short biography of Hannah Brennan
- c.1938 Sister Mary Alphonsa
Sister Mary Alphonsa (Hannah Brennan) Headstone in Loreto
Convent Cemetery, Lucknow. India
Brennan was born on 25 October 1874 in Ballickmoyler, Co. Laois
Ireland. She was the daughter of Mark Brennan and
Katie Lalor also of Ballickmoyler, Co. Laois. On the 21
August 1904 Hannah was a bridesmaid to her sister
Christina Brennan when she married Joe Bolger in Dublin.
There was another sister Annie Brennan and all three
sisters were living and working in Dublin around this
time. Sometime between 1904 and 7th July 1914 she
entered the Loreto Convent in Rathfarnham, Dublin.
She was then sent from Dublin to Loreto Convent, Lucknow,
Uttar Pradesh (Formally known as United Provence) in
India where she made her First Vows on the completion of
her novitiate on the 21st June 1917 and she was then
known as Sister Mary Alphonsa. She took up teaching
the Catechism to the children in the local Junior School
at Lucknow. It is also reported that she was very
artistic and used to teach Needlework to the school
children. One of her many jobs in the Convent was to
welcome visitors to whom she was always very gracious.
is about 100 miles from the Nepal border and is about 560
miles north east of Calcutta.
trip to the India continent was either by Cargo ship or overland and would
have taken between six to eight weeks to arrive there
depending on the weather. This trip was taken
during the height of the First World War, which broke out
in Austria in July/ August of 1914. In 1934 Sister
Mary Alphonsa was in the city of
Shimla, India, which is about
380 miles from Lucknow and very close to the Chinese and
Nepal borders. Sister Breen, who was close to Sister Mary
Alphonsa, reported that her health was not the best, but
that she never complained and was well looked after. They
often went for walks in the garden together. During
Thunder Storms, of which there were many and quite severe
in the region, they were both afraid of these storms and
they would both sit behind the piano and comfort each
other and they would both pray together until the storm
29 October 1939, Sister Mary Alphonsa wrote one of her
rare letters home to Ireland and in the letter she asked
that my Mum (Lily Brennan) visit her Mother and Fathers
grave in the Graveyard of Arles in Co. Laois. She
explained that four trees, two on either side, surrounded
the graveyard but there was no headstone and this was the
only grave in Arles Cemetery with four trees so that she
would know exactly where the grave was. Her
grandfather William Brennan is also buried in this grave.
Mary Alphonsa and her brother Martin Brennan (1885-1963)
used to sit around the house in Ballickmoyler writing
poems and songs when they were young. Then when she
went to India she sent occasional letters to her Nieces,
Lily Brennan, Katty Brennan and Molly Brennan asking them
to send her Irish poems and songs which we believe she
would recite to the school children in India where she
about Great Aunt Hannah's life before she entered the
Convent are almost non existent at this time. Her mother
CATHERINE (KATIE) LALOR
died in 13 Jan 1893 5 months after John Brennan was born in August 1892
which would indicate that it was left up to Hannah to look after John,
Martian, Michael, Christina and Anne who were all 10 years and younger
at the time of their mothers death.
It is reputed that she loved to sing and I am told (by Pat
'Kitty' Brennan) that she once wrote a song entitled "Coopers Lovely
Wild Demesne (pronounced Domain)". There is no trace of this song
now but if it is true we can assume that it had something to do with the
Cooper Family who once owned most of the land around Cooper Hill and
Ballickmoyler and the Cooper Family once lived in the big house in
Cooper Hill which was given to them by Queen Elizabeth 1. (1558-1603).
Mary Alphonsa died in Lucknow on the 29 February 1940 (leap
year) aged 58 and is buried in the Convent Cemetery in
following are extracts from letters sent to me from
Dublin and India during my research of Sister Mary
Jan 1996 - In a letter received from Mother Celine from
Lucknow she gave me the name of a sister who may have
known G/Aunt Hannah. Her name is Sister Consiglio Frayne
who works in Ranchi, which is a town about 200 miles west
are currently kept at Loreto Provincialate, 7, Middleton
Row, Calcutta-700 071. India. Phone: 29-7054 or 29-7767.
