The history behind the Temple Gate Hotel
“The Sisters shall be convinced that no work of charity can be more productive of good to society or more conductive of happiness to the poor than the careful instruction of women, because whatever be the station they’re: destined to fill, their example and their advice will always have great influence”. Sr. Catherine McAuley – founder of the Sisters of Mercy Order
The aims of the Sisters of Mercy were the education of women, the visitation of the poor and sick in their homes and the provision of shelter for homeless and unemployed women. Unlike most congregations of that time there was no enclosure for Catherine McAuley’s nuns – the streets of town and city were to be their cloister.
The site that the Temple Gate Hotel is now on is steeped in history.
In 1853 Row House in Arthur’s Row became vacant, when it’s occupant Charles O’Connell, solicitor and cousin of Daniel O’Connell (the “Liberator”), retired. Daniel O’Connell had been a frequent visitor particularly in the years 1827-1829 when his election campaign was planned in Row House.
Dean Kenny rented the property and renovated it as a convent. The property consisted of an old house with three storeys over a basement.
On May 29, 1854, Sr. Mother M. Elizabeth Moore of St. Mary’s Limerick, Rev. M. Vincent McMahon – the intended superior for the new foundation, three professed Sisters and a novice, Sr. M. Paula Browne, accompanied by Dr. Ryan – bishop of Limerick, arrived in Ennis to establish a Convent of Mercy. The house was dedicated to St. Francis Xavier.
From then on the Sisters started on the apostolate of teaching. They leased premises near the convent and ‘St. Xavier’s School was affiliated to the National School Board. Sunday School began for servants and girls who could not attend day school, and so generations of people were given the opportunity to be educated.
On Saturdays the Sisters visited the workhouse to meet the inmates and on Sundays they gave religious instructions to both adults and children. They also visited patients in the Country Infirmary, the prisoners in the County Jail and the sick and poor in their homes.
From these beginnings, the Sisters changed the lives of many people and their work was so appreciated that they were asked to go to other countries to form communities and continue with their good work.
Meriden, Connecticut (1872)
Middletown, Connecticut (1872)
Singleton, New South Wales (1875)
Hokitika, New Zealand (1878)
Lemoore, California, U.S.A. (1959)
Arroyo Grande, California, U.S.A. (1963)
These were some of the places they went abroad to, and of course they formed other communities in Ireland.
The Convent of Mercy, Ennis continued to grow in response to the needs of the community, The Sisters taught many subjects including music, dancing, sewing, embroidery, knitting, laundry and cookery. They opened an orphanage for children and taught them skills they could use to make a living later in life. The sisters also worked as nurses in hospitals in the area.
St. Xavier’s Chapel (now the Great Hall) was consecrated and opened in 1895. Plans were drawn up by Francis O’Connor of Ennis and tender for £1.56 was accepted in 1892.
The chapel was Gothic in design, lighted by stained glass windows in the nave and sanctuary which depicted the work carried out by the Sisters, and by cathedral glass in the transepts. The window in the sanctuary, donated by Dean Kenny in 1869, was transferred from the former chapel. The lancet windows in the nave were of Munich glass.
The Clare Journal of that week gives a detailed description of the interior of the Chapel and said:
“ The visitor on passing the large swinging door cannot fail to be impressed with the striking beauty of the interior.”
Following the recommendations of Vatican II, St. Xavier’s Chapel was renovated in 1978 and remained that way until 1995. Another effect of Vatican II was the change of the mercy habit and for many of the Sisters, reverting to their baptismal names.
There has been a diversification in the works undertaken by the Sisters in recent times. Some have opted to continue in the traditional works of the visitation, teaching and nursing while others have entered into areas of social work, public health nursing, counselling, running alcoholic centres, retreat houses, prayer groups and helping those most vulnerable in our society – travellers and refugees.
Looking further afield, the Sisters have interested themselves in the plight of families in the Third World, particularly in Kenya, Brasil and Rwanda. There the Sisters are engaged in healthcare, homemaking, catechetics and the teaching of crafts. Meanwhile in Ennis the Holy Family School and the Colaiste Mhuire are sources of education for a large percentage of the young population of Ennis.
The Sisters of Mercy moved from Ennis Convent in 1995 and have new premises nearby.
(Excerpts taken from Sister Pius O’Brien’s book “The Sisters of Mercy in Ennis”, which is a very detailed and interesting account of the last 132 years and is available at Veritas, O’Connell Street, Ennis and The Ennis Bookshop, Abbey Street, Ennis.)
The recent past:
John Madden, who has worked in the hotel industry for many years, is the proprietor of the Temple Gate Hotel. In March 1996, he and his family opened the Temple Gate Hotel on the site of the Convent of Mercy.
The Maddens worked together with the Ennis developer Egan O’Connor, and hired an architect who was mindful of the style of the original building and retained the Gothic theme of the building throughout. This is especially evident in the Great Hall Banqueting/Conference facility (formerly St. Xavier’s Chapel) with its magnificent stained-glass windows, high ceilings and wooden beams which create a truly unique atmosphere.
At that time the hotel comprised of 23 bedrooms, a restaurant “Le Bistro”, McCauley’s Pub and the Gallery Board Room.
In response to customer needs however, an additional 40 bedrooms including a number of suites were built in 1998. Macauley’s Pub was converted to the Great Hall Banqueting/Conference facility with seating for up to 200 people, a traditional style pub called “Preacher’s” was opened, and two new syndicate meeting rooms with the latest in communication equipment were added.
The hotel has pursued excellent in all areas since opening. Legends Restaurant has been awarded AA Rosettes for many years already. Our head chef ensures that the quality of the food served is of the highest standard. Legends Restaurant is also a 3 Toque member of the Ennis/Shannon Good Food Circle.