PAT O’Brien will tomorrow afternoon bid a fond farewell to Watergrasshill National School where he has served as principal for the past 23 years.
The primary school principal said he has mixed emotions on his retirement following a hugely enjoyable tenure in Watergrasshill NS.
“I have very mixed emotions. I am not running out of the place. I am looking forward to going, but I am going to miss it terribly.
“I have spent an awful lot of my life here. I had a great time working in Watergrasshill NS. It is a great school. I have seen the school grow,” he said.
The Dillons Cross native said it is time to retire and he is looking forward to travelling, playing golf, and pursuing all his hobbies in retirement.
“I am looking forward to the next chapter in my life. I will miss it, but I am doing this for myself. I am some bit healthy and relatively young in my own opinion. I am looking forward to it.
“For me though, it is time for me. I buried my younger brother a year ago and I am thinking we only get one go around. There is nobody going to ask you to come back and have another go.
“I am involved with Carraig na bhFear GAA. I also play golf. I have a few trips planned between now and June to get me to the summer. There is no fear of me,” he said.
Mr O’Brien had big boots to fill when he took over as principal of Watergrasshill NS 23 years ago. He replaced legendary GAA coach Éamonn Ryan as principal.
He said he has seen a lot of changes during his time as principal.
“I took over from Eamonn Ryan. They took a chance on me when he left. I had big boots to fill. Eamonn passed the keys to me.
“The national school is a big part of the community in Watergrasshill and there is a great community here.
“I have invested a lot of my life in the school. When I first arrived there were 136 pupils and six teachers. There are currently 422 pupils and 40 staff.
“It has grown so much. I have grown with it and the staff has grown with me.
“The kids are fabulous and the staff are brilliant. There is a lovely family atmosphere in the school,” he added.
The primary school children at Watergrasshill National School have written poems and performed sketches in recognition of their popular principal’s contribution to education in the locality.
He said their efforts were very touching.
“This week has been full-on. On Monday I arrived in and they had all combined to do a portrait of me. It was priceless. All the classes have done sketches and poems which were personalised.
“The creativity was incredible. The students have been excellent. It was very touching.”
Mr O’Brien said he will be sad and emotional when he closes up for the last time tomorrow afternoon.
“It will be sad and very emotional when I leave. Every decision comes through you and every problem comes to you.
“I have no particular favourite memory. I have a lot of very good memories, but to pick out one is impossible.
“My job is very privileged as you get to be very proud of other people’s children on a regular basis.”