Popular River Valley Principal Retires

Mark Cunningham Pictured is principal of Holy Family JNS River Valley Swords, Mark Cunningham, who retired from his teaching career last week. The entire school including the senior school and the teachers' orchestra turned out to pay tribute to him. As popular Mark is a Mayo man and a keen football supporter, some of the teachers decided that it would be good fun to present him with the Sam Maguire Cup, all dressed up in the Mayo colours - perhaps a fore taste of what's to come in September. He took it all in good spirits and promised to keep in touch with his beloved school in the future.

Popular principal of Holy Family Junior National School, Mark Cunningham has decided to call it a day after a teaching career that spanned 35 years. Children, teachers and parents thronged the school yard on Thursday last, where the school orchestra made up of teachers, entertained the large crowd who turned up to pay tribute to Mr Cunningham.

In a heartfelt speech, he said, “I want to say that I am a very privileged person from the time I grew up in the West of Ireland. All I ever wanted to be was a teacher and to say that my dreams came true is an understatement. I’ve had such a wonderful time. The people I have met and taught over the years have been fabulous.”

He became slightly emotional when he remembered colleagues who passed away at a young age. “Today, I remember particularly Anne Halligan, Collette Murphy, Marian Foley and Lillian Conville, all died young and I remember them fondly,” he said.

“However I’m overjoyed to have spent so many years working with children, great teachers and Special Needs Assistants, as well as the most wonderful secretary and the teachers from the senior school. I have enjoyed every minute of it and we have a lovely school here in River Valley.” He recounted the day he had his interview to be a teacher in Holy Family. “It was 26th June 1982, I had an interview here, but I was supposed to be best man at my brother’s wedding that day. I went to him and told him he needed to get somebody else. While it was a most difficult decidion, it was one of the best I ever made,” he said.

“This was a greenfield site and we had a wonderful principal in Brendan McCormack. The job of principal is supposed to be hard, but I never experienced that because I had a dedicated team with me that made my term as principal very easy. I received great support from the Board of Management and the staff, who gave me the greatest support and help all along the way” he said

Tributes were paid to him by the Parents Council, who descbed him as “a dedicated teacher who was always first to arrive at school and the last to leave and he oversaw great change at Holy Family and proved that he had an open door policy towards all.”