Focail Omóis do Leas Príomhoide Eoin Ó Siochrú/A Tribute to Vice Principal Eoin Ó Siochrú

October 09, 2020

Focail Omóis do Leas Príomhoide Eoin Ó Siochrú/A Tribute to Vice Principal Eoin Ó Siochrú

On Friday last, October 2nd we celebrated the retirement of our much loved Leas Príomhoide Eoin Ó Siochrú. It was a great privilege for me to speak about Eoin as a trusted colleague having worked closely with him at a leadership and management level and having taught with him for many years prior to this.


Eoin was and is a true gentleman and a well learned, engaging, fun loving, energetic, kind and honest individual. His love of the Irish language shone through in all that he did. Having grown up in Baile An Ghóilín in West Kerry, Eoin came to Youghal in 1986 and took up his first teaching position in Gaelscoil Choráin. On arriving in Youghal he sat on a bench at Claycastle, looked out at the sea and in his own words he said to himself ‘I like this place’ and the rest is of course history!!


Eoin endeared himself to both children and adults and with a big and open heart he made space for all of the children in his care and for all of his colleagues. His attendance and punctuality down through the years is worthy of note having rarely missed a day’s work and never a minute late. With his bag over his shoulder each morning and with a sprightly gait one would be forgiven for thinking that he was warming up for a long distance run before any days work commenced. His energy and determination spread like a contagion as soon as he entered the gates of the school.


Eoin never passed a child or a colleague without saluting them on his way or stopping off for a conversation or engaging them in a storytelling session. Students and colleagues were often left in fits of laughter having encountered him and again the ripples of this laughter would spread like wildfire throughout the school. He taught both young and old how to laugh, not to take ourselves or life too seriously and to enjoy the present moment. One of his greatest attributes was the positive relationship that he nurtured with students and staff and one of the most remarkable things about him that remains etched in my memory is the time and the energy that he invested in all students in engaging with them on the yard, in the classroom, on the corridors, on the stairwell and indeed wherever he encountered them. This relationship building exercise was important to him and our students past and present benefited enormously from such a positive engagement.


Eoin had an innate ability to get down to the level of the children and to engage with them at this level. He could make a conversation about a rubix cube that would be in a child’s hand, about a match the night before, about a particular jersey or pair of runners that a child donned or about any nugget of information be it factual or fabricated that came from a child’s imagination. He would follow the thread or the seed of the imagination and within five minutes it would have blossomed and flourished into a fully fledged credible engaging story. Many an unplanned history lesson took place in the school yard with a group of children gathered around and all in the palm of Eoin’s hand. The hedge schools would have been very proud of him!


Eoin was a natural and enthusiastic teacher and both he himself and Gaelscoil Choráin were lucky that he had such an innate talent. The educational experience of the students of Youghal is all the richer as a result of his positive influence, his kindness, his love of teaching and his caring disposition. There is no doubt but that Eoin loved teaching and he enjoyed engaging with all age groups and classes. He enjoyed the imaginative powers of the children and their fun loving ways.


On walking into Eoin’s class I regularly encountered him engrossed in an interesting conversation with a group of students or with the entire class. There would be an element of fun and mild sarcasm sprinkled on the conversation to elevate the level of interest and banter. More importantly however, it was always very obvious that both Eoin himself and the students were thoroughly enjoying the mild exchanges and the flights that their imaginations had taken. All the while Eoin would be expertly integrating and linking all subjects with the main subject at hand. Cross curricular integration was one of his greatest skills as a teacher and one that maintained a high level of interest and focus. The world of the classroom was always linked with the real world thus preparing children for the school of life itself. The hidden curriculum was as important to him as the actual curriculum.


When all is said and done I’m not so sure that our new normal and restrictive measures would lend themselves to Eoin’s expert style of rich and wholesome teaching. Teaching behind perspex with a mask on, social distancing in the classroom and not being allowed to break his kit kat in two halves and to share the second half with a student as a prize would have been a challenge even for the Kerryman himself!!


Eoin’s kindness and generosity can never be underestimated. He worked in subtle and discrete ways when it came to these finer skills. One of the most recent examples of his kindness and generosity was evidenced on a school tour when he purchased a McDonald’s meal for a student who was deflated on dropping his happy meal on the floor. Neither the child nor myself have forgotten this charitable and kind deed. Happy deed, happy meal, happy child, happy teacher, happy parent!

Eoin enjoyed the camaraderie of his colleagues and he kept one and all entertained with his repetoire of stories and encounters. He always made a particular effort to welcome new colleagues to the staff and to make them feel at home. At break time he would raise the bar when it came to elevating the levels of fun and spirit in the staff room. His stories would be embellished with a little exaggeration allowing for extra mileage and thus resulting in hearty laughs from one and all. A natural tonic while always being sensitive and respectful of all in his company.

On staff social outings no journey was too long when in Eoin’s company. He would entertain us with his melodious renditions of ‘The Town I Loved So Well’, ‘I Wish I Was Back Home In Derry’ and ‘If I Could’ by El Condor Pasa. Many a round of golf was organised for the following day and many a prize was coveted by him on such occasions!

Having worked side by side with Eoin in his role as Vice Principal I was never in any doubt but that his heart and mind were very much invested in the education and in the welfare of the students in Gaelscoil Choráin. His professionalism, honesty and the kindness and respect that he showed to me as Principal will never be forgotten.

On a trip to India a few years ago I learn’t of the importance of colour in their lives and I was very much enthralled by the beautiful array of colours that they wore and that adorned and decorated their homes. With Eoin in our midst we were on Indian soil everyday! He donned every shade from blue, pink, mustard, purple, orange and navy but to mention a few. The colours added to his vibrant and energetic personality and lifted the hearts and spirits of young and old. It is said that ‘mere colour can speak to the soul in a thousand different ways’.

Eoin contributed massively to the promotion of sport and fitness in the school and he was never happier than when travelling to matches with students or taking them after school hours for training sessions. He involved countless numbers of students down through the years in sciath na scol, in mini sevens and in cross country running. Students benefitted enormously from their involvement in these sports on a fitness front and from the positive mental health benefits that naturally accrue. Many a prize was coveted in these disciplines under Eoin’s guidance.

On behalf of all of the students and staff in Gaelscoil Choráin I wish Eoin a long and happy retirement in the company of his family and friends and I thank him for his years of dedicated service and friendship. ‘Go mbeidh gáire a chairde mar cheol leis a gcairdeas ceol ó neamh’.

Caitríona Ní Riada


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