The Legend of the Barrel that was never empty.
The Sacred Heart Sisters were founded in France in 1800. In 1842 they set up their first convent in Ireland in Roscrea. The sisters have been a part of the education and history of Roscrea from then until 2014, when the remaining sisters moved to the house in Dublin. There are sure to be many stories of the work of the sisters in their 167 years in Roscrea but here is one from famine times. This story comes from the folklore collection and was written down by Brigid Ni Treamfear in 1936 and was told to her by Mrs Sheedy who at the time was aged 75.
He Sacred Heart Sisters had a barrel by the front door in which they kept food parcels made give to any poor person who might knock looking for charity. The parcels contained bread and meat and various vegetables .In the beginning, in the early 40s when the sisters came first very few people called but by the end of the decade it was a different story. Famine had hit Ireland and the people of Tipperary suffered badly. Soon there was a stream of people looking for help in those difficult times. The sisters found it difficult to keep enough food to hand out, sometimes they were hard pressed to have enough food to feed themselves.
One day two women called looking for help. The sister who answered knew that there was only two loaves left and that had to feed the sisters in the convent as well. But the two women begged and begged; they had families, children who were crying with the hunger they said. When the sister heard this her heart was moved and she asked the women to wait for a moment. She went to the Reverend Mother to ask her advice as there was not another scrap of food in the place. The Reverend Mother told the nun to divide the loaves between the two women. They might be in much more need of it than the sisters were and not to fear God would provide. The sister obeyed and gave out the last two loaves of bread to the hungry women who took them gratefully.
Shortly after this there was another knock at the door and the same sister answered it, and there was a mother asking for help with some food to feed her family. “I’m sorry” said the sister “we have no more food left, look in the barrel.” To her surprise she found it full to the brim with food. She was able to give the caller a parcel of food and many other callers besides. It is said that the barrel did not run out again until the end of the famine. The sisters have continued to give help to those who knocked on the door but in more recent times it hasn’t been from the miraculous barrel.