Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Jack Walsh, Mary Purcell, Ger Duggan and Betty Walsh.

AFTER 21 happy years, a new era beckons for St Mary’s Boys National School in Ferrybank as Principal Ger Duggan has retired having seen student numbers double in his time there.

During his time in Ferrybank, having followed Richard Hayden after arriving from St Declan’s NS in January 1998, Mr Duggan saw the school grow from a typical village school to a multi-cultural one, although it remained at the heart of the community.

Speaking of a retirement party at the conclusion of the year, he said: “It was pretty emotional. It was a heavy, busy week. An awful lot of people, particularly staff, put a huge amount of effort into it and people who I would have come across right from the start when I went to Ferrybank were invited to be there and so many of them were there so it was just lovely. It was pretty draining, but a nice evening, really lovely.”

Mr Duggan, who jokes that he his final few weeks were so busy he still hasn’t had the opportunity to clean his desk, said that there wasn’t enough time in the day to discuss all of the changes to the school and education since he took up the position.

“I went into a school in January 1998 that was so different from anything I had ever experienced. I was used to teaching one class and then in Ferrybank there were just five teachers, I had two different classes, I thought it was the most alien thing at the time. In my first full year there were just four of us – Jack Kennedy, Cathy Ryan, Brid Powell and myself.”

Around 100 pupils attended the school when he began, a figure which stands at 220 today, while the new Principal will inherit a staff of 15 in September.

“I suppose I had been influenced by Principals I had been working with and for. Two of these were in St Declan’s who were De La Salle Brothers – Br Finian and a man who’s still alive, Brother Finbar. If I wanted to bring anything in particular it would be that if people walked into the school they would know they were walking into a place where they were welcome with a good atmosphere. If that’s there it means things are going well.

“I can’t think of a time when things were negative. We had a fantastic staff. Getting new young teachers on board brought a new dynamic but there was certainly nothing wrong with the older ones that were here either. Jack Kennedy, who I knew all my life because he was a year ahead of me in school, you could write two books about his life. There was never a dull moment with him.”

A sports enthusiast, he says he always appreciated the close ties with clubs across the community in Ferrybank – adding that he had the three best keys in Ferrybank, the GAA club, the soccer club and the parish centre. Unsurprisingly, some of his highlights included sporting successes like the Jack Kennedy Cup in 2008 and he laughs as he mentions Fr Crotty, when sussing him out before hiring him, had been told “he was fond of the bigger ball” due to his love of soccer.

At the moment he has no concrete plans for the future given it doesn’t feel real yet.

“It probably won’t really sink in until September. I would have been looking forward to going back. I’ll enjoy more time with my wife. I suppose the major plan is that when September comes to start making plans. For now, I’m going to enjoy the summer and play some golf.”

In the coming weeks however, his fond memories will be at the forefront of his mind, with new Principal, Kilkenny man James Robinson set to steer the ship from September having taught in Drangan, Tipperary.

“It’s been a privilege for me to have been the principal of such a great school for the last twenty one and a half years; to have worked with so many wonderful colleagues, to have met so many fantastic, positive people who gave me such tremendous support and finally, to have taught and (have) been the principal for so many superb boys.

“It’s time for the next principal to lead our great school and I have no doubt that James Robinson will do exactly that.”

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