SO LONG, FAREWELL…
It seems more than mere coincidence that when Sr Berchmans took over as Principal of the Secondary School in September 1983, she was the one who had to organise and oversee the move from the old school in St Angela’s Academy and the Island to the new building which has been our home since then. Now, as she prepares to go, she is leaving behind a wonderful legacy in the form of the new Extension to the School, not to mention the beautiful Astro-turf pitches and the Sports Complex. These facilities are a monument to her persistence, dedication and commitment -a trophy she has well earned after long years of trying!
What can we say about her tenure as Principal over twenty-nine years? She knew every student in her care by name but more than that she knew their family and their circumstances and she surely epitomised the Ursuline ethos in her empathy and interaction with the girls. In the words of St Angela:
“Have each and everyone in your hearts and minds, and not just their names, but their background and character, and everything concerning them.”
Her constant support for the vast and varied extra-curricular activities in the school has always been magnificent and she has braved all weathers and conditions to support hockey/camogie teams and athletic cross country runners, travelled long distances for debaters and public speakers and has unpacked costumes for shows. This and much, much more!
As an Educationalist, she expected and demanded excellence from all and she never asked anyone to do anything she was not prepared to do herself. To the Staff, she is the original multi-tasker: a doctor, a plumber, a psychologist, an electrician yet she never sought the limelight, preferring always to delight in others’ achievements and victories.
In essence, her life over the last thirty six years, as Teacher and Principal, has been one of service. Everything she did was for the betterment of the school. Her commitment was total, her energy boundless and her dedication selfless.
We on the Staff wish her long years of health and happiness. Somehow, UCT won’t be quite the same place without her, but her legacy will be cherished.
We have already said goodbye to two long serving members of Staff on February 29: Annette Kelly and David Morris. Annette joined the Staff in 1971, moving home to her native Thurles after a year teaching in Glenamaddy, Co Galway and David joined the Staff in the 1980s and now as we approach the end of the year, we will also be saying goodbye to Helen Quinlan and Mae Quinn – also long serving members of Staff.
As a Staff, the one thing we can say is that the Staff Room will be a different place as all four contributed significantly to the life of the Staff: Annette for her quick witted take on every situation, Helen for her fund of knowledge on every aspect of Business, Mae for her critique of the day’s newspapers and David for his store of “tall tales”!
Annette Kelly is an amazingly creative person and she shared that creativity with her students in so many ways: her P.E. classes, the hockey training sessions, her choreography for the shows over the years and most uniquely her beautiful Liturgical Dances. She demanded perfection in all these activities and she got it. As head of Sport for so many years, she brought home so many trophies, especially in hockey, that it is impossible to list them here. However, the trophy that probably gave her the greatest joy was the Kate Russell (All Ireland Schools’ Hockey) in 1996. What a wonderful achievement!
As a colleague, Annette shared her love of sport with the Staff and there was many a Monday morning at break time when her critique of the Irish or Munster Rugby team’s performance would leave George Hook and Brent Pope sounding like “empty vessels”. Perhaps R.T.E. might offer her a job as a Rugby pundit? If that does not happen, we know that Annette will enjoy her retirement when she can spend more time with her family which we know is so important to her and that her love of travel may see her pop up at a Manchester United match in Old Trafford or further afield! Thank you, Annette.
Helen Quinlan, the stylish lady of the Staff Room, will also be greatly missed. In true Ursuline tradition, she knew all her students so well and had a personal interest in each one. Her commitment and dedication as a Business Teacher has encouraged so many past pupils to pursue Business as a career and her passion and knowledge for her subjects was communicated to the countless number of students she taught over the years.
Helen was our Eddie Hobbs! She was always so patient even with the most basic of questions from her less informed colleagues: AVCs, pensions, complicated tax situations were all made so simple and understandable. Each December, following the budget, there was no need for us to read the papers because we knew Helen would have the “Budget made Simple” for us all. In fact, we can also recommend Helen for another job should we wish it: special advisor to the Minister of Finance! As a senior member of staff, Helen could always be relied on to offer clear, common sense approach to all situations and we thank her for that.
When it comes to Mae Quinn, we know the Staff Room will be a quieter place next year. Mae was passionate about all subjects from the state of the nation to the political crisis in far off lands. We were never in any doubt as to Mae’s views on these subjects. This passion was also communicated to her students and her English and French classes were lively places where students were always encouraged to be up to speed with the issues of the day: now such a necessary part of the curriculum. Her personal oratorical skills were well known to us all and whenever the need arose for a few appropriate words to be spoken, Mae was always the first choice. This gift was also shared with her students and she has trained countless number of students in Public Speaking, coaching them for the Mental Health and Soroptimist competitions with great success over the years: two National winners in Soroptimists and a place in the National Final for this year’s MHAI team.
