Reflections of Rupert Conradi
FIVE DOMINICAN SISTERS – A small World!
This is a story of my and my family’s association with Sr Francis McNulty and the Dominican Sisters of Newcastle, at the Newcastle Academy in Northern Natal, South Africa.
My grandfather, Dirk Phillipus Conradie farmed up at Cundy – Clough in the Drakensberg, 40 miles east of Harrismith. The farm was called MONTREAL, because Canadian builders built the homestead and the stables. Dirk Conradie married Charlotte Elizabeth, and they had eight children, the youngest boy being Dirk Phillipus, my father. The second youngest was a girl called Maria Magdalena (my aunt Marie), named after the girl who washed Jesus’ feet and dried them with her hair.
Aunt Marie was sent to school at St Dominic’s Academy, Newcastle and was taught music and singing by Sister Francis McNulty. This was about 1925. Aunt Marie had a daughter named Charlotte Elizabeth, and she was also coached in music and singing by Sr Francis, who helped her develop a very high quality and remarkable singing voice – her rendition of “Ave Maria” was awesome. This was about 1945/48. And finally Sister Francis coached Charlotte’s daughter at the Academy about the years 1966 – 40+ years after teaching this little girl’s grandmother!
But the saga does not end here!
After 42 years of mining gold and manganese and finally coal, I retired to the East Rand, and settled around the corner from St Dominic’s School and Marian House.
At our Freeway Bible School we have a young man who is a Concert Pianist, and directs the morning service music and choir singing. And Mark’s piano recitals are absolutely magnificent. And who trained and taught Mark Taylor but Sister Francis McNulty at the Academy in Newcastle! Believe it! This was the years 1967 to 1976, from the time Mark was 7 years old.
Sister Francis eventually retired to Marian House at St Dominic’s in Boksburg. She gave her spirit back to God and returned to Heaven on November 21, 1998 at the age of 97. But her singing and music live on in the piano recitals of Mark Taylor and the singing voice of Charlotte Elizabeth, my cousin.
I often visit Sister Francis and put flowers on her grave at Marian House.
My visits to Marian House resulted in my Learning about the valiant and blessed MOTHER ROSE NILAND who now lies resting at Rosary Priory, England. Mother Rose founded the Academy in Newcastle, Holy Rosary Convent in Dundee, St Dominic’s in Boksburg and convent schools in La Rochelle, Germiston and Benoni. She also opened convents in Holland, Rome, Cork, Cornwall and Edmonton in Canada! An ICON in God’s family!
At Marian House I met Sisters Teresa and Martin – God’s Twins – they turned 92 on 12th April, 2010. I also met Sister Flora Mc Glynn (I read her book ‘Being Driven Forward’ – the history of the Dominican Sisters of Newcastle, with great interest).I also met Sister Lucia. These four Dominican Sisters have now become my dearest friends at this late stage of my life. I visit them often especially on their birthdays, and their prayers raise me up in my life.
This then is the story of my friendship with the Dominican Sisters of Newcastle now residing at Marian House, Boksburg. I will tell you much more, but this will have to suffice for now.
At the end of days, all things come together, and these dear Sisters, have become a part of my life–
a small world indeed!