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Memories of Maris Stella

Convent School, New Brighton

from Emmjay

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! Emmjay!


Maris Stella Convent School, New Brighton Prospectus 1959 Page 2




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 @, 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. Caroline
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 now? Anon
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 sandra
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. Anna
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 memory?


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


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