As Social Secretary, Mae always ensured that there was never an occasion that was missed: a card, a bouquet of flowers, a gift. Whatever the occasion, Mae ensured that everyone knew they were valued. Her own personal commitment to the values of volunteering and public service, have also been transmitted to the students, inculcating in them a sense of good citizenship. On that subject Mae was the CSPE encyclopaedia always ready to answer the questions on Ministerial changes and Government policy. Thank you, Mae.
That leaves us with David Morris, the gentleman of the Staff Room. David embodied the traditional old fashioned values of gentlemanly courtesy. For some years he was the only male member of the Staff and he always treated staff and students alike with that courtesy. Coming from a different side of the political divide to many others, there was often lively “debate” on the issues of the day but no argument or discussion ended without an agreement to differ!
David brought his huge store of general knowledge to his work in the classroom and as a Business Teacher, his students were always treated to his pearls of wisdom. His genuine love of teaching was transmitted to the girls, or should we say “ladies”. His passion for debating led him to coaching the students for the Concern Debates and he was so passionate about this subject that in the small hours of the morning, other members of staff would be awoken with a text on one of his “Eureka” moments when the final piece of the debating argument would be put in place. He has already been acknowledged by Concern for his years of work in this area and he too achieved great success with his team, winning the top prize in Concern Debating in the 1990s.
Sr Berchmans often speaks about the “all seeing eye of youth” and the following tributes by the students say it all. It just leaves us to wish them health and happiness to enjoy the years ahead and we know that all five of them will continue to keep UCT in their hearts and we hope that they will visit us frequently.
WHAT THE STUDENTS SAY
Trying to imagine the Ursuline Secondary School without Sr. Berchmans as Principal is like imagining England without Queen Elizabeth, Microsoft without Bill Gates, or even – dare I say it? – The Voice of Ireland without Niall “Bressie” Breslin! She has become an institution in this school over the years, her kindness and calmness an inspiration to us all.
As a First Year student lost in a sea of uncertainty, I remember well the reassurances I received from cousins and aunts who had gone before me, that as long as “Sr. B” was principal, everything would turn out all right. She was the school, representing everything about its ethos and mission, and with prayer and friendship she established a warm, peaceful, academic atmosphere throughout the classrooms and corridors.
Perhaps the most impressive trait Sr. Berchmans possesses, in my opinion, is her ability to remember the name of every single student in the school. Ever since I started here, it has astounded me to see her greeting each girl she passes in the corridors by their first name. It has also been a joy to hear her voice on the intercom, congratulating teams and clubs on their recent achievements. Making people feel valued and important seems to come naturally to her, and we shall certainly miss the unfailing loyalty she showed to us all.
This isn’t, of course, to say that she didn’t have her strict moments: anyone who has ever had to sit on the dreaded stool in her office could tell you of the fear she was perfectly capable of inspiring! As we advanced through the years, however, we came to understand that the pressure she placed on us was purely for our own benefit, motivating us to do our very best at everything we attempted. Sr. Berchmans recognised the potential in each and every one of her students, and didn’t stop pushing us until we could see it in ourselves.
She had a few tricks up her sleeve, too – from surprise permission to go to support a hockey match, to the amazing revelation that she could, in fact, text; Sr. Berchmans always knew how to keep her girls on their toes. She made sure that none of us became too conceited, but never allowed our self-esteem to drop very far either. Hard work, volunteering and assertiveness have always been prized in the Ursuline Secondary School, and Sr. Berchmans did her utmost to foster a sense of confidence in all of us.
It is fitting, perhaps, that Sr. Berchmans leaves behind as her legacy the newly finished school extension. At times, we may have wondered whether the long-awaited construction would ever be complete, but of course, we needn’t have worried. Untiring as always, Sr. Berchmans has worked to finish the extension right up until her very last day with us, and the new building is as impressive and steadfast as she always was. We should have known.
May you always have walls for the winds,
A roof for the rain, tea beside the fire,
Laughter to cheer you, those you love near you,
And all your heart might desire.
Sr. Berchmans, the students of the Ursuline Secondary School salute you. You have impacted on each and every one of our lives, and you will remain for ever in our hearts and minds.
Ruth Atkins on behalf of the students of the Ursuline Secondary School
MS KELLY (P.E.)
On behalf of the students I would like to take this opportunity to thank Ms.Kelly for her dedicated service and commitment to the P.E department, to sport and to the school for over forty years. Through those years she has brought much success and love of sport to those whom she has had the joy of teaching during her time at the Ursuline. Her creativity is well known bringing variety, excitement and action to her P.E. classes, always choreographing the shows with great professionalism and introducing and executing some beautiful Liturgical dances to many of our Liturgical celebrations in the school.
She has brought great success to the school winning the Kate Russell cup in the nineties. She has instilled a love of sport which will carry us into the future and for that we are very grateful. We wish you a healthy and happy retirement and as she says herself ‘sport is not always about winning it’s the taking part that counts’.
