'I owe much of my success to Summerhill'

Harry Keaney

Published 06/05/2014 | 05:40

Tommy McManus, Principal of Summerhill College; Oliver and Molly Peyton; Margaret Dowd, Deputy Principal Summerhill College; and Tommy Gorman.
Tommy McManus, Principal of Summerhill College; Oliver and Molly Peyton; Margaret Dowd, Deputy Principal Summerhill College; and Tommy Gorman.

Young Oliver Peyton arrived from Swinford as a boarder in Summerhill College in the autumn of 1974.

One of his first memories of the school was out picking potatoes.

He also recalls the college food as having been "terrible."

Peyton has come a long way since.

He now runs a string of prestigious restaurants throughout England, mainly in London and Brighton.

He employs about 1,000 people.

And he's a judge on the BBC television series "Great British Menu"

If Summerhill's food was not to his satisfaction, he readily credits the college's "spirit" with his success in life.

And that spirit was celebrated in style last Thursday night with a spectacular concert that showcased the best Summerhill has to offer.

Among the sell-out attendance were past pupils and former teachers.

Present was Oliver Peyton and his 11-year old daughter, Molly.

It was his first time back to his alma mater in 35 years, since he left in 1979.

He told The Sligo Champion: "Much of my success is due to my time here.

"The spirit I got here carried me through life. The most important thing you can take out of education is a spirit of desire.

"I left here with a desire to succeed."

Tributes and presentations were also made to retiring principal Tommy McManus and vice principal Margaret Dowd. MC Tommie Gorman said the event was an opportunity to acknowledge the wonderful spirit of Summerhill and the wonderful people who worked in the school.

They were also, he said, acknowledging the great leadership of the school in Mr McManus and Ms Dowd.

The concert included performances by Sligo Community Youth Choir, Grange Post Primary School Choir, the Ursuline College Junior Choir, the Summerhill College Choir, the Summerhill senior and junior bands and the college choir.

There were also performances by groups Sona Sasta, Awry, The Trad Lads, the Jazz Orchestra and Dylan Doherty. Centrepiece of the evening was an onstage interview with Oliver Peyton by Tommie Gorman.

Concluding the event, Mr Gorman left open the suggestion that the celebration concert might, perhaps, become an annual event.

Sligo Champion

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