AFTER thirty-five years teaching at Scoil Naomh Duaigh, Annagry, including the last six as principal, Hughie ‘Rua’ Gallagher is handing over the chalk to his new successor.
The Gweedore man, who has taught two generations, said that he has enjoyed every minute of his time at the four-teacher school.
“I’m seeing another generation of children come through the schools doors now, so I’m teaching the children of former pupils I used to teach – it’s amazing because it doesn’t even feel like I’ve been here for that long,” he said.
“When you enjoy what you do it doesn’t really feel like you’re coming to work every day. I think the children help to keep you young,” he added.
The highly respected teacher has taught in the Annagry school for a total of thirty five years. Prior to that he spent two years at a Dublin school.
“I spent two years in Bluebell and had just started a job on the Malahide Road in 1981 when the vacancy came up in Annagry. I had been interviewed for the post that summer but didn’t get it. However, when the person who did turned it down it was offered to me,” he recalled.
Vying for same position
Principal in those days was John O’Donnell who, ironically, played alongside Hughie at Gweedore Celtic at that time.
“We were both vying for the same position on the team at that time and let’s just say that he moved on to play for Keadue Rovers shortly afterwards,” he laughed.
When Hughie started his career in Scoil Naomh Duaigh it was a six-teacher school with an enrolment of 214 pupils. Last year there were just ninety-four pupils.
“Unfortunately, the fall in numbers is replicated all around rural Ireland. The generation that used to hang around with their young families have long since gone and the numbers just aren’t there. This particular problem is really coming to the fore these past few years,” he said.
“Hopefully, things might improve with the economy and the numbers might start to rise once more. It will be interesting to see what happens over the next few years,” he added.
The Carrick man is well known in football circles. He is a former Gweedore Celtic player and manager and now devotes his time to running and developing the club. He is one of the leading lights behind the major developments which has taken place at an Screabán, Derrybeg in recent years.
“It’s a real labour of love. I’ve always loved the football and I’m seen so many good young players come and go over the years. There’s great potential in the North West and all that a few of these lads need is a little luck to further their football careers elsewhere.
“The academy is up and running. We have a great secretary (Fiona McEntee) who keeps us all on our toes but I would still like to see a few more coaches and ex-players get involved,” he said.
Married to Caitriona, who is a native of Mayo, the couple have two boys Shaun (13) and James (10).
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time at Scoil Naomh Duaigh. I still get a great kick out of seeing a child improve and develop. It’s a bit like trying to develop a football player – when you see progress it always gives us satisfaction,” he said.
Behind the scenes
“Everyone behind the scenes at the school have all contributed so much to my time here, I can’t thank the caretakers, teachers, Boards of Management and the parents enough. Teaching has been the easy part but, as a teaching principal, I must admit that I won’t rmiss the office work,” he said.
A leader on the pitch – Hughie Rua (58) was captain of the Donegal League team which won the Oscar Traynor Cup in 1983 – the same applied to the school setting.
“The comradeship and friendship within the staff was crucial to the smooth running of the school. Those traits were laid down early by John O’Donnell. Following the retirement of Sean McGinley five years ago I was the only male teacher left but, I must admit, the ladies all looked after me very well,” he added.
In retirement, Hughie Rua will continue working with his beloved Gweedore Celtic. He captained them to back to back Donegal League titles in 1985 and 86 while, more recently, he managed them to the league title in 2011 as well as winning the Brian McCormick Sports Cup in three successive seasons.
Originally built in 1974, the school underwent a major transformation in 2010 which saw the building being re-roofed together with the addition of extra teaching rooms, canteen and extended office.
Síle Beatty from Gortahork takes over as the school principal in August.
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