Antonia McGrath on behalf of the students
Mrs. Quinlan has been a valued, devoted and committed member of the school staff and has made a huge contribution to the school over the years. As a teacher of Business Studies, Economics and Accounting she has worked extremely hard to ensure her students continually strive for success.
To have Mrs. Quinlan as a teacher for my years in the Ursuline, means I have never found myself escorted to the General Assembly Area for an Accounting class because Mrs. Quinlan never missed one day. This is just one example of her unlimited dedication to her teaching profession and students. As mentor of our Transition Year mini-companies, she ensured we always got the best deals and brought out our competitive streak and interest in the Business world that lasted long after the year was over. Whether it be chicken rolls or a bake sale Ms. Quinlan was always offering new ideas. The interest and care she invests in her subject and pupils is beyond compare and it will be hard to say goodbye to such an established member of the school.
Her enthusiasm and fashionable style will be greatly missed in the corridors of the Ursuline as will her trading, profit and loss accounts that can be usually found on the whiteboards around the school. Mrs. Quinlan is a true asset too the school, not a fixed asset or tangible asset you find in your Accounting books, but an indispensable asset that will be hard to replace. We wish her success, health and happiness in her future endeavours.
Aoife Clancy –on behalf of the students
The enthusiasm Mr. Morris has brought with him to our school each day will long be remembered. Inside the classroom he has always made great efforts to make classes interesting and exciting. This wise man once said “it’s simple girls; a definition is like a bikini.. nobody wants it too long, but it must be wide enough to cover the bare essentials.” It’s this thinking that has made Mr. Morris a very unique teacher.
Outside the classroom Mr. Morris has committed himself to Concern Debating for over 25 years. His dedication was commemorated by Concern themselves who awarded him with a Life Time Achievement Award. Adjudicators at debates have told us so many times how lucky we are to have such an exceptional coach. Mr. Morris has brought numerous teams to quarter and semi-finals, and in the 1990s his team won the All Ireland Concern Debating Competition.
Past and present debaters, Mr Morris, are so grateful for your work, encouragement and dedication. Though we all know he enjoyed his years in Rockwell, I think it’s clear that Mr. Morris is an Ursuliner at heart. For serenading us all with “Fairytale of New York”, For being so good humoured when it came to Oreos and Gráinne White’s impersonations, and for your great commitment I would like to extend a huge, huge thank you.
Ruth Heenan –on behalf of the students
When I learned that Ms Quinn was retiring this year, my first thought was that someone must be playing a joke! How could a woman of such energy, such vigour, be ready to leave us? Throughout her time here, Ms Quinn has filled this school with laughter, life and enthusiasm. Thinking over it now, in fact, it seems only natural that such a woman would be called to bigger and better things. I firmly believe that we haven’t seen the last of Ms Quinn, and shall one day salute her as Taoiseach or even President of Ireland – doing a far better job than the current lot, I might add!
Gifted, among many traits, with razor-sharp wit and intellect, Ms Quinn has had us all in convulsions over the years with her parodies and punch-lines. This is one woman you definitely wouldn’t want to cross! Thankfully though, she tends to save her more cutting lines for the latest deserving politician or sports player. In truth, Ms Quinn has never had a mean bone in her body. She has worked tirelessly to help us all become confident, assertive individuals, and we are most certainly indebted to her for it.
Another trait one has to admire in Ms Quinn is her astonishing, constant, never-ending busyness. The other public speakers and I had to play the game of “hunt Ms Quinn” almost every lunch-time, as she always had another meeting or event to attend. She is such a dedicated, industrious person, a member of everything you could possibly imagine, and I can only dream of becoming as active as she has been all her life.
Lessons with Ms Quinn were always full of surprises. When I had her for French in Transition Year, the vocabulary and syntax seemed to seep into our brains almost by osmosis, as she weaved them into her daily discussions about current events and scandals in the papers. I know I have never been as up to date on the affairs of the country as I was when I had her as a teacher!
She also brought great fun and vivacity to the oratorical side of the school – both the Soroptimist and Mental Health Public Speakers throughout the years have looked forward to every team meeting. This year we were very fortunate in both competitions, with Ava Meagher reaching the Regional Final of the Soroptimist competition, and the Mental Health Public Speakers reaching the All-Ireland Final in Dublin. For this, we are immensely indebted to Ms Quinn. As the year progressed, our folders became full of the useful articles and quotes that she clipped for us. She put such untiring effort into helping us to succeed, and we can only hope to have made her equally proud of us as we are of her.
Oh dear, Ms Quinn, how will we get by without you? As Thomas Meehan once said, “How lucky we are to have someone who makes saying goodbye so hard”. You may be assured that your talent, zeal and spirit will never be forgotten. On behalf of all Ursuline Secondary School students, I wish you well in everything you pursue from now on.
Ruth Atkins –on behalf of the students