Archived News Item

An Eye for Detail – Remembering Sr M Ursula Stanbury of St Brigid’s Convent, Northbridge, Western Australia

The Glengariff Mail


How fitting it was that Sr M Ursula Stanbury entered the Convent of Mercy, West Perth on Mercy Day the 24th of September 1910.


Born in May 1889 to Thomas and Carmela Stanbury of Chelmsford Road, North Perth Mary Stanbury was one of three daughters in the family.  When the last of the Stanburys died the house was bequeathed to the Sisters of Mercy. The connection with the family was strong in those early years and the Stanbury legacy is remembered with gratitude.[1]


Sr Ursula was a skilled illuminist having been taught, with other Sisters by the monks at New Norcia.[2]  The attached handmade card showing Sr Ursula’s skills was given to a former pupil on his marriage in 1961. [3] Sr Ursula kept contact with students many years after they were grown, and letters in the archives show she was a kind and interested correspondent, who remembered significant details of past pupils.


Card to Bernie West on his marriage


Sister was also a fine illustrator and needle woman. One Sister remembers her as “A wonderful Infant’s school teacher and an artist. She was the most beautiful printer and decorator that the community had ever known.” [4]

Infants Dramatising Bible Story- Noah’s Ark


Tired – A Corner of the Babies Room



One item of especial significance in the collection is an album of photographs, many hand-coloured and lovingly compiled with captions by Sr Ursula. These show her eye for detail, humour, and joy in the everyday moments of convent and school life. The image of the children dressed as Noah’s ark animals also show what a talented and hardworking teacher she was.


Coming Home – Another Puncture


Coming Home



In some of these images we also see the daily trials that were the Sisters lot at that time.  One shows Sisters on the road returning from the Trigg beach house, waiting for the bus tyre to be repaired “again”. Another shows a horse and buggy at Trigg laden with supplies, a Sister can just be seen at the back of the wagon and two boys enjoy being included in the picture, perhaps waiting to help unpack.


There are many images of the rambling beach house at Trigg and the beach itself, Sisters took well-earned breaks from the school year at this well-loved but basic accommodation.  Our image shows the Sisters on the long track down to the road and the waiting bus to return to the convent. Sr Ursula must have run ahead especially to capture that image. This spot with its rambling wooden buildings in the middle of nowhere was a special retreat for the Sisters.


We are lucky to have these rare images of daily life of the Sisters and their students carefully preserved by Sr Ursula Stanbury in our collection.


Messages to:

[1] Memories of Sr Beverley Stott rsm.

[2] Women Out of Their Sphere, Sr Anne McLay 1996 pg. 121

[3] The Bernie West Collection, donated to the West Perth Archives, Institute Archives and Heritage Collection, Leichhardt, NSW.

[4] Boxsell, Sr M Anthony, “A Few Thoughts on Some of Our Pioneer Sisters” From the Institute Archives and Heritage Collection, Leichhardt, NSW.


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