From Head boy to long serving member of staff. After over forty years of service the Abbey stalwart, Aidan O Rourke, is retiring. Mr Mel Mc Mahon, Head of English, pays tribute to a remarkable career. Slí na Mainistreach wishes Aidan and his family the best of luck for a long retirement.
Alex Ferguson: Manchester United; Jock Stein: Celtic; Aidan O’Rourke: The Abbey. Rarely has one individual been so strongly linked with this place of work.
Having taught in the Abbey for twenty years. I encounter my fair share of past pupils on walkabout. The first question they always ask (and usually in a strangely sympathetic tone) is: ‘Do you still teach in the Abbey?’ Before I can make a flippant quip – just to break up the monotony of a predictable ‘yes’ response- they quickly follow up their first question with another: ‘Is Mr. O’Rourke still there?’
Aidan O’Rourke is the longest serving member of the Abbey teaching staff, having been here for over forty years. He is a past pupil of the Abbey Primary and Abbey Grammar: he is an Abbey man through and through. In all my time working here I have never come across a teacher who has a nickname used by staff and pupils with equal familiarity: that nickname being a variation of The Rook or Rookie. For generations of pupils Aidan has been a source of banter; someone who fights their corner; someone who will give them his time. On the corridor his many juniors hail him as the ‘chief,’ the ‘boss’.
As well as teaching English, PE, Religion, Road Traffic Studies, Latin and Mathematics (yes, Aidan began as a Mathematics teacher!) Aidan is also strongly associated with memorable school trips to London and the stadiums of great northern English football teams (and some of less importance) including his beloved Everton.
Aidan has always been a sports enthusiast and in his earlier years he managed two successful Corn Na NOg teams in the Abbey and helped to co-manage two beaten teams in MacRory Cup finals with the late Gerry Brown.
For Aidan school has always been more than taking pupils through their books and getting them through the exam. For Aidan school has been about pupils feeling at home in the Abbey, knowing their peers, feeling comfortable within their own skin. With Aidan the boys have always felt that they could be themselves.
Aidan has given up an inordinate amount of his time to make Abbey life a better life. He has organised many past pupils’ sporting events, dinners and trips for those of us who belong to the Abbey community. He makes current pupils feel that they have a special role in the school; he makes them feel that it is their school but he also takes time to remember and celebrate past pupils and help them relive their sporting achievements. Over the years Aidan has organised many gala evenings and these events, packaged with all the lustre of theatrical productions, have provided wonderful memories that help to renew links between our past pupils and our school.
There is no doubt that Aidan has a gift for organising ‘the big occasion’ and the more ambitious the project, the more he excels. The Joe Kernan ‘This is Your Life’ night, for me, was organised with more care and detail than that given to the annual Late Late Toy Show on RTE.
Aidan has always gone the extra mile. He has served the Abbey and Newry community in so many different ways. He has given his time and expertise to help those in need, a fact so clearly seen in his work in raising money for local charities.
For Aidan the Abbey is a special place and there is no doubt that Aidan has made a special contribution to it. The long-locked, smiling, beginner teacher captured in those sporting photographs hanging on our walls from the early 1970s is now the silver-haired, wiser veteran. We thank you for all that you have given and wish you and your family well, Aidan, on a much deserved retirement.
Mel Mc Mahon
Head of English.