Memories of Maris Stella
Convent School, New Brighton
Hi, been reading this and noticed there are a couple of questions about the
convent school, so figured I'd add my two penneth.
I was brought up in and around New Brighton and went to the convent school. It
was called Maris Stella. Actually there were two locations for the school. One,
the preparatory school as it was called, was in Wellington Road. Hence one of
our nicknames. the other school kids used to call us, Welly Booters!
It was a fee paying school for boys and girls but boys had to leave at the age
of 7 I think it was. The headmistress of the prep school was Sister Margaret
Mary. One of the finest people I've ever met. Among the other staff, there was a
Sister Tria, I think she worked in the kitchens. A Miss Bell who taught art,
drama and singing, a Sister Aquinas, a Sister Theresa, another sister who's name
I can't remember and one I will never, ever forget!!! Sister Winifred.
On my first day at the school the other kids told me her name was sister
Winnipeg! On seeing her in the street I shouted, what I thought was her name,
and waved. That became the beginnings of a strong mutual hatred. Oh and I
remember someone called Bacon. You can guess what we called her!
The other location was in Rowson St. That too was called Maris Stella but it was
the Convent Grammar School for Girls. That wasn't fee paying, well not when I
attended. As the headmistress, Sister Carmel, never tired of telling us, "Not
everyone can come here. You can't pay to come here. Only those who are good
enough can come here. Those who pass their 11 plus!" Her and I didn't get on
very well either. I reckon she was Winipeg's sister!
The first line of the school anthem was . . . "Children of Maris Stella, proudly
the name we bear. . . . and there was something in there about the name meaning
Star of the Sea? Can't remember any more than that . . not sure I was ever that
keen on singing it even then.
Anyway, around 1968 or maybe 69, there was a change in the education system. For
some reason the kids who attended Saint Hilda's, the school for those "awful
children" who didn't pass the 11 plus, started coming to our school.
I was delighted as my best friend was now in the same school as me. And, of far
more importance in my teenage world, they could no longer call us "Maris Stella,
Marsh Smellers" one of our less pleasant nicknames! Sister Carmel was not at all
happy about this "merger", or whatever it was. I didn't stick around for the
sixth form and moved away from the area not long after.
I believe the school changed completely over the next few years. I understand it
became Saint Mary's, was open to both boys and girls and moved to another area.
I'm not sure of any of this last bit though. The place was great as were the
people. The school? Well I reckon it's better in retrospect!
I was a pupil at Maris Stella convent & my brother was as well &
when it was time he had to go to St Peters & Paul at the top of the
hill. I started school in 1951 0r 1952. My name then was Mary
Fairbrother. I remember Mary Cottrell ( I think that is how it was
spelled. I remember Sister Margaret Mary as she was head mistress,
we also had Mrs Alexander who taught us dance & posture, sword &
country dancing & I know I loved every minute of that. I remember
going on a pilgrimage to Lourdes & I shared a room with three or
four other girls. Each day we would arrange the furniture & then go
to sleep . The following day the maids has put it back as it was
originally. Lourdes had a profound effect on me & I do remember
crying when we left to go home. Sister Stephanie was my favorite nun
& sister Keiran was my brother Eugene's favorite nun. Sadly Eugene
died about 5 years ago. Do you all remember that we had to wear
panama hats in the summer along with our green dresses & in the
winter the valour hats with the brim up or down. I have so many
memories of my days at the convent and indeed I was one of those bad
girls that went to St Hildas, but one year later was sent to
Wallasey Tech. If anybody remembers Mary
Fairbrother, please email me @ mvision2222 @ aol.com, I would
love to hear from you.
Anon, I see my sister's name here - Fenella Hall. We were both at
the school until 1964 when we moved to Scotland. I was at Maris
Stella for six years. I have a wonderful school photo from (I think)
1961 showing all the nuns and pupils. Do you remember the production
of Princess Ju Ju? And I remember marching around the playground in
front of the grotto carrying our candles.
I went to Maris Stella and I am one of the pupils mentioned by
'Anon' - I wonder who you are and that you remembered I was 11 on
6.6.66? Memories are coming back...I remember Sister Lawrence
introducing me to Saint Christopher who would help me retrieve the
things I lost (sometimes it worked!)- we non-Catholics went to a
special class when the others were learning their catechism. Perhaps
it was like Limbo. Let me see, Anon, are you Christine who had her
mouth taped over by our French teacher? I think you wouldn't shut up
so she resorted to desperate means! You and I sat at our little
wooden desks, and giggled. Anne Higgins, Mary Howley, Christine
Stobart, Lesley Rooney, Laurence and Avril Hammer, Pat Newton, Judy
Smith, Helen Kirkby, Paul Fazackerly - I remember you. Random
memories: We went on a trip to France...or was it Belgium with the
sisters. When we got there, the first night four of us in a room got
spooked. Was it Avril who saw a ghost?! Sister Paul came running in
with a towel round her head and if I remember rightly, there was
some medicinal brandy.....? Helen, you used to have cheese and onion
sandwiches for lunch! There was an air raid shelter in the
playground. We went to little sister's (she would put plasters on
our scratches and grazed knees) funeral. We had to stop and curtsy
if a sister passed us on the stairs or in the corridor. Sister
Loyola would go as red as a tomato when she was caning a luckless
pupil on the palm. The black robes with the huge rosaries. The boys
playground and the girls playground. The grotto. Yes, I wonder where
you all are now?! Anon
Hi Great to read about Wellington Road School, I have most of the
same memories, but, remember the school with a bit more affection.