Jan 1996 - Letter for Sister M. Jude, IBVM. Of Calcutta.
INDIA - With Sister Mary Alphonsa Date of Birth (22nd
October 1882) & date of Death.
1996 - In a letter that I received from Sister Marie
Therese Breen, IBVM. She explains that she knew
Sister Mary Alphonsa (Great Aunt Hannah) and describes
her as a 'Dear Lady' of medium height, pale complexion
and on the 'plump side'. She was always in good
spirits and ready for a bit of fun. She was also a
very 'Holy Nun'. I also received G/Aunt Hannah's
Date of Birth and Parents names. She mentions that
Sister Mary Alphonsa was a lovely sister, very gentle and
full of fun and was very much liked by everyone.
1996 - I received a letter from Mother Celine - Sister
Frayne has since suffered a stroke while in Ranchi and
was flown to Calcutta where she died.
1996 - Letter from Sister Mary Blake. Central Archives,
Loreto Abbey, Rathfarnham, Dublin 14. She
states that there are no more facts in their records that
they can tell me about Sister Mary Alphonsa. They
only had her name on file. They did not know where
she came from or who her parents were. Sister Mary
states that there were very sparse records kept in those
days and that she probable entered Loreto India and only
spent a little time in Rathfarnham before sailing with
professed sisters to India.
Webb (Sir Cliff Richard - the
UK pop singer)
was born in Lucknow in 1940 and may have attended school
in the Convent there.
LUCKNOW was founded from
DARJEELING in 1872 and is the is the capital city of UTTAR PRADESH
province, situated in a mountainous district in Northern India. It is
often referred to as “The Old Royal City of Lucknow”. The British
Government asked the Sisters to
establish a school in Lucknow. This they did as well as
establishing a number of orphanages. The city is situated in
India's northern province of Uttar Pradesh. Steeped in
its past of refined courtly life played out in elaborate
palaces, it is a memorable place to visit. Explore the
city's streets with its magnificently diverse
architecture and uncover its fascinating history
THE BLADE" 333 pp (LORETO IN INDIA: INDIAN
MISSION) by Mother Mary Colmcille, IBVM. (Published in
Calcutta). The book has a good Index from page 312.
LUCKNOW is written about in several places throughout the
- Information supplied by Sister PAULA DOOLIN, IBVM, (INSTITUTE
OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY), Loreto central Archives,
55 St.Stephen's Green, Dublin 2. IRELAND
- Loreto Convent,
- Loreto Abbey,
- 1. - 25th
October 1874 at Coopers House, Ballickmoyler, Co. Laois. -
Source: Baptismal Cert.
- 2. - 1887 -
1901 Census of Ireland
- 3. - 22nd
October 1882 (Source: Loreto Provincialate, INDIA
- Sister M. Jude, IBVM letter).
- 4. - 22nd
October 1881 (Source: Loreto Central Archives,
Dublin - Sister P. Doolin, IBVM letter).
- 5. - 21st June
1917 in Loreto Convent, Lucknow.
- 6. -
21st June 1923. Loreto Convent, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. INDIA
- Father -
MARK BRENNAN (1841-1902) Ballickmoyler, Co. Laois. IRELAND
- Mother -
CATHERINE (KATE) LALOR (1859-1893) Ballickmoyler,
Co. Laois. IRELAND
January 1914. Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. INDIA (SOURCE:
Loreto Provinciality, INDIA - Sister M. Jude, IBVM).
Sisters, Loreto Convent, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh.
Vows on the completion of her novitiate on the 21st June
1917 in Loreto Convent, Lucknow. (SOURCE: : Loreto
Provincialate, INDIA - Sister M. Jude, IBVM Letter).
Profession & Place
June 1923. INDIA
& Place of Death:
February 1940 - Loreto Convent, Lucknow, Uttar
Cemetery, Loreto Convent, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. INDIA
Michael Brennan 2000 - Grandnephew to Hannah Brennan