Kerry footballer and educator

The late Bobby Buckley


BOBBY BUCKLEY of The Green, Ballyheigue, who passed away on Wednesday, March 6, was a well-known Kerry footballer in the 50s and made a major impact in education, sport and cultural circles in Kerry, Cork and nationally during the course of a career spanning four decades. He was a sociable and devoted family man who reared nine children.

Bobby was born on April 20, 1931 into a modest but progressive farm in Coolaclarig, Listowel to Daniel and Hannah Buckley, the third of five siblings - Josie (RIP), Tommy (RIP) and surviving, Patsy, Danny and Sally. Bobby's mother, Hannah was a guiding influence on him giving him drive and a belief that with education he could be whatever he wanted to be.

Bobby was educated in Clounmacon NS, St Ita's College, Tarbert and University College Cork where he qualified as a rural science teacher in 1953.

From an early age when Clounmacon won the North Kerry Championship, Gaelic football was important throughout Bobby's life. He won a Sigerson Cup with UCC in Belfast in 1953 and this opened up the opportunity to play for Kerry. Bobby played midfield and halfback for Kerry between 1953 and 1957, winning All-Ireland and National league medals. He also played in county championship finals for Kenmare and St. Brendan's.

Football enabled Bobby to meet the match of his life. During a Kerry collective training session, he met Eileen O'Donoghue of the Park Place Hotel, Killarney, and subsequently they got married in 1957 taking up residence in the beautiful seaside village of Ballyheigue in North Kerry.

Bobby's career was also taking off and after spending three enjoyable years as a rural science teacher in Kenmare, he was appointed School Principal of Causeway Vocational School. Bobby relished his Causeway experience. It enabled him to try new teaching methods which supported local agriculture. He had a fundamental belief that with practical education and encouragement, young people could achieve their full potential.

With his staff in Causeway, many ventures were tried, a mini-farm in the school, converting local wetlands to celery farms, attempting to set-up a food plant with the Sugar Company. It was about providing students with a culture of enterprise supported by practical education. Today the Causeway region has many fine farms, medium sized enterprises as well as Dairymaster, the successful global milking technology company, which is owned by Ned Harty, a Causeway student from that time.

Bobby was appointed Kerry County Development Officer in 1966, with the role targeting foreign investment into Kerry. During the period the Pretty Polly Hosiery factory was secured for Killarney, providing employment for over 800 people at its peak.

Bobby was appointed CEO of Tralee VEC during 1967 and established the Tralee Technical College in Clash, the forerunner of the Tralee Institute of Technology. During the same period Bobby and his friend another Kerry footballer, Jim Brosnan, had a vision of how sport could benefit the broader communities, and after seeing an innovative sports and recreational facility in Newark UK, determined Tralee should have the same.

This started with persuading local Tralee workers in Denny's and The Kerryman to make a contribution from their weekly wage, after which Bobby and his team persuaded the government of the time to provide the bulk of the funds to establish the Tralee Sports Complex.

In 1973, Bobby was appointed as CEO Cork Vocational Education Committee. This was a significant new challenge, with the management of 21 schools and colleges and of over 8,200 students. During the following 23 years upto to his retirement in 1996, Bobby pursued his vision of progressive education with innovation, inclusion, sport, recreation and making schools and colleges under the VEC relevant to the needs of communities and local enterprises.

Moving quickly, a schools building programme was established and this blueprint continued from the 1970s to the 1990s with new community colleges in Fermoy and Ballincollig, and 15 new school extensions at other centres.

Many new innovations were introduced including the Fastnet International Sailing Centre and Planetarium in Schull, the Kinsale Outdoor Centre, incorporating "Aonaid" Gael Scoils, a raft of new courses to meet adult and enterprises needs.

He lost some school battles in Cork, but this never mattered much as there was always the next project and maintaining good relations and friendships were always paramount to him.

Bobby also enjoyed the international dimension and during 1988 joined Cork VEC into the European Rural University, the body tasked with developing rural communities and initiatives across the EU. This culminated in Ireland hosting a formal session in Schull during 1991, attended by 250 delegates from various EU member states.

In addition to his role in education, Bobby was privileged to be nominated to a number of National Bodies including the National Sports Council, the Gardai Training Authority, Chairman of UCC Adult Education Committee and Thomond College Board of Governors.

Bobby retained a deep affection for the Irish language and rural culture all his life and enjoyed many years as Chairman of Siamsa Tire from 1975 to 2002. During the period a vibrant new Siamsa Tire Centre was established in Tralee.

Bobby retired in 1996 and returned with his wife, Eileen to his native Kerry and home in Ballyheigue, continuing to enjoy golf with his friends in Ballybunion and Tralee up to recently.

He is survived by his loving wife Eileen, children, Donal, Cathryn, Ann, Paddy, Susan, Frances, Niamh, Roma, Eileen and many grandchildren.

Slan leat, Riobard O'Buachalla, ni bheidh do leithead ann aris!


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