By Jimmy Rhatigan
Pics: Donal Foley
ON YER bike sir could easily have been the witticism from anyone in the big crowd of well-wishers who turned up to say thank you and good health to a retiring school principal.
Newmarket National School boss of the past 30 years, son of Mullinavat Tom Duggan spent his final hours in a school he loved yesterday, Tuesday, and he is now looking forward to jumping on his trusty bicycle and spinning around the Ring of Kerry.
“I took up cycling a year ago and I will head to The Kingdom in a little over a week’s time,” said Tom who admitted that his retirement was an emotional one.
He said he would miss the children, his dedicated teaching colleagues and staff members, also the parents’ association, the board of management, Carrickshock GAA Club and what he described as a great parish community in Aghaviller who always rowed in behind school activities.
“I made up my mind to move on after 40 years teaching. My first 10 were in Ballymun in Dublin and I am happy that I will also have fond memories of teaching in Ballymun and Newmarket, both areas populated by marvellous people.”
Son of John and Margaret Duggan of Mullinavat, Tom went to school in Mullinavat Boys’ National School before moving on to De La Salle, Waterford and finally to teacher training in St Pat’s, Drumcondra, Dublin.
In Mullinavat he was taught by the Billy and Anna Kelly teaching team and has fond memories of his early days in education. Anna is a neighbor in Mill Road, Mullinavat and is also a good friend.
Tom married local woman Elaine Walsh and the couple have four children, daughters Sarah and Emma and sons Ian and Conor.
Conor followed in his dad’s teaching shoes and is now on the staff of Carrigeen National School in South Kilkenny.
Over the years, Tom was deeply involved in primary schools’ hurling and football. He also took up golf and is now hoping to burn up the greens in a bid to reducing his 18 handicap.
The abolishment of corporal punishment was perhaps the most significant change in education during Tom’s career.
“I was teaching when corporal punishment was still allowed and I never agreed with it. I was very happy that it was scrapped by the then Minister for Education John Boland, a member of a Fine Gael Government.
The arrival of computers into schools was another milestone. I was halfway into my teaching years when that came about. We had no training. The government did not provide any for us.
“On that score, a teaching colleague and friend of mine, Martin Fogarty of Castlecomer, a pioneer of teaching computers, taught us a lot. I remember well going to courses with Martin.
“In more recent years schools broke new ground by getting involved in cross border projects. We worked with schools in Belfast and swapped visits.
“We also enjoyed involvement in etwinning programmes with schools all over Europe. That meant we communicated at classroom video sessions and later visited our new found friends in England, Portugal, Spain and Norway.
“That was fantastic progress as it broadened children’s outlooks and it also meant that rural schools in particular were no longer isolated as the world had become their oyster in what was fondly called a global classroom.”
Tom said he really appreciated the fond farewell and good wishes he received at a function organized by the Newmarket NS Parents’ Association.
And he plans to take a leaf out of his pupils’ copy book by broadening his horizons too when he travels to New Zealand to see his daughter Emma and to New Jersey to enjoy a holiday with his brother Kevin.