A Glorious Homecoming

 100 Years Since She Left This World

Blue Plaque for Sister Nivedita

The Plaque on the Street where Sister Nivedita was born

The Story Begins ...

Sister Nivedita was born Margaret Elizabeth Noble in 1867 in the town of Dungannon in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. She was a child when her family left the place for England, first in Oldham and then at Great Torrington. In both the places her father served as a nonconformist minister. A few years before she travelled to India, Margaret began living in Wimbledon with her widow mother and younger sister and brother. Incidentally, in vacations during their student days Nivedita and her sister used to visit their Grandfather in Ireland. But nothing about her was known to the people of Dungannon till even a decade back. And the story of how that knowledge reached her birthplace so late and then began to interest people is really fascinating. It was Maurice Hayes, writer, author, commentator, and twice been in the parliament of the Irish Republic, who first heard of Nivedita in Iowa some 50 years back. When Maurice came back to Ireland he knocked many doors in Dungannon for information about Margaret with no result at all. But finally he could trace out her birth certificate which took him to the address where she was born. Then he began to prepare a biographical sketch of Nivedita and contributed it to the Dictionary of Irish Biographies. Later on Maurice was able to persuade the Ulster Historical Society to erect a blue plaque, as seen in the image above, on 7 December 2007 in her honour at 16 Scotch street, Dungannon, the street where Margaret was born.

Nivedita Statue  at Ranfurly House Arts & Visitor Centre, Dungannon

A Statue of Nivedita Unveiled at Ranfurly House Arts & Visitor Centre, Dungannon on 18 August 2016

The Tyrone Times 
of 2 March 2011 Headlined
DUNGANNON is set to be the focal point for world-wide celebrations of the achievements of a pioneering humanitarian who died a hundred years ago
And the News Followed
Hundreds of followers and fans are expected to congregate in the town in May to mark the centenary anniversary of Margaret Noble's death. The schoolteacher was born in the town in 1867 and became Sister Nivedita, one of the most revered women in Indian history. Earlier this year, she was voted Tyrone's Greatest Person Ever by readers of the Tyrone Times. 
Jean McGuinness and Maurice Hayes

Jean McGuinness and Maurice Hayes with the plaque in inset

And Continues ...

When a local councillor of Dungannon came home on the day the blue plaque was erected, his wife, Jean McGuinness, asked a routine question as to anything special happening on that day. She was told about the plaque which Jean shortly came across while walking on the Scotch stree. The words 'Writer and Indian Nationalist' inscribed on the plaque somehow raised her interest. As she knew nothing about Margaret Noble, Jean began to search the Internet. And the instant flood of information drew her beyond escape. She writes: 'The more I came to know about her, her involvement with education, art, literature, politics and above all her spirituality, the more I resolved that my mission would be to create awareness of this great and remarkable lady who, if she had stayed in Ireland, would not even have had a vote. Yet, she went to India and awakened a nation...' Therefore, Jean began her quest to find more and more about the Sister, her origin in Dungannon, subsequent phases of her life, as well as further traces of her family and relatives living in England and USA. Incidentally, before taking an early retirement Jean had been a Programme Director and Lecturer in Nursing at Queen's University Belfast. A little before she came to know about Nivedita, Jean had been searching for a topic for her dissertation. And after talking to her tutor she decided to make Sister Nivedita the focus of her dissertation in Irish language, which she eventually completed. Later on she  adapted the dissertation into a drama and the script was named 'Awakening a Nation.' 

Rededication of the Plaque on the Death Centenary of Sister Nivedita

Rededication of the Plaque on the Centenary of Sister Nivedita's Death

Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council, in partnership with the History Forum and facilitated by Killeeshil and Clonaneese Historical Society, is having a three-day celebrations of her life and works from May 27 to 29 [2011]. .... These three-day celebrations are the result of awareness created by Jean McGuinness, retired lecturer from Queen's University Belfast.
The Great Celebration

The three-day celebration began at Dungannon on 27 May 2011 to remember and honour Sister Nivedita on her death  centenary. On the first day the blue plaque was rededicated in her memory before several distinguished guests. Among the leading personalities who lectured on the Sister during  

the celebration were Malachi O'Doherty, journalist, author, and broadcaster; Professor Murdo Macdonald of the University of Dundee in Scotland. The drama entitled Awakening A Nation was staged at the Craic Theatre & Arts Centre.

Awakening A Nation

Among the distinguished guests joining the celebration from distant places was Pravrajika Gitaprana, the Resident Minister at Vivekananda Retreat, Ridgely, New York. Her experience of attending the drama at the Craic Theatre is worth attention: 'It looked like most of the citizens of Dungannon had turned out. ... The play had aroused tremendous expectation, and I must say we were not disappointed. ... There was pindrop silence, broken every once in a while by suppressed sobbing. It was clear that the life of this glorious daughter of Dungannon had caught the imagination and heartstrings of her countrymen and women. And when the lights went on, the audience rose to its feet and burst out into joyous exultation. She is one of us! This is what our Ireland can produce.'  

Nivedita kneeling before Vivekananda

Nivedita kneeling before Vivekananda

Nivedita serving during the plague in Calcutta

The Mayor of Dangannon said, writes Revered Gitaprana, 'Nivedita demonstrated "the power of selfless sacrifice" and how it is possible to change society through individual efforts.' In assessing the aggregate efforts, Gitapranaji writes: 'Time will tell how much Nivedita impacts her native land and helps to move it forward, as she moved India forward. But for now, what became apparent was that the events of that weekend in May were pretty impressive testimonial for a woman who was all but unknown last year. And now there will be a repeat performance of the play at Craic Theater, a confirmed engagement at the Samuel Beckett Theater at Trinity College, Dublin, and a planned documentary and a couple of interviews with RTT, Ireland's equivalent of the BBC. Other enquiries are coming from Belfast and Donegal.  

Nivedita serving during the plague in Calcutta

The House at 21 High Street, Wimbledon, London

The House at 21 High Street, Wimbledon, London

The Times of India 
of Kolkata writes on 18 September 2017

'... Wimbledon's 21 High Street  was once home to the family of Margaret Elizabeth Noble, later christened Sister Nivedita by Swami Vivekananda. ... British Heritage will commemorate the birth anniversary of Sister Nivedita by installing the prestigious Blue Plaque there in the presence of West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. ... the plaque will be installed on the wall between two large windows. ... The facade is still the same as it was during the 19th century. But the decor inside looks very modern. ... Sarada Basu, the London-based science teacher at Catholic Boys School who took the initiative to apply to British Heritage for installing the plaque, is excited. "The British census of 1901 mentions that it was in this house in 1901 where Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose and wife Abala Bose had come to stay. Swami Vivekananda had rented a house on 35 Woodside [in 1899], a 15-minute walk from this house. He used to walk up the hill from there to visit the Noble residence," Basu said.'

In fact this house was visited by Swami Vivekananda when he, after landing at Tilbury dock on 31 July 1899 and staying the day in London, came to Wimbledon. Nivedita's younger sister shortly found him an accommodation at Lymes lodging house which was about fifteen minutes' walk from the Nobles' residence.  The Nobles remained in this house till January 1902.