The establishment of the Industrial School in Newtownforbes was brought about by the then local landlord, Lord Granard, and the Sisters of Mercy from the convent in Longford. In 1869, Lord Granard invited the Sisters of Mercy to establish an orphanage for abandoned children and a school to educate the poor of the town. To this end, he obtained the certification for the Industrial School from the Department of Education on 29th November 1869, one month in advance of the Sisters of Mercy arriving there. Three Sisters from the convent in Longford were sent to Newtownforbes under the direction of the then Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise, Dr McCabe. They arrived on 13th December 1869. Lord Granard provided the Sisters with a vacant house and gardens rent-free, in addition to an annual cash donation of £90.
The Sisters established St. Michael’s Convent in the house provided by Lord Granard, and this convent became autonomous from the Longford Convent in 1871. The Sisters then embarked on a large building project, which by 1879 consisted of the Industrial School, a day school, a laundry and dormitories on the grounds. These buildings were added to over the years. In 1904, an 11-acre farm was acquired by the Sisters in Newtownforbes across the road from the convent on the main Dublin to Sligo road. A bakery was also in operation on the grounds. In 1913, a further 15·5 acres were obtained through the Land Commission in the adjoining townland of Carrickmoyragh which was beside the convent. Also, in 1913, the laundry was expanded and new machinery was installed.