get good subjects for us as we could be. I hope you'll approve of my manner of acting, as the less noise is made about affairs of this kind in this country the better.


Mr. K[eatin]g got a letter from Dr Butler. On which he came [to] speak to me about his sister. And [he] says [that] as we must be of such service to the kingdom, if we had the Protestants' consent for the establishment he would be better pleased she was amongst us, as she could do more good than anywhere else. On which I told him before my brother and sister that had I consulted my own family [then], I should not have had a school in Cork; which they said was [true]. They argued with him if such a proposal was made he ... the foundation and the schools. I leave you to judge what . . . such a thing must be looked on ... .[1]


[1] T.J. Walsh, Nano Nagle and the Presentation Sisters (Dublin, 1959), p. 352



Nano Nagle , “Letter from Nano Nagle to Miss Mary Angela Fitzsimons 20 July 1770,” Welcome to the Nano Nagle letters, accessed June 12, 2024, https://ursulinesisters.omeka.net/items/show/11.