The legacy of Father Walter Forde has been preserved for generations to come following the unveiling of a commemorative friendship bench at Castlebridge National School.
Fr Forde became Parish Priest of Castlebridge in 1996 and served with distinction in the local community until his untimely death in 2015. Having left an indelible mark on the village and its people it was decided that a bench be erected in his honour.
On the day of the unveiling a school mass was held in Fr Forde's honour before a public event, attended by many of the priest's former parishioners, saw tributes pour in from School Principal Ed Lyons, current Parish Priest Father Denis Kelly, and Tracey O'Connor of the Parents' Association. The bench was then officially unveiled by Fr Forde's sister, Maura Quinlivan.
Putting into words what Fr Forde meant to the school, its staff and, of course, its pupils, Mr Lyons said, 'He was a gentle presence who had a very relaxed way with the children and was a very popular individual in the parish. He was also a very erudite, intellectual and learned man who wrote numerous books and had great belief in education.'
Born in Bunclody in 1943, Fr Forde studied in Maynooth before becoming a priest in Gorey. Throughout his life he championed many causes and was a founder member of the Byrne/Perry summer school, a former General Secretary of the National Federation of Youth Clubs, and a former Chairman of the FDYS (Ferns Diocesan Youth Service) among others. He was named County Wexford Person of the Year in 1988 and in 1998 he received a lifetime award from the Religious Press Association, of which he had been a former chairman.
The bench was commissioned by Ferns Council and cast by Nolan Stoneworks, and now sits proudly in the garden of Castlebridge National School.
'The bench captures him really well, the inscription of 'Friend and Educator' sums him up. He loved sitting down and reading. The bench is there for anyone to sit and take in the view now,' said Mr Lyons.