There was a chorus of emotional goodbyes at Portarlington Presentation Primary School this week, as no less than three teachers retired, including the principal and vice principal.
Principal Margaret Walsh and Vice Principal Anne Slevin are both retiring after 36 years service each, having started work at the same time at the school.
Teacher Muriel Ducie from Portarlington is also bidding farewell after 14 years of service.
Last Thursday June 23 the pupils held a Thanksgiving prayer ceremony to mark the retirements.
Outgoing principal Ms Walsh was invited to plant a cherry blossom tree, and was overwhelmed at a stone plaque to be erected at its base in her honour, with the message “we plant the seeds that one day will grow”.
She also received many mementos and heard songs and poems from the pupils, in particular her favourite song ‘Thank you for the days’.
“I was very moved, it was a beautiful service, and I was delighted that our own families were there, including my mother who is 82, and Anne’s grandchildren who all went to the school,” she said.
She praised Ms Slevin, who is also from Portarlington, for her contribution over the years.
“She was always very dedicated and showed great kindness and empathy,” said Ms Walsh.
The previous Friday, the teachers held their own event to mark the retirements, in the Heritage Killenard, where they presented Ms Walsh with a DVD titled ‘Thank you for the d=Days’ with fond contributions from staff and children, board members and even the school’s bus drivers.
“It was fantastic, I was overwhelmed by their good wishes,” said the principal.
A welcome shock on the night was the surprise return of her daughter Dearbhladh, who is a teacher at the schol, but this year is on leave teaching in Abu Dhabi.
She will represent Abu Dhabi in the Rose of Tralee in August, as will her fellow teacher at the school, Laois Rose Kate Hyland.
“It was a big surprise, I was absolutely delighted to see Dearbhladh home,” said her mother, who is looking forward to supporting both teachers in Tralee..
Ms Walsh herself was taught by the Presentation Sisters in her native Thurles.
“I was very proud to be a principal in one of their schools. I have seen a lot of changes, with the pupil population going from 400 to 730 with 46 staff,” she said.
She has many highlights over her time as principal but one stands out.
“The building of the new school, and the Nano Nagle ASD unit, would very much be my highlight. Portarlington children are beautiful and so well mannered, and there was always a great culture of respect in the school,” she said.
Her replacement is the first male principal at the school. Cathal Ruane, previously the principal in St Colman’s NS in Stradbally.
“I wish him well,” Ms Walsh said.
The vice principal post has not yet been filled.
Also retiring this year is the chairman of the board of management Tony Banbrick, who is to be succeeded by Frank Smith.
“Tony served on the board for over 35 years, and has been a very committed and fair minded gentleman to work with,” said Ms Walsh, who will remain in her post officially until August 31.
“I look forward to a long and happy retirement, with plenty of happy memories,” she said.