'I got a huge send off on the last day of school': Slán to Seán after 38 years

The outgoing principal said he was “caught” by his colleagues on the last day of school term.
'I got a huge send off on the last day of school': Slán to Seán after 38 years

Sean MacGearailt getting a great send off by pupils at a function on the occasion of his retirement as principal of Gaelscoil de hIde in Fermoy, Co Cork. Picture: David Keane.

A CORK primary school principal received a huge send off on the last day of the academic year after serving 38 years as principal of Gaelscoil de hÍde in Fermoy.

Students, staff, family members, friends, former colleagues, and students all gathered to acknowledge the role Seán Mac Gearailt played in the history of Gaelscoil de hÍde.

The outgoing principal said he was “caught” by his colleagues on the last day of school term.

Sean MacGearailt with his sister Joan, at a function on the occasion of his retirement as principal of Gaelscoil de hIde in Fermoy, Co Cork. Picture: David Keane.
Sean MacGearailt with his sister Joan, at a function on the occasion of his retirement as principal of Gaelscoil de hIde in Fermoy, Co Cork. Picture: David Keane.

“I got a huge send-off on the last day of school. The staff and the parents’ group absolutely caught me on my last day. I had no idea what was happening,” he said.

“They did a This Is Your Life special on me. I got a big shock as I knew nothing.”

Mr Mac Gearailt said the fond farewell he received from friends, family members, and colleagues meant a lot to him.

“When I arrived in that morning, they had a big banner outside the door. It was a lovely gesture, and it meant a lot to me,” he said.

“The more I look back on it the greater it gets. In This Is Your Life they looked back on my youth in Kerry, my school days in Kerry, and college life in Dublin. They even managed to get my sister, college friends, and former colleagues all to turn up on the day.”

Sean MacGearailt with his wife Fiona, daughter Richeal and sons Ruadhan, Fionan and Sean, at a function on the occasion of his retirement as principal of Gaelscoil de hIde in Fermoy, Co Cork. Picture: David Keane.
Sean MacGearailt with his wife Fiona, daughter Richeal and sons Ruadhan, Fionan and Sean, at a function on the occasion of his retirement as principal of Gaelscoil de hIde in Fermoy, Co Cork. Picture: David Keane.

He said that when he began his tenure as principal of Gaelscoil de hÍde in September 1984 there were only 16 pupils. The Fermoy school currently has 355 pupils.

“When I started off in 1984 the school opened with 16 junior infants and I. Eight of that class were also present on my last day,” he said.

“The school currently has 355 pupils, with 30 staff members. There have been big changes, but all positive.

“We started off in a small school that had been vacated by the Church of Ireland school who got a new school. We did it up and the numbers grew. In 1987 we moved to another school, and we were there until February 2017.

Sean MacGearailt with his secretaries Mairead Sharkey and Louise Barry Cusack, at a function on the occasion of his retirement as principal of Gaelscoil de hIde in Fermoy, Co Cork. Picture: David Keane.
Sean MacGearailt with his secretaries Mairead Sharkey and Louise Barry Cusack, at a function on the occasion of his retirement as principal of Gaelscoil de hIde in Fermoy, Co Cork. Picture: David Keane.

“We then got a brand new and massive school built on the outskirts of the town. We have great facilities. It is a far cry from 1984,” he added.

Mr Mac Gearailt paid tribute to the great support he received during his 38 years as principal of the Fermoy school.

“We had a very strong parent support group. We have always enjoyed great support from the school community,” he said. “The support was there every year without fail. As a Kerryman living in Cork, I got great support every single day.”

This is Your Life presenters Tomas O Se and Graham Clifford, with Sean MacGearailt at a function on the occasion of his retirement as principal of Gaelscoil de hIde in Fermoy, Co Cork. Picture: David Keane.
This is Your Life presenters Tomas O Se and Graham Clifford, with Sean MacGearailt at a function on the occasion of his retirement as principal of Gaelscoil de hIde in Fermoy, Co Cork. Picture: David Keane.

On a broader scale, he said he has also seen very positive changes with regard to the Irish language from a school perspective.

“There have been a lot of changes in the education system over the years. We started in 1984; Youghal and Ballincollig were established in 1983. Since then, there have been a huge number of Gaelscoils established in Cork and throughout the country. This is very positive for the language,” he said.

Principal of Gaelscoil de hÍde Sean Mac Gearailt received a huge send off on the last day of the school year after serving 38 years as principal.
Principal of Gaelscoil de hÍde Sean Mac Gearailt received a huge send off on the last day of the school year after serving 38 years as principal.

Mr Mac Gearailt has lots of fond memories from his time as principal, but one specially resonates with him.

“I have great memories; 38 years is a long time; but to me it is like the other day. The time flew.

“In 2015/16 a committee was formed and the students took part in a spectacular themed protest to demand the minister for education prioritise the building of our much-needed new school. I will never forget the photograph, that was on the front page of the Irish Independent, of a student. It was like a child out of Oliver, begging.

Principal of Gaelscoil de hÍde Sean Mac Gearailt pictured with Cllr Frank O'Flynn on the last day of the school term.
Principal of Gaelscoil de hÍde Sean Mac Gearailt pictured with Cllr Frank O'Flynn on the last day of the school term.

“I am looking forward to relaxing and not being dictated to by the clock,” said Mr Mac Gearailt.

“I hope to follow Kerry up and down the country.

“I will still meet up with my colleagues,” he said.

“I am retiring happy and healthy.”

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