O’Brien Banknote Guide: Five Pounds, Irish Banknote “C Series”


This series of notes is known as “Series C” and the designs are the output from a limited competition held in 1991 in which nine Irish artists were invited – the winner was Robert Ballagh. This series of notes had denominations of £5, £10, £20, £50 and £100 – with no pound note, since there a coin of this value circulating since 1990. The £20 was the first to be issued, following widespread forgery of the Series B (W.B. Yeats) £20 note.  The theme for this series was people who contributed to the formation of a modern Ireland, and features politicians, a language, literary and religious figures.

  • Front: Catherine McAuley, founder of the Sisters of Mercy; Mater Misericordiae Hospital
    in Dublin which was founded by the Sisters of Mercy.
  • Back: Children in a classroom;
    The first verse of the Irish poem “Mise Raifteri an File” by Antoine Ó Raifteiri is written on the
    classroom blackboard in Gaelic script; Map of Europe.
  • Watermark: Lady Hazel Lavery

How many “C Series” £5 notes were issued?

McAuley £5 Type 1 39,000,000 4 dates  1994
HHH 2 replacements
Type 2 102,000,000 7 dates  1994-97
HHH 2 replacements
Type 3 105,000,000 3 dates  1998-99
£1,230,000,000 MMM 2 replacements
1999 C Series £5 Banknote

1999 C Series £5 Banknote, featuring Mother Catherine Elizabeth McAuley (1778–1841) was an Irish nun, who founded the Sisters of Mercy ten years before her death, in 1831. The Order has always been associated with teaching, especially in Ireland, where the nuns taught Catholic children at a time when education was mainly reserved for members of the established Church of Ireland.

Background

Catherine McAuley was born in Dublin to James and Elinor Conway McAuley on 29 September 1778. Her father died in 1793, and her mother in 1798. Catherine and her two siblings moved to live with Protestant relatives, the Armstrongs. In 1803, she became the household manager and companion of friends of her relatives, the Callaghans, an elderly, childless, and wealthy Protestant couple, at their home in Dublin and then at their estate in Coolock.

  • Catherine Callaghan died in 1819.
  • When Mr Callaghan died in 1822, Catherine became the sole residuary legatee of their estate.

The House of Mercy

McAuley inherited a considerable fortune and chose to use it to build a house where she and other compassionate women could take in homeless women and children to provide care and an education for them.

  • A location was selected at the junction of lower Baggot and Herbert Streets, Dublin
  • In June 1824, the cornerstone was laid by the Rev. Dr. Blake.
  • On the feast of Our Lady of Mercy, 24 September 1827, the new institution for destitute women, orphans, and schools for the poor was opened
  • Catherine McAuley, alongwith two companions, undertook its management

Sisters of Mercy

Catherine McAuley never intended to found a community of religious women. Her initial intention was to assemble a lay corps of Catholic social workers. In 1828 the archbishop permitted the staff of the institute to assume a distinctive dress and to publicly visit the sick. The uniform adopted was a black dress and cape of the same material reaching to the belt, a white collar and a lace cap and veil — such a costume as is now worn by the postulants of the congregation.

  • In the same year the archbishop desired Miss McAuley to choose some name by which the little community might be known, and she chose that of “Sisters of Mercy”, having the design of making the works of mercy the distinctive feature of the institute.

She was desirous that the members should combine with the silence and prayer of the Carmelites, the active labours of a Sister of Charity. The position of the institute was anomalous, its members were not bound by vows nor were they restrained by rules.

  • The church (clergy and people) of the time, however, were not supportive of groups of lay women working independently of church structures. Catherine’s clerical mentor urged her to form a religious institute.
  • Catherine and two other women entered the formation program of the Presentation Sisters to formally prepare for life as women religious.
  • At the end of one year they professed vows and returned to the House of Mercy.
  • The Sisters of Mercy consider 12 December 1831 as the day of their founding as a religious community.
  • A cholera epidemic hit Dublin in 1832
    • McAuley agreed to staff a cholera hospital on Townsend Street

The rule of the Sisters of Mercy was formally confirmed by Pope Gregory XVI on 6 June 1841. Catherine lived only ten years as a Sister of Mercy, Sister Mary Catherine, but in that time she established twelve foundations in Ireland and two in England.

  • At the time of her death there were 150 Sisters of Mercy
  • Shortly thereafter, small groups of sisters left Ireland to establish new foundations on the east and west coasts of the United States, in Newfoundland, Australia, New Zealand, and Argentina
    • Total worldwide vowed membership is now about 10,000
  • The Mercy International Centre in Dublin is the international HQ of the Sisters of Mercy worldwide
  • In 1978, the cause for the beatification of the Servant of God Catherine McAuley was opened by Pope Paul VI
    • In 1990, upon recognition of her heroic virtues, Pope John Paul II declared her Venerable
    • This placed her on the path towards possible sainthood
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