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Ballyclare Primary School

50 years of National CnmB: Jimmy Treacy

26th Jul 2021

 

JIMMY TREACY

 

Jimmy Treacy taught in Annaghmore PS from 1966 - 1968 and in Aughamullan PS from 1968 - 1973. Both schools are in the parish of Clonoe. Jimmy served as Tyrone County Chairman from 1978-1980 and again from 1984-1986. Jimmy has also had the privilege of serving as Honorary President of Tyrone GAA.

 

 

“In May 1966, I began teaching in Annaghmore PS. The Principal was Frank O’Neill whilst Mickey Keogh and Leo Clancy were the other men on the staff. At that time there was no secondary school in Coalisland. My memory of that time was that there was no formal competition but rather ad hoc arrangements between the local primary schools with Dungannon PS and Primate Dixon PS, Coalisland being the biggest and strongest. Bertie Foley and Iggy Jones were the men who took the initiative in arranging a schedule of games played between schools. I do recall playing against Dungannon PS, Coalisland PS and Brocagh PS but that there was no team from Aughamullan PS. I recall hearing about similar little groupings existing in other parts of the county.

 

When I started in Annaghmore PS, the O’Rahillypitch was just up the road but was being refurbished at the time. We therefore played in a field on the Gortgonis Road which was locally referred to as ‘Johnson Memorial Park’. When I go past that pitch now I look at the size of it and always wonder how we ever played a game on it. Even senior games were played there!! Anyway, it served a purpose until the O’Rahilly pitch was reopened. Damien O’Hagan and Kevin McCabe were the two standout players from that era from what I remember.

 

It’s a funny story how I came to be teaching in Annaghmore PS. I did my teacher training in Manchester. I taught for a year in Nottingham and then in 1962 I went to America. During the time there, Master Frank O’Neill came to Philadelphia where I was, along with his wife Maureen, and took part in a concert which was organised by the local Tyrone GAA club in the city. Frank had only recently written The Ballad in tribute to J.F. Kennedy who had been shot a short time before. On the back of that ballad, Frank, I believe, had been invited to take part in that concert. It was during a conversation that Frank and I had at that time that the subject of a teaching post in Annaghmore PS, where he was principal, came up. We kept in touch after that and after I got married we came back to Ireland in 1966 to the job in Annaghmore PS with Frank becoming a non-teaching head. I took over Frank’s old class and inherited a bunch of lads who were in their last year and had a huge interest in Gaelic football. We spent a lot of afternoons playing GAA in Johnson Memorial Park or in the Rahilly field.

 

I was only in Annaghmore PS for a couple of years due to the reorganisation of education and the opening of the Intermediate school in Coalisland. The numbers in the primary school fell with the loss of the older children who would now be transferring to the new school. It left it that my job would not have been safe. Luckily, there came the opportunity of a transfer down to Aughamullan PS where a job would have been more secure. Leo Clancy was appointed principal and I joined the staff as assistant teacher. There had been no football in the school at all, but the boys there were keen as mustard to get involved in playing. We organised a raffle for a large Easter egg and the lads sold tickets galore round the countryside and beyond. The proceeds of the raffle enabled us to buy two sets of jerseys and a bag of footballs. With this new equipment we would walk to the pitch at Washingbay shore on a regular basis and organise games amongst ourselves. Very shortly after that we began to play against other schools. I took charge of the team and got them ready to compete. They were a great bunch of lads and in fact were the nucleus of the Derrylaughan GFC team that won the county minor championship and eventually a senior county championship in 1981. I remember well Kevin Kennedy, Mena Devlin’s son Niall, the Dormans, the Devlins and a lad Quinn, a son of Leo who was related, I’m pretty sure, to Sean Quinn who played half-back for Armagh in 1953 when they reached the All-Ireland Final. The pupils were a very talented group of lads and very committed. It was a ‘right dander’ down to Washingbay and I’ll never forget one particular day when we were walking back from it, getting caught in a hail shower and each and every one of us getting cover in a hedge!!! Our target, as a team, was to beat teams like Coalisland PS and Dungannon PS and we eventually got to the point where we achieved that, which was a big achievement for a wee school like Aughamullan PS. There was no playing field at the school. We just had a tarmac yard where we adapted a pitch to suit the small area. There was no kicking, only fist-passing.

I remained in Aughamullan PS until 1973 when I left to complete a year’s course in Special Education in Stranmillis College, Belfast. Having completed thatI obtained a teaching post in Dean Maguirc - back in my home town of Carrickmore. I also settled into a new home in the area. The late Pat Casey was the PE teacher at the College and was regarded at that time as being a very innovative GAA coach. There was a great emphasis on GAA in the school and a great rivalry existed between the second level schools in the area.

 

I served as Tyrone County Chairman for two periods. A three-year rule existed at that time so my first period as Chairman was from 1978 to 1980 and then served from 1984 to 1986.

 

Towards the end of my second period as County Chairman in 1986, at the request of Croke Park, I invited our primary schools to set up Cumann na mBunscol in Tyrone.  Cumann na mBunscol (the teacher –run organisation which promotes GAA games in primary schools) had been active in various counties throughout Ireland since 1971. A meeting for interested teachers was held in Omagh and from that meeting a committee was formed. Bertie Foley (Brothers' PS, Dungannon) was appointed Chairperson with a committee comprising Seamus Kearney (St Patricks PS, Dunamanagh), Joe McCrory (Glencull PS) and Iggy Jones (Brothers’ PS, Dungannon). I left them to get on with the organising and very shortly afterwards due to their hard work, school group sections were set up according to size and location across Tyrone. Cumann na mBunscol in Tyrone has evolved since those days into the huge set-up it has become today.

It’s great to open the newspaperand read about the events that have been taking place across the county in Primary schools GAA. Boys’ and girls’ football, hurling, camogie, handball, Skills days and even quizzes have made it into an all-embracing organisation. To achieve this requires so much input and dedication from school staff and so much credit is due to them. Cumann na mBunscol will always have a part to play in our Primary Schools. I will never forget my days teaching in Annaghmore PS and Aughamullan PS. I enjoyed many wonderful days there, met some wonderful people and savoured every second of the GAA moments I experienced. Those wonderful afternoons in the late 60/early 70s spent in Johnson Memorable Park, the Rahilly pitch or at Washingbay are forever etched in my memory and are uppermost in my mind anytime I get the opportunity to return to the area. A wonderful time in my life!"

 

 Jimmy Treacy