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NEWS AND PUBLICATIONS > From the Archives > From the Archives - Our School Through a Visitor's Lens

From the Archives - Our School Through a Visitor's Lens

Although we are living during a time of lock-downs and travel restrictions, we dip into the archives to bring you this story of a special visit to early Loreto Normanhurst.
Mother General - M. Michael Corcoran
Mother General - M. Michael Corcoran

Do you remember the first time you visited Loreto Normanhurst? Was it on an Open Day or to see a sibling who was enrolled? Maybe it was on your very first day at School? 

Although we sadly cannot welcome visitors onto the grounds in these present times, we thought you might enjoy learning of a visit to our School in its infancy. 

It was a common practice for Loreto Schools to be visited by the Provincial Superior at some point during the course of a year. These official occasions were recorded in the Visitation Book, with the Superior commenting on how well the religious community and pupils were performing. There were some years when these trips were not possible due to illness or the First World War, but they provided an exciting opportunity for the young Australian schools to demonstrate their character and promise. 

In 1903, Loreto Normanhurst received a very special visit from the Mother General of the IBVM, Mary Michael Corcoran (1846-1927). Born as Frances Corcoran in Dublin, 1846, Mother Michael was a champion for female higher education in Ireland and one of the longest serving leaders of the Institute (4th Superior General from 1888-1918). She was also an avid photographer, and captured delightful snapshots from her travels to Loreto Schools around the globe! 

Mother Michael Corcoran with her camera and hat in the Loreto Normanhurst bush. Loreto Normanhurst Archives. 1903. 

As we know from other Sisters' travels, the voyage from Ireland to Australia was no easy feat; spending several weeks onboard a ship often meant battling sea-sickness, cramped quarters, dramatic changes in climate and rough conditions. After first visiting Mary's Mount, M. Michael travelled northwards . This journey would have included a ferry ride to cross Sydney Harbour and a train to reach Normanhurst. 

Crossing Sydney Harbour by ferry - M. Berchmans, M. Attracta and M. Killian. M.M. Corcoran Photograph Collection. 1903. 

M. Michael's visit caused quite a commotion at School, and the pupils and Sisters were all eager to make a positive, lasting impression. At the time of her visit, there were 50 boarders and 10 Sisters (and a further 4 lay-sisters). The girls arranged and performed a musical concert and the special occasion was remembered in the Eucalyptus Blossoms

"The Sydney Convent by the harbour [Kirribilli] and that of Hornsby [Normanhurst], with their exceptionally beautiful surroundings, certainly charmed both our distinguished Irish visitors, who considered that the situation of the Hornsby Convent in particular was quite ideal. Many a picturesque view did Reverend Mother perpetuate by means of her camera, some of the pictures including groups of happy children resting in the ferny bush. The Hornsby orchestra also won praise from M. Attracta." 

Eucalyptus Blossoms. 1903. p.23 

M. Michael was impressed by the community at Loreto Normanhurst, and remarked the following in the Visitation Book: 

"It is with a feeling of great happiness and consolation that I conclude this visitation. I hope our good God will enable the nuns to preserve the good spirit at present reigning amongst them."

Loreto Normanhurst Visitation Book. 1903. p.14

For many of us, one of the most special features of our School are the beautiful grounds. The grounds were also greatly treasured by M. Michael. View the gallery below for images taken by M. Michael herself in 1903, showcasing the students and the much-loved Normanhurst Bush.

Ms Rachel Vaughan

Records Manager


You must be logged in to the Normo Network to access the gallery.



“A Seven-Fold Welcome to Australia”. Eucalyptus Blossoms. Loreto Normanhurst Archives Collection. 1903.

“1903”. Loreto Normanhurst Visitation Book. Loreto Normanhurst Archives Collection. 1898-1995.

“IBVM Photo 213”. Album 3. Loreto Normanhurst Archives Collection. 1903.

Loreto Central Archives (Institute). “From the Camera.” 2015. Available at:

Photographs from M. Michael Corcoran IBVM, Superior General 1888-1918; held by Loreto Central Archives. Digital content by University College Dublin, published by UCD Library.

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