THREE long-serving teachers have called it a day at St Mary’s High School.
Between them Fran McCann, Mary Tumilty and Deirdre McCann have given over 100 years service to the all girls’ school in Lurgan.
For Fran McCann St Mary’s has been her first and only school as a teacher. She has been at the Lurgan school for 36 years.
She explained: “10 or 11 of us came at the same time, all young teachers. There’s not too many of us left from 1976
“I was only 22 when I started St Mary’s. We nearly put (principal) Kathleen O’Reilly’s head astray. We were all young teachers, all still full of the joys of uni.
“She made us the teachers we are. Kathleen was a hard working teacher who always put the children first. She shaped us in that image.”
Fran added: “I’ve absolutely loved my job. I love teaching new children and going through the generations of families. I have a couple of sisters now whose grandmother I taught.
“For me, music is a way of life. The teachers who have lasted this long are the ones who love it and see it as a vocation.”
She said the crowning glory was in 2004 when a 115-strong choir of all ages and abilities from St Mary’s won School Choir of the Year.
She continued: “I feel privileged to hear children I have taught are now music teachers themselves or involved in music. When you witness that you think you must be doing something a bit inspirational and it makes the job worthwhile.”
Fran made many friends at the school including Maureen Rodgers, whom she considered to be her best friend. Maureen sadly passed away two years ago.
When Fran leaves the school at the end of term Brian Green will take over the music department. She said: “I’ve enjoyed working with Brian. I’m also indebted to teachers that come in to teach instruments. They are the unsung heroes.”
She has lived in Lurgan all her life and is part of Cantabile choir and also a member of Lurgan Golf Club. As well as spending some extra time on the golf course in her retirement, Fran intends to lend a hand to Brian in the music department, so pupils haven’t seen the last of her just yet.
Like Fran, Mary Tumilty has also been at St Mary’s since 1976. Mary hails from County Down but says she has probably spent more time in County Armagh over the last 36 years. She has taught Irish Language at the school for 36 years.
She said: “I’ve always had a great love of Irish language and culture. It comes from my own teacher Miss O’Neill. After she taught me I never wanted to do anything else other than be a teacher of Irish language. The Irish language has something to offer for every one of us.”
She added: “Apart from the subject I’ve enjoyed dealing with teenagers all my life, not only academically, but giving them a listening ear and having a bit of fun in class when it’s appropriate. I like to make my lessons fun, but never at the expense of learning.
“I’m very much into the personal side of teaching, the human side of teaching.
“I’ve really, really enjoyed working with the girls from Lurgan, such a mix of personalities, never fell out with anyone.”
Clearing out her classroom hasn’t been easy for Mary. She commented: “I’ve turned into a human shredder these last few days, trying to decide what to keep and what to throw out. I’m an awful one for hoarding stuff.”
Mary is married with four children, one of whom is living at home, two are at university in Glasgow and one is living and working in London.
“Retirement will give me a bit of extra time to spend with my youngest daughter who is still living at home,” she said.
Geography teacher Deirdre McCann has been with St Mary’s for 35 years.
She said: “Leaving will be extremely emotional. I can’t believe I’ve done 35 years at the school.”
Deirdre was appointed in 1977 and became Head of Geography in 1989.
As a school girl she went to St John’s, Gilford and Assumption Grammar School in Ballynahinch, where she developed a passion for geography.
She said: “I just have a real love of the subject. I’ve always loved geography. I love it because it’s not a ‘still’ subject. It’s changing all the time. Anything you see on the news will be in next year’s text books.”
Deirdre has a degree in Geography and Environmental Science at UUC and a PGCE at Queen’s.
She added: “I’ve had a great interest in development issues and set up a link with a third world school in Sri Lanka in 2005. I travelled out to Sir Lanka on two occasions to work with teachers out there.”
For this project Deirdre was given the International Schools Award in 2009.
In her retirement Deirdre hopes to travel and develop an interest in leisure activities that she didn’t have as much time for in the past.
Of her time at the school she said: “I have worked with a group of people who have been so easy to work with.
“I find it rewarding that ex pupils have come back as trainee teachers themselves.”
“I’ve really enjoyed the friendships I’ve made at school. I will miss those people terribly.”