In 1812, Maria O’Brien established a school in Rahan, Co. Offaly. Two years later she inherited £50,000 and the large Rahan estate from her father. Eager to continue educating the poor of the parish, she invited Presentation Sisters from George’s Hill Convent to the village and had a convent built for them. The convent was an exact replica of O’Brien’s own house, Rahan Lodge, which was located a short distance away. 

Above: Aerial view of Presentation Convent, Rahan, 2023
Above: Stained glass window in an alcove in Rahan Convent.
Above: Presentation Convent


Branching Out – Sr Mary McDermott, Rahan Convent

“In 1867, the convent and its chapel were described as a more beautiful convent, a more heavenly retreat, there is not in the diocese of Meath than Rahan’.

Anthony Cogan, ‘The Diocese of Meath: Ancient and Modern’, vol II, (Joseph Dollard: Dublin, 1867), 534

The Presentation Sisters assumed control of O’Brien’s school in 1817. She maintained a close relationship with the nuns and eventually joined them, becoming Sr Mary Clare in  1822. Alongside the traditional three Rs (reading, writing, and arithmetic), the students were also taught cooking, laundry, needlecraft, drawing, singing, drill, and religion. As in every community there were occasionally tensions and Sr Angela Biggar wrote to the Archbishop of Dublin, Daniel Murray, in 1829 complaining about a sister that had been sent to Rahan from Dublin. The newly arrived nun was ‘very troublesome’ and the Dublin convent refused to take her back.

Top right image: Maria O’Brien paid for the building of the convent at Rahan. The convent is a replica of her own house, Rahan Lodge, which was only a few fields away from the convent.
Above: View of St Carthage’s Church from Rahan Convent. Many of the sisters from the convent are buried in the church grounds.