By: Carol Provost
(Class of 1976)
On a May
day in 1880, Mary Ann Justina (Jessie) Ripoll, Jamaican-born young
woman of mixed heritage (African, French and Portuguese) purchased
Alpha cottage on 43 acres in Kingston. She made the purchase for
the sum of £800, her accumulated savings and gifts. By so doing,
she embarked on a mission that would change the lives of many
young men and women and impact lives worldwide. So very humbly
was born the impressive and magnificent Alpha legacy.
later, on December 12, 1890, a small group from the Sisters of
Mercy from the Sisters of Mercy led by Mother Winifred Furlong
arrived in Jamaica and established the order there. The order had
been founded in Ireland on December 12, 1831 by Catherine McAuley.
In 1894, the sisters established the Convent of Mercy Academy from
the seed of Alpha, which Jessie Ripoll and her two friends,
Josephine Ximines and Louise Dugiol had planted and nurtured
fourteen years prior. The three young women entered the order and
became Sister Mary Peter Claver, Sister Margaret Mary and Sister
cottage with one orphan grew into a complex that, in addition to
the girl's academy, included Infant, Primary, Preparatory,
Boarding, Boys' and Commercial Schools, plus Christ the King
Chapel. By its centennial milestone in 1980, Alpha Academy had
garnered a reputation as one of the island's premier all-girls
schools, an institution of impeccable repute. It stands as the
bastion, epitomizing the best of Jamaican education.
the years Alpha has weathered many storms, literally and
figuratively. The great Kingston earthquake and fire of 1907,
Hurricane Charlie (1951), Gilbert (1988) and Ivan (2004), also
changes in government, mass migration of alumnae, "brain drain",
education crises, and funding shortfalls have and continue to be
faced. In the year 2000, an Alpha Icon, the beloved Monkey
Tamarind Baobab, estimated at 200 years old, was felled due to
unsalvageable internal damage. In the epitome of true Alpha
style, a young Baobab tree was grown from the seed to take us into
the next 200 years. And yet, we persevere.
In the year 2008, Convent of Mercy Academy "Alpha" was 128 years
old -- one-hundred and twenty-eight. This is forever who we are:
the massive double gates with wrought-iron arch, the imposing
drive, McAuley Hall, Christ the King Chapel, the Sisters of
Mercy. The white midi blouses and navy blue tunics and skirts
(two inches below the knee!). The books and the lessons,
Cambridge G.C.E.’s. Our beloved teachers and schoolmates.
Aspirations strived for and wisdom imparted. This is the aura;
this is the mantle of Alpha:
Ad Verum Et Bonum!
God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son,
that whoever believeth in him shall not perish but have eternal