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Ronan's interview with Mr. Monaghan

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Many thanks to Ronan Farrell for his second interview -this time he spoke to Mr John Monaghan, principal of St. Colman's Bann P.S. Ronan is currently undertaking the John Paul II award and has kindly agreed to 'interview' parishioners as part of his assignments.

Interview: John Monaghan

What are your earliest memories of getting involved in the community?

From a young age I have always had a great interest in music, and when I was a teenager I played in the scór competitions with my two brothers, Paul and Joe, representing Tullylish. Paul played guitar, Joe played the mandolin and I played the fiddle. It was great fun, but sometimes we argued on the stage about what we were going to play and about who was speeding up the tunes.  Noel McEvoy (Catherine’s brother) started a youth group called “Noel’s Nestlings”. It was a great community event and involved a big number of young people. We did concerts in the “Bosco” which was an old army style nissen hut just past the Den. That was where the youth club started.

What else do you remember about growing up in the parish?

My earliest memory was going to Mass in the Bosco while the chapel was being renovated. I can’t remember what the chapel had been like before that but there was great excitement when it was being reopened and everything inside it was brand new.

I remember the time when Miller Park was first being built. The foundations had just been dug and they were full of clay and water. I think I was around P3 and I remember running around them with my friends. We took turns to jump across the trenches, but unfortunately for me one of them was too wide and I landed in the middle of it. I was wearing short trousers and I sank in the wet clay and couldn’t lift my feet out.  Some of the other boys had to get the lollipop man at the point, -Jimmy Feeney, - to come and haul me out because I was stuck so deep. As I was pulled out, the muck sucked the shoe off my foot and it got left behind, and to this day my shoe is buried under one of those houses.

You were living outside the parish for a while and returned, how did that happen?

Yes, when I got married I lived in Lurgan for 6 years and then moved to Ballyvarley where I lived for another 9 years before building a house in the parish and moving back near Laurencetown.

It was strange at first going to the school that I went to when I was a child, to pick up my own children now as a parent instead of a pupil.

When the position of principal came up in the school a year later, I was very apprehensive as to whether to apply for it or not. I was already  principal in another school and was very happy there, and it was a big decision to leave it.  I also was unsure what it would be like to teach my own children, but in the end I decided to apply and as it turned out I got the job.

It was really strange at first, especially when people that I knew started calling me “Master”. I felt a bit embarrassed at the start by that, particularly if it was someone older than me.

 I had always wondered how other teachers that I know, could teach their own children in school but I quickly realised the benefits, -I got to be with them every day, and  I could keep an eye on them too!  It must have been hard for them because I was so afraid of treating them as favourites that I was very strict with them, and they always felt under a wee bit of pressure not to let me down, but they always played their part so well.  I often wondered if their classmates were aware of that.

What activities do you particularly enjoy in school?

Well when I became principal of the school Miss McCann had a great school choir. I started getting involved by helping out at practices and by playing the fiddle. The choir did some performances around the parish, for example singing in the community centre and singing in a Christmas show in Banbridge Leisure Centre.

A big event that stands out was managing to get the school a place on Frank Mitchell’s “School Around the Corner”. It was about my second year as principal when I got a telephone call to say that a school that was supposed to be on the show had pulled out and I was asked if our school would like to fill in at short notice. We accepted the invitation to come on the show right away and everyone had a great time doing it. I am still so proud of the finished programme. I must watch it again.

After your return what activities did you get involved with in the parish?

Lynn and Paula were working with T.Y.G. (Tullylish Youth Group) and they had invited me to bring the fiddle along to help out at some practices for the show they were doing at the time.   It was great fun and the show went down a treat with the whole parish. Then after the show, the group grew to quite a big size and the TYG leaders asked me to become a full-time member, and so I became a fully-fledged member. I even got the T-shirt!

 We sang and played music at masses on Saturday evenings and we also put on a number of shows in the den. TYG presented “Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dream coat”,  “Annie” and the “Wizard of Oz”. They were all great fun to do.

Paula and Lynn keep me involved with the parish choir,  playing along at some of the special masses such as at Christmas or  Easter etc. As well as all these things, in the school we always have first Friday masses. This is where Fr. Powell comes to the school and celebrates Mass for the whole community as well as visitors from beyond. It’s a great opportunity for everyone to see the displays and to see the school, and it shows people that this is everyone’s school and not just for the children and staff. That’s a great feeling.

How have you helped link our community of Tullylish?

Our school has a strong link with St. John’s in Gilford and we support each other at every opportunity, particularly through involvement with the Sacraments. We join together for Service of Light and Confirmation and everyone from both schools come together for refreshments in our school. There is a bond between the 2 schools and the parish.

In what ways do the parish and community contribute to you and the school?

I am very grateful to the parish office for posting information on www.tullylish.com about the school and keeping everyone up to date with what’s going on.  They give us great support. Quite often Catherine McEvoy will come down to the school and take photos of events taking place. For example, quite recently she was down taking pictures of our Halloween fancy dress, which she then put on the parish website.  The children love to see these online. It also makes us feel very proud that relations all over the world can see the pupils in their school environment, involved in fun activities with the community. I have friends now living in New York who visit the site regularly and email me with funny comments about what they see on the school section!

Tullylish Gaelic Club has always had strong links with our school. So many of the pupils are members of the club and the committee organises coaching in our school whenever they can. They also allow us to use their facilities for sports day and throughout the year when we need to. We are grateful to them and we like to encourage as many of our pupils as we can to become members of the club. It is a great source of community building.

The support we have in the community is fantastic. The parents are so supportive of everything that goes on, but also there is a very distinct feeling that the school really is at the centre of the wider community because of the many people who involve themselves in school events, attend school Masses and volunteer their help when needed. All of this creates a real “feelgood factor” that makes me very proud to belong to Tullylish.

 

 

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