Barry Linehan retires after 45 years of teaching


Principal Sean Horgan wishing Barry Linehan every success yesterday, Wednesday, on the occasion of his retirement after 45 years of teaching at St Patrick’s NS in Mallow.

When Barry Linehan lowered the flag at the end of the school day yesterday, Wednesday, it didn’t just mark the beginning of the mid-term break for St Patrick’s National School. It also signalled the end of Barry’s career as teacher at the school, almost 45 years after he first walked through the gates. Present to mark the occasion were his family, Principal Sean Horgan, fellow teachers and staff, and most important of all, pupils at the school.
Looking back over the years, it seems that Barry has always been linked with the name St Patrick. He was born in St Patrick’s Maternity Hospital (nowadays Mount Alvernia), did his teacher training at St Patrick’s College in Dublin, and spent his whole teaching career at St Patrick’s NS in Mallow.
Barry sat down recently with the Mallow Star to talk about his life as a teacher, and revealed that he remembered as a little boy being taken to St Pat’s by his mother to see a play in the school hall. Little did he know that his life would become so intertwined with the school. “If you believe in destiny, I suppose you might say that I was destined to teach at St Pat’s.”
Reared on the family farm in Glantane, the young Barry went to school at St Colman’s in Fermoy, and, after graduating as a primary school teacher, started at St Pat’s in 1973. Liz Mannix from Mallow started the same year.
The school was run then by the Patrician Brothers, and Br. James was Principal. Barry remembers the principal, teachers and Brothers to be very welcoming. “I found them very nice,” he said. At the time the school was a mix of Brothers and Lay teachers, and his lay colleagues included Dick Woods, Mr. Egan Mrs Aherne, Mick Duggan, Con Herbert and John Casey.
Barry recalls that class sizes were much bigger then than today. “The average per class was 40 pupils,” he said, adding: “We were the only primary school, apart from the No. 1 School, and Scoil Iosagain had only just started.
“One of my main memories of the time was the huge number of bicycles. Many pupils cycled to school, and also there was an hour for lunch, so lots of boys went home for their lunch.”
Br. James was Principal for Barry’s first two years, and the reins were then passed to Br. Alfonsus, who had only been a year in the job when Br Hilary took over. He was followed by Br. Kevin, and then came Br. David who had the distinction of being the last religious-order principal at St Pat’s. It was 1994 that the school finally had a lay principal, when Sean Horgan took over, and Sean is still Principal today, 24 years later. Today’s teaching staff is a 50:50 mix of male and female.
It might be a surprise to many readers to learn that pupils at St Pat’s didn’t wear uniform for many years; in fact, uniforms were only introduced in the mid-1980s! Of course uniforms are a requirement nowadays, but in those early days pupils wore whatever their parents dressed them in.
St Pat’s NS hasn’t changed significantly over the years, apart from the construction of an extension in the mid 1980s and the replacement of the flat roof in more recent years, the cost of the latter being met by a generous donation from local developer John Barry of Castlelands.
Over the four decades in which Barry has been at the school he has taught all classes from 1st to 6th, though for about 10 years he primarily taught 1st class. “I always loved teaching this class, as they were so enthusiastic and learned quickly,”he said. In 2008 Barry was made Deputy Principal of the school, a promotion which meant that he was not able to take class groups, but he has kept up his teaching skills for the past decade teaching resource classes.
Barry’s contribution to school life has not been confined to teaching, as he is also a keen advocate of ‘green’ issues and has been part of several initiatives, for example the Green Flag scheme, of which he was co-ordinator. “It was a whole-school effort,” he said, “and today we have six Green Flags.”
One of the most successful initiatives in St Pat’s came when the school decided to take part in a nationwide ‘Design a Birdbox’ competition. At the time the school was changing from the old two-seat desks into the tables which are used today, and there were all these old desks with attached inkwells which they weren’t sure what to do with. From this conundrum came the idea to use the wood from the desks to create birdboxes, and the result was so successful that the school won the national competition and a prize of €10,000 and even appeared on ‘The Late Late Show’. One of the birdboxes can still be seen in the entrance area of the school today, and when President Michael D Higgins visited a couple of years ago he was presented with a birdbox, which hopefully is housing some of the birds of Aras an Uachtarain today!
When asked about his feelings regarding leaving the school where he has taught for so many years, Barry smiled and reminded this writer that he will be 65 later this year, so “It’s time to go.”
Knowing Barry, he will be keeping busy in his retirement. A keen sportsman, he enjoys swimming and running, and revealed that he is hoping to do some historical research on the Great War and the Mallow men who died in it. He is also a grandfather, and he and Deirdre, who retired from teaching some years ago, will not be idle in any way. They have four children, Eve, Carol, David and Maeve, and two of the four, Eve and Carol, have also gone down the primary school teaching route.
So, as you read this, Barry will be starting the next stage of his life, the first time in nearly 45 years that he won’t be getting ready for another day as a teacher at St Pat’s. Everyone in the Mallow Star would like to join with the many people who were taught by Barry over four decades in wishing him many happy years of retirement. And if he’s stuck for something to do, he could always act as caddie for Deirdre on the golf course!