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Nano Nagle was born in Ballygriffin, Cork, Ireland in 1718. Nano spent a happy childhood in her family home and during this time, developed a strong faith. Due to the Penal Laws in Ireland at the time, she was unable to receive an education in a public school. Instead, she was educated at an illegal ‘hedge school’, and later she travelled to France to continue her education with her relatives.

After her father died, Nano returned to Ireland. She soon became aware of the social injustice of the penal code and the poverty it inflicted on people. She decided she would provide education for those children who were not permitted to attend public schools. Nano secretly rented rooms in various parts of the city of Cork and started classes for children. Soon she had seven schools containing four hundred children, five schools for girls and two schools for boys.

Nano’s dedication to the poor was not confined to schools. In the evenings, she searched the narrow streets, guided by a lantern, to alleviate distress among the sick and destitute and to share with them God’s love. She became known as “The Lady of the Lamp”.

After many years of service to the poor, Nano’s health began to fail. She decided to establish a religious Congregation which would continue her work. This was the beginning of the Presentation story. Many young women joined the Congregation of the Presentation Sisters and migrated to different areas of the world to continue Nano's work. 

The founders of our school, the Presentation Sisters arrived in Emerald on 14th April 1902. These were exceptional women. They brooked no nonsense from the children, setting high standards of dress and behaviour which they insisted the children follow. The sisters brought music to the people of Emerald. Mother Superior Patrick was an accomplished musician and fostered singing, piano and violin playing.

The school opened with an enrolment of eighty pupils in one room.  Many children were unable to attend school because of distance. As a result, the Sisters started a boarding school, originally for girls and then for boys at St Patrick’s in 1906.  Boarding concluded in 1961.

In 1912, during a cyclonic storm, the little school was badly damaged. A new school was opened on 25th April 1915. One of the unique activities the Sisters initiated was the ‘moonlight sports’. Eventually, they were combined with a fete and a dance which today, has become our annual fair which is a wonderful community event.

Growth in Emerald was exponential from the late 1960s when the Fairbairn Dam was built and the Emerald Irrigation Scheme became a reality, coal mines began to open, and the cattle industry expanded. St Patrick’s School did not lag in offering an up-to-date education for the children of Emerald.

The last Presentation Sister left our school in 1992, leaving the school in the hands of the Rockhampton Catholic Education Office.  Since then, the school has flourished with new classrooms, new administration office, new library, new undercover area, and stage.


Currently, the school’s enrolment is approximately 530 children from Prep to Year Six. Our school offers a holistic education including instrumental music, an extensive physical education program, a comprehension inclusive practices department, classroom music lessons and modern teaching opportunities including robotics, Chromebooks and other technologies.

Portrait of school children sitting on the front porch of St Patrick's Convent School Emerald Queensland 1913

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