Sunday 16 December 2018

TK Whitaker's great legacy

Ireland's greatest economist attended St Joseph's and now they are set to unveil a unique collection of his treasured awards. Hubert Murphy spoke with a proud David Madden

Whenever TK Whitaker, one of the country's greatest ever economists, got the chance to talk about his early life, then St Joseph's CBS always got a mention. He saw the place as a firm starting point in life - and like so many others - had nothing but good memories from his time there.

TK passed away in January 2017 at the age of 100 and was described by several taoisigh as the State's finest public servant. He was named Irish Man of the 20th century in a public vote in 2001.

Following his death, then Taoiseach Enda Kenny remarked: "TK Whitaker changed life, lives and generations in Ireland. In the last decades, he more than any other person was responsible for transforming our economy and public life.

"He had a rare vision for our country and its future. He was a gentleman and patriot. In modern Irish history, TK Whitaker is both incomparable and irreplaceable.'

In 1969 he became Governor of the Central Bank and after retiring from that role he was twice appointed to Seanad Éireann.

For 20 years up to 1996 he was chancellor of the National University of Ireland.

He held so many other roles too and in that period of time - picked up numerous awards and accolades - including Freeman of Drogheda.

One might presume that the majority of the possessions of such a great man would be heading for the National Archives - but no. They are going to the Joey's!

From the moment TK turned the sod on the new St Joseph's extension a few years ago, a close relationship was built up between the school and the family.

When he passed away, the school were represented at his funeral.

Now, his family have graciously loaned the school many of his documents so they can go on public display.

They range from diplomas to various awards and titles.

The Whitaker Collection will be unveiled at a special night in the school on Monday January 15 at 8pm. As part of the night, tours of the school will take place at 7.15pm and 7.30pm.

The school will also be relaunching their past pupils union under the banner of St Joseph's CBS Whitaker Alumni.

'It will be a big night for us and we'd love all past pupils of the school to come along and be part of it,' principal David Madden stated.

The aim is to link up all the past students of the school going down the years.

'We want to link them in again,' he stated. 'It's about creating a platform to meet up.'

The new union won't be a fundraising body, but he'd love if former students could assist with the likes of work experience for present day pupils.

Also, it would be great if some could come in and give talks on how they progressed from St Joseph's.

'We have a lot of invitations sent out and we'd hope to have up to 30 retired teachers there too.'

As well as securing documents from the Whitaker collection, the school has also been given his record collection for use in the music room.

'All the documents have been scanned and can be seen on the school website as well,' the principal stated.

One of the finest and most prominent local features is the scroll TK accepted when he became Freeman of Drogheda.

It was placed in a box, made from wood from Beaulieu, and it has been kept in the box for the display.

'We have his Inter and Leaving Cert and many other items,' David remarked. 'These will forever be in St Joseph's, a place he spoke so highly of down the years.'

Drogheda Independent