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Saturday 1 November 2014

Colleagues fondly remember 'the Quiet Man of the West'

Published 08/01/2013 | 10:49

FCJ BUNCLODY was greatly saddened at the recent news of the death of Mr. Pat Connaughton who retired from the teaching staff in 2011. During his 33 years as a teacher at FCJ, Pat taught a range of subjects viz R.E., Art, Spanish, History, Geography, Maths, Business Studies, Mechanical Drawing, Economics and English. These demonstrate his wide-ranging interests across the curriculum and his professional versatility in the classroom.

It was as an English teacher however that we came to know Pat at his best and his impact in this area of the school curriculum was huge. As co-ordinator of the English department from its very inception, Pat was central in devising the subject plan and moving the whole department forward, working in close collaboration with his subject colleagues.

As a classroom English teacher, Pats reputation was exemplary. A sample survey in 2011 of some of his 1st year students elicited these observations:

'Mr. Connaughton cares about education and he believes we can do well in school.'

'He never gets disheartened or loses his temper when someone is unable to do something.'

Pat was always positive with his students, building up confidence in their ability to succeed, and helping them to sense that success can be achieved. In this, Pat followed the wisdom of psychiatrist, Dr. Scott Peck, who wrote that

'It is not what people say to you, or what people do for you that counts, rather it is how people make you feel.'

Pat was a true educator. He drew out the latent potential of his students to discover the dimensions of their own minds.

Over the years he introduced Irish literature and poetry to French students on school exchanges. One French teacher paid tribute to Pat when she wrote, 'I really enjoyed the way Pat introduced our students to Irish literature. With him poetry became alive with his warm, calm voice expressing the soul of Ireland. His lessons were given from the heart and he conveyed what he felt more than what he thought. He introduced us to Patrick Kavanagh (a poet unknown in France) and Seamus Heaney, he spoke of Yeats. I wish I had such a poetry and literature teacher, not just intellectual knowledge, but education of feelings and appreciation. My memory of Pat is that of a Master you want to stay close to in silence, just listening like a little mouse.'

Pat's reputation as producer/director of our school plays and shows is unsurpassed. Since 1979, he directed five school plays and thirteen school musicals, each exceeding the previous production in the standard of performance. His talent in this area was extraordinary and nothing was left to chance. Pat matched the students' talent to the various characters/roles and his roll call of success for his students in drama and musicals is well known. A number of them have made careers in singing, on stage and film. Most got their first outing on the stage at FCJ Concert Hall under Pat's tutelage.

Despite all these achievements Pat remained a most self-effacing and unassuming man. In an age of shallow celebrity, he sought no recognition for his giftedness and assiduously avoided the limelight. Pat, the Quiet Man of the West, was a master of his craft and a role model of innate decency, personal integrity and professional competence. All in FCJ Bunclody are honoured to have worked with him and privileged to have called him a friend. He will be greatly missed and fondly remembered by us all. -By colleagues and friends from the FCJ

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