IT was a bittersweet day for Timahoe NS as the community gathered to celebrate the retirement of deputy principal Martina Mulhall.
On an emotional afternoon, glowing tributes were paid to the Stradbally native, who was a dedicated member of staff at Scoil Mhuire Fatima for 34 years.
A beautiful retirement Mass celebrated by Fr Gerard Breen, PP, on Wednesday 23 October brought together students, staff, the board of management and the parents’ association. Speeches and presentations were led by Fr Gerard, who referenced the gospel in describing Martina as “the salt of the earth” and offered her his congratulations, thanks and best wishes for the future.
Retired parish priest Fr Seán Kelly, a friend for over 30 years, thanked Martina for “the friendship, the inspiration and everything she gave to Timahoe”. He said she understood deeply that a school is about children and she put the children at the centre of everything.
Following heartfelt speeches and presentations to mark her early retirement, Martina regaled the gathering with a brilliant account of her career at the school, filled with hilarious anecdotes of times gone by. Describing Timahoe as a village where the beauty of its scenery is matched by the beauty of its people, she said: “A can-do village, a village that has allowed me in, a village where I belong.”
Martina thanked everyone who made her life at Timahoe NS so special, particularly the children, staff and parents, and said she could not have found a nicer community in which to work. She took time to remember her deceased sister Carmel and mother Alice, two hugely inspirational people in her life. She also paid tribute to the “wonderful board of management” and the “brilliant parents’ association”.
To the children and past-pupils, she said movingly: “Please do remember me – the days I showed you a better way and the days you did the same for me.”
In one of the highlights of a special day, students sang a beautiful version of True colours that brought tears to many eyes.
Principal Ann Bergin spoke eloquently about an outstanding deputy principal with “limitless energy and generosity”, who constantly sought out enriching experiences for pupils. She said Martina left a remarkable legacy, particularly in special education, science and the arts.
Board of management chairperson John Delaney noted that students benefited immensely from Martina’s interests in Community Games, art, science and photography, while her skill at public relations brought excellent media coverage of school achievements. Mr Delaney and treasurer Kathleen Ramsbottom made a presentation on behalf of the board of management.
Margaret Buggy of the parents’ association offered thanks and best wishes to Martina on behalf of the parents of Timahoe. She said: “As a parent, I have been reduced to tears twice at the graduation slideshow, due to the amazing memories you have captured.” She also mentioned the yearly calendars that “take pride of place in our house”, before making a presentation with Ann Farmer on behalf of parents.
Martina began teaching at Scoil Mhuire Fatima in 1985 and had a massive impact on the lives of many children. She was well known for her love of the arts and was involved in countless projects over the years, many garnering national attention. Her rich legacy will remain in the village in the form of ‘St Mochua’s Desk’, a beautiful sculpture in the grounds of Timahoe’s round tower. The work was designed and made by sculptor Michael Burke, in association with Martina and students in 2004 and is based on the famous tale of Mochua and his rooster, fly and mouse. Other projects such as ‘An Bradán Feasa’ and ‘Enchanted Esker’, a stunning ceramic mosaic that was shown at an art exhibition in Collins Barracks, adorn the walls at Timahoe NS.
Martina was ahead of the curve in terms of promoting the teaching of science and STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths). Some of the initiatives introduced at an early stage in Timahoe NS included project-based learning in science, computer coding, visits from engineers and scientists and a commitment to IT. The school’s huge focus on science was reflected in two all-Ireland wins at the Intel Mini-Scientist competition, multiple years’ representation at the RDS Primary Science Fair and numerous other awards. The run of success at national level culminated in an invitation to meet President Michael D Higgins at Áras an Uachtaráin, a proud day in the history of the Timahoe school.
Martina was also central to the delivery of the new pre-school ASD unit Naíscoil Kantara, which was officially opened on 4 October last. Her commitment to inclusivity was probably her greatest achievement, as she ensured that every child who walked through the door was given the opportunity to achieve their potential. Her role as special educational needs co-ordinator meant that she worked at the coalface of special education for more than 14 years. Her kind and caring demeanour and the welcoming environment in which she worked fostered a ‘can do’ attitude, which was ideal for the special education setting. She also mentored numerous teachers in the area of special education.
A talented photographer, Martina was responsible for the popular annual school calendar and her graduation slideshows became legendary. She put an extraordinary amount of time into capturing joyful memories for the children, which was yet another example of her selflessness.
Bidding farewell to all her friends, colleagues, pupils and everyone who made her teaching career in Timahoe so special, Martina said: “Serving you has been an honour and a privilege. Always and ever.”