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Life Of Two-Mile-Borris, Co. Tipperary Centenarian To Be Celebrated In Australia.

Local Tipperary Correspondent Mr Gerry Bowe Reports:-

‘Let our lives be good, and the times will be good.’

Huge preparations are currently underway in the Mercy Community Residential Age Care Nursing Home, Nudgee, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia in prepration for the 100th birthday celebration for Sr. Mary Britton, due to take place on January 20th next.

Same preparations are expected to include numerous video conferencing calls, numerous emails, a Mass celebration and party; all for Sr. Mary celebrating her amazing life which was dedicated to teaching.

Sr. Mary Britton

Sr. Mary was born on the 20th January 1922, during the Irish civil war; the eldest of the Britton family, from Cloncleigh, Two-Mile-Borris, Thurles, Co. Tipperary, the daughter of the late Edward and Johanna Britton and sister to brothers Paddy, Sean, Billy and Pierce, and the late Eddie, Christy, Johanna and Bridget (R.I.P).
Baptised in St. James Church, Two-Mile-Borris, Thurles; Sr. Mary received her early education in the local national school. She received her First Holy Communion also in St. James Church in the village and later received her Confirmation in the nearby Church of St. Peter in Chains, Moycarkey, Thurles, Co. Tipperary.

In 1938, at the age of 17 years, Sr. Mary entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy, in Timolegue, Co. Cork.

Due to the outbreak of World War II, (1939 -1945), travel was greatly curtailed and Sr. Mary spent the next eight years in Timolegue, Co Cork. It was while residing there that she qualified as a music and elocution teacher, having studied at the College of Music in Cork City and while travelling by train each day to Cork City. Same studies saw her receive the highest grades from Trinity College, London. Sr. Mary has always remained very musical, with a most beautiful singing voice.

In 1947 preparations were made for Sr. Mary and 18 other nuns, to sail to Australia and to take their religion and new teaching qualifications to the new Roman Catholic schools then being built.
In November 1947, they departed from Glenmire railway station, Co Cork; travelling to Sean Heuston station in Dublin, before staying overnight in a convent in Dun Laoghaire.

The following day, together with 13 priests, they set sail from Dun Laoghaire harbour in Dublin, sailing to Holyhead in Wales.

SS Otranto 1947.

On arrival in Wales they continued by train to the port of South Hampton, England, where they boarded the then refitted troop ship SS Otranto, a passenger liner, then sailing regularly between England and Australia. The overall journey took some 5 weeks before arriving in Perth Harbour.

Sr. Mary well remembers the journey to Australia as being very pleasant. They were all treated very well, with the food, presented on board, being of the highest standard. They arrived in Perth Harbour on St. Stephen day, 1947, to sunshine, heat and clear blue skies, before taking another boat to Sydney harbour.

His Eminence Sir Norman Thomas Gilroy, KBE.

Here they were very well received, with the Archbishop of Sydney, later His Eminence Cardinal Sir Norman Thomas Gilroy, KBE, [Latter of Irish descent; the first Australian-born Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church, knighted in 1969], coming in person to welcome them and providing a celebratory feast for all the religious Irish weary travellers to enjoy.

Sr. Mary would then continue travelling on to Melbourne, before ending her journey in Brisbane, Queensland.

Sr. Mary’s first teaching post was in All Hallows’ Convent boarding school for girls, latter the first Catholic boarding school built in Brisbane. Here she spent some 37 happy years, teaching music, piano and violin together with other instruments. She also taught English and gave elocution classes to the girls. She taught singing, organised the choirs for the church in the school and the musicals for the boarding school stage.

Through her love of music and her friendly personality, Sr. Mary made many friends in the community around All Hallows’ Convent with many of her pupils remaining close friends long afterwards.

In 1984, Sr. Mary was invited to transfer to St. Bridget Convent School in Rosewood, Queensland. Rosewood is a small coal mining town about 38 miles from Brisbane. It has a population of approx. 3,000 people. Here Sr. Mary thrived, due to her good nature, her pleasant and cheerful personality and of course her great talent as a musician/singer.

Once again Sr. Mary made lifetime friends through her music and her involvement in the local community and church. She spent some 16 happy years in Rosewood, before the nuns transferred the school over to the local community.

On retirement, Sr. Mary returned to the Mater Hospital in Brisbane and again she became involved with the church and contributed greatly to parish work. Only last year did Mary, at the age of 99 years, go into a nursing home belonging to the Mercy Congregation, where she continues to attend Mass each day and participate in many other activities.

Sr. Mary returned to Ireland many times over the years and always enjoyed spending time with her family and friends from Two-Mile-Borris and the wider community here in Co. Tipperary. She holds many dear memories of her now deceased brothers and sisters (Eddie, Christy, Johanna Mc Donnell and Bridget Ryan, R.I.P.).

Sr. Mary remains in frequent contact with her brothers Paddy, Sean, Billy and Pierce, still residing in the village of Two-Mile-Borris, Thurles as well as her nieces and nephews; taking a special interest in their everyday lives.

It is with great joy we celebrate this upcoming occasion as Sr. Mary reaches her 100th birthday on Thursday January 20th, 2022.

A very happy birthday wish goes to Sr. Mary from all her friends and family here in Two-Mile-Borris, Thurles and Co. Tipperary.

Lá breithe shona duit.

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