TWO sisters have taken over the top jobs at one of the biggest secondary schools in the county following the retirement of the long-standing principal after 37 years of service.
Mary Jones and her sister Noreen Rafferty have been appointed as principal and deputy principal at John the Baptist Community School in Hospital, with Mary taking over from Jim Twohig, who had been teaching at the school since 1977 and had been principal since 1997.
“I’d say it’s unique,” said Mary of the appointment of herself and her sister to the positions. The sisters hail from Herbertstown and trained in UCC.
“I was deputy principal all the time with Jim since 1997. I’m delighted with the new opportunity. I see it as a continuum of what we were building all the time – we are just continuing the good work which had begun.”
Noreen, meanwhile, was appointed as deputy principal along with Colin Bergin from Tipperary.
The school currently caters for 950 students who hail from all over east Limerick
There are plans afoot for an extension of eight classrooms and to develop the pitches.
“We are currently seeking tenders. We hope to put in a running track,” said Mary.
While Jim has retired from teaching, he remains as chairperson of the school board.
Reminiscing on the past, Jim recalled big changes in the life of the school over the years.
“Originally, the first amalgamation in the country took place in Hospital in 1972 between the Presentation Sisters and De La Salle brothers,” Jim explained.
“They were on two sides until the amalgamation. Then Hospital Community College which was formerly a vocational school amalgamated with us in 1997 and then a new school was built on the site of the De La Salle Brothers grounds.”
The saddest time for Jim over his career was having to witness many past pupils leave the country in search of jobs.
“That was sad - the emigration of so many people from the area - there was no work for them there. The bright side was the excellent facilities and the state-of-the art equipment in the school that gave them a great start in life,” he noted.
Hospital, he said, was always a centre of excellence in education – “and that continues to be the case.
“It is to the forefront of education as regards innovative ideas. I suppose our greatest source of satisfaction was to see the beautiful buildings that have been built there. Over the years, we have built extensions and there is a further extension going to go ahead now.
“We were very fortunate - we had Sr Claude Meagher as chairperson and she was very innovative. She saw the need for development and she was involved in a number of amalgamations throughout the country as well - maybe the best wine was kept until last in Hospital,” he smiled.
A native of Killeens in Cork, Jim has been living in Hospital since 1977. Despite retiring from teaching, he has no plans to put his feet up just yet and has a wide range of hobbies and interests to keep himself busy.
“I’m on the board of management of the school. I was always very fond of beekeeping over the years so I am expanding into that as well and I do a bit of boating and sailing so I’ll be kept busy,” he smiled.