TRIBUTES from around Ireland and further afield have been pouring for the late Terrance (Terry) O’Malley of Ballyfad, Co Wexford.
A former Headmaster of Aravon School and Chairman of Support for Afghan Further Education (SAFE), Terry’s legacy is one that will be long lasting in the areas of human rights and education.
Terry’s wife Pat, who would have worked alongside him at Aravon for close to 30 years, she said that tributes that came in recent weeks during Terry’s illness deeply moved him.
“Terry was originally from Blackrock in Dublin but I met him in Monkstown church and he sung in the choir at the time. I first noticed his kindness and willingness to give up his time.
“He was educated in Middletown in Cork, having attended a boarding school from a young age following the untimely passing of his mother. He studied science and maths at Trinity College, but we parted when he went to India to work on a tea plantation in 1962 having just started teaching, while I went to Trinity College for four years and to England to teach.
“Unlike Terry, I came from a teaching background, but Terry it within him and had a deep interest in books and a lot of his learning was self-taught. India gave him a love of far-away places, but he came back on leave in 1967 and when we met up again, that’s when he asked me to marry him
“I went out to India in April 1968, and in 1969 we came back to Dublin and had our first child together. It was the year after that that Terry started teaching again, and in 1977 he became headmaster and we were in the school until 1997, running it as a partnership. After that, we moved to Enniscorthy and around that time is when Terry got involved in SAFE.
“All the children who went there during that time thought of it like a large family, and we would have had very young borders. It was tough coping at times when he’d go to Afganistan as I’d be running things on my own but I’m so extremely proud of him and all he achieved in his life. The tributes have meant so much, as so many past pupils said that their success in life was down to him”.
At his funeral, tributes continued for so called “Uncle Terry” as past pupils, friends, family as well as people from Afghanistan attended at St. Saviour’s Church in Arklow.
Located at Old Conna House in Rathmichael, Aravon school was founded in 1860 but became interdenominational and co-educational in the 1970s.
The congregation heard that Terry’s teaching styles went beyond education, guiding people through every step of the way, whether it was wood-turning or cricket.
Terry’s son Jamie described his father as an enigma.
“Not unlike his favourite food which was curry, he was full of spice and complexity. He was not everyone’s cup of tea but he was OK with that. Life wasn’t boring with dad and although we had to share him, it didn’t stop him being an influential loving father”.
The mourners heard that Terry passed down his love of science and sport to his children and grandchildren, and brought family and friends on trips to Afghanistan.
Jamie said that the people of Afghanistan would welcome his father like a long-lost cousin.
“Afghanistan was his home from home, especially rural regions. In a way, he envied the simple ways and pace of life”.
Terry brought hope to women and children in Afghanistann but also wanted to understand and respect cultural norms and traditions.
At home in Wexford and Wicklow, Terry and his family enjoyed being part of the community of Ballyfad (where he lived since 2003) Enniscorthy, Coolgreany, Inch and Gorey.
Although he was serious in his roles in education and SAFE, spending three decades in each area, he wasn’t afraid of good fun and is fondly remembered for having a twinkle in his eye, knowing mischief could be around the corner.
Terry always said that he got along well in Afghanistan because he had an understanding of the problems there, and with that comes empathy for the ordinary person.
He described himself as being consumed by the plight of Afghanistan, but at times had respect for the Taliban’s regime too.
In 2004, SAFE opened a school in the name of Ballyfad in Afghanistan, and that legacy was always important to Terry.
Senator David Norris described Terry as a “genuine human rights advocate”, who helped to improve Ireland’s international reputation as a caring nation”.
Despite illness in recent years, Terry’s dedication to justice and passion for the Afghan people did not cease, and he always believed in education, particularly for women.
He taught his students to be curious, to seek out ways to make change happen in this world, but most of all he practised what he preached.
Terry was asked by a teaching colleague to become a trustee of SAFE which had been formed in 1990, and officially became involved with the charity in 1992.
He started up a relationship with the Afghan Development Association, an Afghan NGO and then visited every year to see the programmes funded by SAFE, and to find new programmes.
In 1999, after an earthquake, the EU, the US and Britain had forbidden their aid workers to go in to Afghanistan because of the security situation there, but Terry went in, saying that he never had a problem visiting the country during the Taliban reign.
“Because I was just a normal human being who respected the culture of Afghanistan, I posed no threat and they could see that. I was just myself,” was Terry’s attitude.
Described in tributes as a fountain of knowledge, the measure of Terry’s impact lives on in the students’ lives he touched as well as the people of Afghanistan.
Tributes poured in from other schools in the wider Wicklow and Dublin areas, recalling stories of Terry’s and his bravery and fearlessness when it came to education.
Condolences also came from other charitable groups, such as Front Line Defenders, who would have worked closely over the years with Terry in SAFE.
From 1990, SAFE was involved in primary, secondary and third level education and support, basic veterinary training, emergency assistance in housing rehabilitation and sanitation, refugee relief, agriculture, integrated rural development schemes, vocational training, female literacy, construction of primary schools and a health clinic, health education and traditional birth attendant training.
In November 2005, after visiting the severe October earthquake stricken areas, SAFE provided funding for emergency relief items in Balakot, Muzzafarabad, Alai and Mansehra, in N. Pakistan, following up with funding the re-commencement of education in a number of schools.
Terry passed away peacefully at home surrounded by his family and under the devoted care of Ann, Carol and Sarah, the Wexford Palliative Care Team and family friend Dr. Tom Kennedy.
The beloved husband and best friend of Pat, brother of Barbara and the late Kay, devoted father of Kate, Clare, Lucy and Jamie, and adoring grandfather of Anna, Sophie, Niki, Emma, Elena, Dani and baby Alfie, Terry will be sadly missed loved by his sons-in-law Colm, Markus and Rafa. May he Rest In Peace.