It was different days back then and those nuns must have had a
pretty horrible life, I'm amazed they were as nice as they were. It
was a prim and proper time back then and the adults were still
recovering from the war Anon
I too had the misfortune to attend Maris Stella, both the prep
school in Derwent House in Wellington Road and the grammar school in
Rowson Street. The latter was a large brick edifice with a bizarre
annexe over a nightclub next door. What was that annexe called - did
it begin with S? The school had a playground behind the building on
Rowson Street which was just big enough for a netball/tennis court.
Tennis was usually played in Marine Park across the road and hockey
at Harrison Hills - aptly named. For a school within spitting
distance of the sea and the largest swimming pool for miles, strange
that swimming was never on the agenda. During my time the prep
school consisted of Sister Laurence's domain in 'The Bungalow' a
single storey building across a small playground from the main
school and next to the air raid shelter. Sr Lawrence was probably a
good sort but petrified most of the 4-5yr olds in her charge. Moved
on to Class 2 and Sr Aquinas who was a talented teacher. Class 3 was
a more normal environment with Miss Wady as was Junior 1 with Mrs
?Jones (can anyone remember, nice person with children at the
school). Miss Betty Bowes taught singing, irish dancing and PE. They
didn't have enough teachers after that and Junior 2 and 3 were
combined under the iron fist and rod of Sr Loyola - never held back
from corporal punishment. By the time I got to Junior 4 St Margaret
Mary had retired and was replaced by an enlightened head, Sr Marie
France. The annual concert was held at Harrison Hall with the
leavers performing a short play, ours was something about Japan or
China. We never had a Nativity Play but paraded around the school,
dressed in white and wearing veils, sometime in May and seemingly
always singing 'May is the month of Mary' or 'Ave Maria'. Sr Trea
was in the kitchen, administering sticking plasters and ice lollies
to the injured and presiding over the free milk and orange juice at
break, The 11 plus seemed to go on for months and passing relegated
you to the senior school where the standard of teaching on many
subjects left a lot to be desired. I suspect that the primary
requirement for teaching staff was their religion and ability to
double up as RE staff (for which read catholic indoctrination)
rather than any real ability at their actual subject. I was never
musical but the choir gained an excellent reputation under Cecilia
Cheetham, regularly singing and winning competitions, even at the
LLangollen Eisteddfod. For me the best thing that happened was the
nuns refusal to continue in the era of comprehensive education
resulting in closure in July 1972. The teaching had been so bad in
the last year, probably because of the imminent closure and loss of
morale, that my new school insisted that I repeated the lower sixth.
There I realised the inadequacy of my previous 13 years of education
and have been catching up ever since. Names I remember from the prep
school: Fenella Hall, Anne Higgins, Mary Howley, Christine Stobart,
Marie Hall/Tidy, Lesley Rooney, Laurence and Avril Hammer, Gillian
Poppit (who was 11 on 06/06/66), the Americans Gwen, Gail and
Gretchen Barber, Pat Newton, Shauna Bennett, Judy Smith, Yvonne
Spruce, Helen Kirkby, Paul Fazackerly, Elizabeth and Michael
Kobuke-Masuke and many others I can see but not name - where are you
I went to Maris Stella school for 2 years until 1971 then came to
live in Ireland. We had a beautiful uniform with a navy and purple
striped blazer and flat straw hat. At the time I hated it cos other
schools were not so strict and on the train to and from school I
would get picked on as being posh. We had a tennis uniform and
walked across the road from the main school building to use it in
the park overlooking the swimming baths. I used to feel as proud
wearing my whites as people watched us play tennis. My brother went
to the junior school. The nuns used to spoil him often when mum come
to collect him from school. He would be in the kitchen chatting to
the nuns eating biscuits. I went back in 1989 to see the school and
found it had been knocked down, what a shame it was a nice old
building, alas all us past pupils have are memories
I went to Maris Stella when I first started school in 1950 and I
only lasted a year because I was pulled out at the end of the year
and sent to Vaughan Road, I believe because I had told my mother
that she wasn't my real mother - Mary was!! My teacher was called
Miss Bowes and she was really nice. She used to leave a pear drop on
your desk at lunchtime if you had done well in the morning. I also
remember Sister Florence and Sister Winnifred. They scared me to
death and I remember being told that because I wasn't a Catholic I
would go to "Limbo" when I died, and I had no idea where that was. I
have lived in Canada since I was nineteen but I still remember those
days very well, and I still think that Maris Stella was a much
better school than Vaughan Road - which was a hellhole.
My wife attended Maris Stella High School an has a blue booklet with
the school name, crest and date May 1952. In the booklet are two
pictures of people one is outside in front of a statue, the other is
a shot of a class room. The other three pictures are the exterioor
of the school, an alter, and the statue surrounded by rocks. Does
anyone remember this booklet or been in the picture?
R Mcintyre Canada
I've been trying to remember the school song of Maris Stella that
you mentioned. I wasn't that keen on singing it either but it seems
to have stuck in my memory. I remember the chorus and the second
verse but have forgotten the first verse. Perhaps someone can jog my
Children of Maris
Stella, Proudly the name we bear.
We will be true
through all our days To the lessons taught us there.
Daughters of a royal
race, Out Mother, Star of the Sea;
Through life's dark
ways our paths will trace, From harm and danger free.
What though the bell
with clam'rous note Breaks in upon our play
And summons us to
study grave Or calls us all to pray.
The daily task our
training ground An army bright are we.
"Gloire a Dieu Seul,"
(Glory to God Alone) our battle cry And prayer will ever be.
Thanks Emmjay for your memories and historical
documents of Maris Stella.
I've just had a novel come out, set in New Brighton in 1964. It is called Box
of Tricks. For anyone who remembers the old place I hope it brings back happy
memories - and it's a good story! It's available from Amazon and from all good
book shops. Jeff Phelps
of Wilkies Palace, Funfair, New Brighton