The news of the passing of our former principal was greeted with deep sadness and a profound sense of shock amongst our school community as news of Dermot’s passing broke on Thursday, 29th December last.
While Mr. O’Driscoll had retired as school principal in November 2017 his legacy will live on through the generations of children his work positively influenced. Also, because of his vision, determination, bustling energy, and enthusiasm, Carraig na bhFear is finally getting it’s badly needed new school.
After spending twenty years as a much-valued member on the teaching staff at St. Columbas Boys NS in Douglas Dermot was appointed principal of his local school, Scoil an Athar Tadhg in 1994, a position that arose on the retirement of Mr. Bernárd Ó Suilleabháin. While Dermot commenced as an administrative principal, he did spend the school year 1999/2000 with class teaching duties. Dermot took on the roll of principal with great gusto, with support from his wife Theresa, the BOM and then Parish Priest, Fr. Cornelius White.
Mr. O’Driscoll’s tenure as principal coincided with a rapidly changing world as he led many changes in Scoil an Athar Tadhg. A school uniform was introduced with Faiche na bhFilí chosen as the school crest thus forging a lasting link with our heritage and the wider parish community. He introduced and coached the senior children as school traffic wardens, receiving practical support from Sgt. Jim Crotty. Each year they competed with distinction at the Cork County Council Traffic Wardens Competition.
Mr. O’Driscoll took tremendous pride in the ongoing promotion of our Gaelic culture through the children’s participation in Sciath na Scol and Scór na bPáistí activities. Dermot had a passion for sport, and he fervently believed that through participation in sport, experiencing winning or losing provided tremendous grounding for the children and helped shape them for life. He loved coaching the skills of the game and took great pride in school teams participating against other schools. Perhaps the dieticians of today wouldn’t agree but Dermot’s “Soup Kitchen” prior to Sciath na Scol Finals were legendary. Children relished the soup and rolls provided by Dermot. With the support of some parents girls’ football and camogie were introduced and promoted in Scoil an Athar Tadhg.
Dermot always supported and facilitated community initiatives and made the school premises available for meeting of local clubs and support groups. He was a founding member of the local Rockbán Football and Camogie Club taking great pride in facilitating their first meeting in Scoil an Athar Tadhg. An event recently commemorated, on Friday 25th November 2022.Rockbán celebrated their silver jubilee with Dermot as a genial Fear an Tí and historian of the club’s early years. Despite the enormous workload as principal, Dermot availed of every after-school opportunity to train teams and promote sports for children. An annual highlight would have been the parish sports with the children of Carraig na bhFear and Glanmire competing in a whole range of athletic disciplines. He was the driving force behind these sports for many years. He availed of every opportunity to promote sports in the school, local girls’ and boys’ teams were always welcomed to Scoil an Athar Tadhg where their achievements were celebrated and shared with the school children. Dermot was a man of vision and well ahead of time in his promotion of girls’ participating in sport long before the 2020 national campaign “If you can’t see it, you can’t be it”.
While the population of Carraig na bhFear Village grew substantially during Mr. O’Driscoll’s tenure as principal all children were always treated equally with respect and dignity. While Mr. O’Driscoll spearheaded the drive for better school facilities he and his committed staff were determined to make the school experience as positive as possible for the children in their care. He never allowed poor structural facilities dampen the positivity and friendly work atmosphere. His work regularly kept him on the school premises late into the evening. School time or holiday time didn’t differ for Dermot, if something needed to be done and especially if somebody needed help, guidance, or a letter of reference, Dermot always obliged. Dermot didn’t just claim to have an open-door policy, he lived it. He was always the go to person for advice, for parents, teachers, past pupils, other school principals and members of the public. Dermot left no stone unturned in his efforts to help all those that called on his support.
Undoubtedly one of the aspects of his career that gave Mr. O’Driscoll most pride was the establishment of “An Neidín”, our unit for children with autism. With the support of a devoted teaching and SNA staff Dermot engaged fully in this new venture for Scoil an Athar Tadhg, to provide an education for children with autism. He didn’t just listen to their parents; he always went the extra mile in supporting them. He derived great joy in seeing these wonderful children progress in all aspects of life. The progress they made both educationally and socially encouraged Mr. O’Driscoll to invest even more of his own time working and engaging with the Department of Education on their behalf. Dermot was always appreciative of the support he received from Maria Moriarty, Special Education Needs Organiser.
All schools’ principals at some stage or another need to fundraise. Mr. O’Driscoll was no exception, and it was another area where Dermot excelled. With meticulous planning he ensured each event was successful. “Bag Packing Weekends” in various Cork City supermarkets for Parent Association funds as well as saving for the new school project were regular, nobody covered more hours than himself. Dermot led in organising many fundraising events specifically to support the new school project, such as Horse Race Nights, production of a local telephone directory, organise a local car draw, liaise and partake in Éire Óg Club, Carlow in their national draw. These funds facilitated the current Board of Management with the purchase of our new school site.
When Mr. O’Driscoll commenced in his role as principal he joined a staff of eight. As the years passed and with growing enrolment when Dermot retired from Scoil an Athar Tadhg in November 2017, (during Storm Ophelia)the school had grown substantially to a staff of over sixty people. This comprised of teachers, SNA staff, secretary, caretaker, cleaner and taxi personnel accompanying children with autism. Dermot took great interest in the lives of his employees and treated everybody as equals whether you were the newest or longest serving member of staff. He recognised the importance of each person’s contribution in making Scoil an Athar Tadhg a place where a solid foundation is laid that supports children right through their lives.
Dermot loved Scoil an Athar Tadhg, its pupils and his work colleagues. He loved meeting past pupils from both Douglas and Carraig nabhFear and he was blessed with an ability to remember their names, and recall events from their time in school. He really was a friend to all.
We extend our heartfelt sympathy to Dermot’s wife Theresa, his son Diarmuid and his daughter-in-law, Grace (our colleagues), his adored grandchildren Tadhg and Sadhbh and the extended O’Driscoll Family.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam uasal.
Ní imithe uainn atá tú a Dhiarmuid ach imithe romhainn.
I Líonnta Dé go gCastar Sinn.
Mr. O’Driscoll’s months mind mass will be celebrated in The Church of The Immaculate Conception on Saturday 11th of February 2023 @ 5.30pm.