Mercy Secondary School, Mounthawk

Mission Statement

Mercy Mouthawk Voluntary Catholic Secondary School is a witnessing community which fosters:

  • The full potential of all staff and student.
  • A positive partnership between all members of the school and wider community.
  • The highest standard of teaching, learning and performance.

School History

Mercy Mounthawk is an amalgamation of two mercy Schools: St John’s Balloonagh and St. Mary’s Moyderwell. As with any institutions that have been around for a while – both secondary top schools were established in 1925 - there is a time to reshape to meet the needs of a changed society and this came by way of an amalgamation in 2001. Mercy Secondary School Mounthawk was established as a school of 1170 students, serving almost ½ the second level student population of Tralee. So we are a new school – or at least a school with new premises and facilities for this new century - with strong roots in the educational history of Tralee.

Catherine McAuley founded the Religious Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy in 1831.

Her strong faith in God nurtured by reflection on the Gospels, her deep and personal awareness of the needs of poor people in Dublin in the nineteenth century and her loyalty to the Catholic Church led her to give her life in service to others.

In her educational endeavours Catherine McAuley sought:

  • To bring freedom and a better quality of life to those who were poor.
  • To regenerate Irish society by preparing young people for responsible adult living.
  • To lead all in her care to a deeper faith in Jesus Christ

The focus of her attention was those who were poor, uneducated and without opportunity, her approach was collaborative and she sought to influence those at the centre of wealth and power to share in her efforts.
'She connected the rich to the poor, the educated and skilled to the uninstructed, the influential to those perceived as of no consequence, the powerful to the weak'.


In 1854, following the Great Famine, the then Bishop, Dr. Moriarty, who had witnessed the work of the Sisters in Killarney, brought Sr. M. de Sales Bridgeman and Sr. M.M. Elizabeth O'Riordan to Tralee to help alleviate the problems faced by the sick and poor of the town.
In 1855 John Mulchinock, a wealthy shopkeeper, impressed with the work of the Sisters, donated 16 acres of land at Balloonagh to the Order. The foundation stone was laid in May 1858 and the new convent was completed exactly three years later on May 21st.


The year 1872 marked the birth of the Convent of Mercy in Moyderwell, in a large house owned by Dean MeEnery, P.P. of Tralee. On his death the house and large garden was handed over to the Order by his successor Dean Mawe. At the top of the garden were outhouses and stables, close to the present location of the Home Economics Room, which were converted into the very first classrooms at Moyderwell, known as St. Joseph's. Boys and girls were enrolled and in a very short time some classes had to be taken under the shade of the lilac and laburnum trees in the garden due to the large numbers.

As the overcrowding problem increased in the years ahead a decision was made to build a new Convent and School. The clergy in Kerry and the people of the town responded generously and the foundation stone was laid by Sir Henry Donovan of Seafield, Justice of the Peace, on April 14th 1878.
The Primary School went from strength to strength and quickly established a reputation for itself as is evidenced by the following report from The Kerry Sentinel in 1906:

"At the recent musical examinations, held through Ireland, we were glad to see the Moyderwell children, distinguished themselves; .................The Irish language has a special class taught. A general training of scholarship in all its branches is taught by the untiring and unselfish nuns of the convent, Moyderwell, whose ambition is to fit their pupils for their future livelihood, and the parents of children attending those schools ought tofeel proud of the many advantages gained."

In 1925 what was known at the time as the 'Secondary Top' was begun in Moyderwell, under the principalship of Sr. Anthony O'Leary. Her stewardship between 1925 and 1948 was to bring unparalleled reputation as an educational institution to the school. Students arrived from far away Dublin and Galway and some from Listowel and Rathmore, staying with relatives in Tralee in order to be educated in Moyderwell.

In 1931 the demand for more room in the Secondary Top was satisfied when an old garage was bought and converted to three rooms and a bicycle shed known as St. Patrick's Hall. First year classes, Leaving Certificate classes and the preparatory Exam classes, were located here while the Intermediate Certificate's were taught in the 'old' School.

In 1953 Moyderwell acquired full Secondary School status under the principalship of Sr. Madeline Kelleher. Sr. Xavier O'Sullivan (1969-74) Sr. Kathy Cunningham (1974-'82) and Sr. Bemadette Costello (1982-2001) oversaw all developments and improvements since that time.

Sr. Bernadette with the staff and Mercy order management, made the historical decision in 1985 to go co-educational, making Moyderwell the only co-educational convent secondary school in Tralee.


BALLOONAGH Secondary School began as a "Secondary Top" attached to the Convent National School in 1925.
In common with most of the state's post primary schools, it catered with great devotion and few resources for the pupils in its care.

In 1952, it became an independent Secondary School as Mean Scoil Eoin Baiste, with an enrolment of only 60 pupils and a staff of four nuns and two lay teachers (Eilis Hartnett and Mary Sheahan). When Donagh O'Malley announced the opening up of post primary education just a generation ago, it brought the masses into the classroom. In Balloonagh, Sr Consilii Moynihan embraced the new opportunities for her pupils with zeal. This noted principal welded the new departure onto the caring philosophy of Balloonagh's camogie champions. her order's founder, Mother Catherine P.AcAuley.While she saw the need for excelling in the field of academic results, and the growing opportunities of the jobs market, her vision remained - clearly on the goal of developing the personality.

Further Information

Click here to view our recent profile of Mercy Mounthawk Secondary School.


Mounthawk, Tralee





Mr. John O' Roarke

Deputy Principal:
Mr. Patrick Fleming & Ms. Nora Quane