The People of Gibraltar
1845 - The Loreto Nuns - 13.  Putting Things Right

Dr Scandella and Miss Scandella - Mother Angela Kelly and Mother de Britto Longford 
Mother Elizabeth Gaffney and Mother Xaveria Fallon - Mother Stanislaus Cousse Murphy 
Mother Stanislaus and Reverend Gonzalo Canilla - Lord Napier of Magdala
Emilia Cocklan and Mother Ignatius Byrne - Mother Pius Ward 
Mother Stanislaus Murphy Gould and Monsignor Femenías

When the Bishop died it was found that the lease on the Europa Road property had been drawn up in favour of Dr Scandella “and his heirs”. Legally the property devolved, therefore, on Miss Scandella. She appreciated that the wording of her brother’s Will was flawed and immediately passed on the property to the Church. In the confusion, however, the Loreto nuns were never remunerated for their loans to the Bishop which over time had amounted to some £6,000.

It was only in 1880 shortly before the death of Dr Scandella that the full import of the affairs of Loreto in Gibraltar came to light in Ireland. Earlier letters to Rathfarnham had been written by Mother Angela Kelly (who had since left the Convent and set up a school in the town), Mother de Britto Longford and Mother Elizabeth Gaffney. Some of these letters had certainly been intercepted as they were returned opened. 

There had apparently been no replies to the rest and there had therefore been no regular communication with the Mother House for some years. For most of the period new entrants to the Institute in Gibraltar had not been coming from Rathfarnham; many had entered locally and appear to have been Gibraltarians and Spaniards who were mostly past pupils; occasionally an Irish girl living in Gibraltar would ask to be received. 

On 3rd January 1880 Mother Xaveria Fallon was elected third General Superior of Loreto succeeding Reverend Mother Scholastica Somers. Six months later, as soon as possible after Bishop Scandella’s death, Mother Stanislaus Cousse Murphy took steps to re-unite the Community at Gibraltar with the Mother House in Rathfarnham. This suggests that in agreeing to the restrictions of Bishop Scandella’s rule over the nuns Mother Stanislaus had found herself in an impossible position. Should she accept the situation? Or should she leave the Convent as Mother Angela Kelly and her companions had done? Mother Stanislaus’ course of action was simply different from Mother Angela’s; neither had the ideal solution, but each had presumably acted according to her best judgement at the time.

Main Street ( 1880 )

Mother Stanislaus Cousse Murphy and Mother Elizabeth Burke Gaffney set off for Ireland in the summer of 1880 immediately after the death of Bishop Scandella. After a short stay in Ireland Mother Stanislaus returned to Gibraltar bringing back with her two young nuns. From this date the Gibraltar Community was once again subject to the Chief Superior at Rathfarnham which again began supplying Sisters for the schools on the Rock.

There was a great deal of controversy when on 8th March 1881 Reverend Gonzalo Canilla was appointed to succeed Dr Scandella . . . Bishop Canilla returned from England after his consecration to face a groundswell of opposition headed by the Junta of Elders. With their supporters they prevented him taking up office on his arrival. His opponents felt very strongly that they would prefer to have a non-Gibraltarian as their next Bishop, giving as one of their reasons that the Church Funds“had been inefficiently administered in the past by Bishop Scandella”. 

( 1881 )

For several months there were violent scenes in Church Street as the new Bishop was repeatedly denied access to his Cathedral. After considerable diplomatic efforts involving Secretary of State for the Colonies Lord Derby, and the Governor Lord Napier of Magdala, the military and police were at last ordered to intervene. Eventually Bishop Canilla’s inauguration took place privately – almost furtively – on November 27th 1880 at Loreto Convent in the Shrine of Our Lady of Europa. 

Lord Napier of Magdala

The storm nevertheless raged on until March 1882, and even after that some Gibraltarians preferred to attend Mass in La Linea rather than be seen at the Cathedral. In due course tempers cooled as Bishop Canilla patiently and persistently worked to win over the people of Gibraltar, taking every opportunity to bring about reconciliation with his opponents. In the end he succeeded. 

He was later remembered for his frequent visits to all the schools and his attempts at getting to know the children individually. On one occasion, after a long strike by the very poorly paid coal heavers, (see LINK) he organised the distribution to poor families (via their children at school) of a quantity of mutton that must have been donated by a charitable butcher! 

Coalheavers  ( Late 19th century )

Emilia Cocklan, not particularly poor, put up her hand for ‘her’ share. When she arrived home with her prize she was roundly told off for diverting the goods from their intended destination. The mutton was immediately cut into portions and the little girl was required by her father to deliver the parcels to several of the families whose fathers were known to be on strike or out of work.

Bishop Canilla continued to develop the projects initiated by his predecessors, especially in the field of education. He was thirty-two at the time of his appointment and for the rest of his life until his death in 1898 he remained the firm supporter and friend of Loreto in Gibraltar. The new Bishop now gave to the nuns Bishop Scandella’s part of the Europa premises. The house in Europa was becoming too small for the increasing number of boarders. 

Some of the areas of the previous bishop’s house were converted into cells and the old laundry became a second Community Room. The pupils at the town schools were also growing in number as was the Community itself. Until 1882 nuns from Europa had served the girls’ free and fee-paying schools in the town but transport being difficult the Superiors in Ireland decided that a second Community should be formed in the town. Mother Ignatius Byrne from Europa was appointed Superior of the new Town Convent. It was opened on September 1st 1882 and was dedicated to St Francis Xavier. There were now two Loreto Communities in Gibraltar and this remained the case until the Second World War. 

In 1883 Doctor Canilla founded a new home for elderly men and women over sixty, of all creeds, who had little means of support. This was built near the shrine to Our Lady of Europa, yards to the south and east of the Loreto Sisters’ original ‘cottage’. It could accommodate seventy persons. The Bishop invited twelve Little Sisters of the Poor to run the home; when they moved in they took over from the Loreto sisters the care of the shrine to Our Lady of Europa. 

A building in Johnston’s Passage was now made available to the Church and Bishop Canilla asked the Loreto nuns to run a free school there for infant girls and boys. St Mary’s Infants opened here in 1885.The following year Mother Stanislaus Cousse Murphy returned to Ireland. For her next assignment she was offered the choice of returning to Gibraltar or going to India. She chose to go to India and was there until 1887.

Mother Pius Ward came to Gibraltar on Visitation that same year and remained as Superior until 1888. Her brief appears to have been to bring the organisation of Loreto in Gibraltar back into line with the accepted routines at Rathfarnham. She wasn’t able to do much in a year, but she made things a little easier for her successor Mother Stanislaus Murphy Gould, who went on to become Provincial of Spain after her period of office in Gibraltar. . . 
In Gibraltar the number of pupils at St Joseph’s School continued to increase and the Church Crypt was no longer suitable. In 1885 St Joseph’s district was raised to the status of Parish, and Monsignor Femenías, now Parish Priest, gave a basement room of his house to the Loreto nuns as a classroom for the bigger girls. 
By 1886 as pupil numbers at the town fee-paying day school continued to increase new premises were again sought. Attempts were made to buy land to build a suitable convent and school, but the Sisters’ efforts came to nothing and still the numbers grew. 

"Gibraltar" - From "Daughters of our Empire" ( 1886 - Edwin Long  - Detail )