Obituary of Sister Mary Magdalen

By Peter Heneghan

Sister Mary Magdalen, the foundress and first head of Maricourt Catholic High School, died in the early hours of Wednesday 2 September aged 95.

In 1957 she was asked by her Order, the Sisters of Mercy, to go to Maghull to open an independent girls school following a request from the local community. The school was to be known as Mater Misercordiae High School. On 12 September 1957, the school opened in the convent parlour with only 16 eleven-year-old girls. This tiny institution grew and, by 1964, became a girls grammar school with voluntary-aided status from the then Bootle Education Authority.

After only four years as a grammar school, the Reverend Mother at the time was approached by Archbishop George Andrew Beck to annexe a newly built, but as yet unoccupied, parish secondary modern building, and to undertake co-ed comprehensive education for the area. Mater Misercordiae was transformed into Maricourt and had its first intake of boys as well as girls in September 1968 under the Lancashire Education Authority.

Sister Mary Magdalen was tireless in her work and efforts to make Maricourt a great school, serving the needs of the local community and giving so many young people a fantastic education. As a result of her efforts the school grew in numbers and between 1968 and 2005 had no fewer than 19 major building developments to house its 1,500 pupils. Many of the developments were initiated and supervised by her and funded by the Sisters of Mercy.

Sister Mary held the position of headteacher for 32 years and retired at the age of 65 at Christmas 1989 but remained as a governor. She became chair following the sudden death of Bishop Kevin O'Connor in 1994. She remained a member of the Maricourt community until 2017 when, due to failing health, she moved to the Sisters' retirement home, McAuley Mount in Burnley.

She was a formidable figure on the diocesan education scene over many years, an inspiration as a Sister of Mercy and a headteacher, and will be remembered for her hard work, determination and faith.

Her Funeral Mass was celebrated in line with current restrictions by Canon Joseph Kelly on Tuesday 8 September.