In 1865, acting on behalf of the then P.P., Very Rev. James McKenna, a member of the Magee family of Union Street purchased waste land at Edward Street, as a site for a convent which was built and ready for occupation the following year. When the nuns arrived - with Mother Emmanuel - they almost immediately turned part of the convent into a school. Day and evening classes were opened on September 10th, 1866, for both girls and boys. St. Mary's Girls School was free to pupils or they could pay a penny a week. Those attending St. Joseph's Boys School paid a small fee. Average on rolls in the first year was 279 in the day school and 191 in the evening.
The Convent Chapel was built in 1876 and the Sacred Heart House was purchased in 1877 from a Mr. Hazlitt and converted into a house for orphans. In 1888 the Grand Jury of Armagh granted a loan of £3,000 for the erection of a Girls Industrial School at Cornakinnegar. Some years later - 1895, the community bought the Patronage of St. Vincent de Paul, and this building became the Sacred Heart Boarding School. The church attached to this building was converted into the Sacred Heart School for senior day pupils. From 1889, Corso Lodge, adjoining the convent, had been used as a boarding school and boarders from there were transferred to the Sacred Heart House when it was acquired in 1895.
Before this, the only Catholic School for girls had been a small building in the Dougher Cemetery. Pending recognition of the schools by the Board of Education in Dublin the sisters laboured under many difficulties with books and equipment. They had to resort to many devices to hold the attention of the children - one favourite method was to cut letters from newspapers to form alphabet cards.
In 1871 Lurgan became an independent foundation with Sister Mary Gertrude O'Hagan as the first superioress. Well established by 1875, the community began a school building programme. The first Edward Street school was built at a cost of £1,000 with £190 added for extra materials and workmanship.
Moving to the 20th century, a temporary industrial school for boys was opened at 81, William Street, in 1905. Later the property and buildings known as Irishtown Hill House at Cornakinnegar were purchased for a permanent Boys Industrial School. When reconstructed and opened, the school was named St. Michael's, as a tribute to the Very Rev. McConville.
In 1924 St. Michael's ceased to be an industrial institution and was converted into a secondary school for girls. Having undergone several major extensions since then St. Michael's is now a senior high school.
The old Convent of Mercy building in Lurgan.