John was principal of our school from 1983 – 2008 and over those twenty five years our dear friend, colleague and mentor transformed the landscape of Huntstown.
A pure and absolute passion for education and a strong and unwavering support for a community that left an indelible mark on his character, John’s early life in Stabannon, County Louth, prepared him to leave Ballygall school and embrace principalship of a developing school in the parish of Huntstown. In 1983 amidst the green fields of a distant Dublin suburb, where dairy cows peered over the walls into a partially occupied sixteen classroom school, John and Sr. Madeline established Scoil an Chroí Ró Naofa Íosa. Determined and focused, they were later joined by Ms. McHugh (later Mrs. Wilcox) and recognised that transformation can often call with a whisper but demands a deep and resounding voice from committed professionals who recognise and value the potential of every child.
John navigated the school through great periods of change and development, celebrating how his two teacher enterprise grew to accommodate more than 900 students. Few could have imagined how this country school would become a model for inclusive education; a place where the warm embrace of diversity was only equalled by a sincere vision for success. In the 1980’s and early 90’s, John was visionary, recognising that the tides of change were less to be feared and more to be fêted. The changing demographics in Dublin 15 saw many new families join the school. Well-travelled, curious and engaged, John brought the world to Huntstown. This is evidenced in the rich tapestry of art works and installations that now adorn the school walls; an image of water carriers in Africa, a Vietnamese still life and a book celebrating Nelson Mandela at reception. John recognised that in expanding young minds, one needed to root them with pride in their community while opening them up to a world that they would explore and later make their own.
John was guided by a strong faith and believed in living the Gospels through action. Many of the existing staff owe their career to John, who believed in nurturing talented teachers, recognising and valuing their contribution to the mission he had established. The staff was a family into which each new member was welcomed. John’s own family, Cathal, Áine and Eithne attended the school. He recognised that at its core, Scoil an Chroí Ró Naofa Íosa is fundamentally about family; the families we serve, our Christian family and the wider family of friends and neighbours that form the bedrock upon which we grow and learn. Huntstown left an indelible mark upon John and he in turn has imbued us all with an ineffaceable love for a school whose mission has not changed; to serve selflessly, to offer willingly and to respect unconditionally.
May the Lord support us all the day long,
Till the shadows lengthen and the evening comes,
And the busy world is hushed,
And the fever of life is over, and our work is done.
Then in His mercy may He grant us a safe lodging,
And a holy rest and peace at the last.