Late Mary Farrell played a key role in development of education in Longford

Late Mary Farrell played a key role in development of education in Longford

The death occurred on May 7, 2017 of Mary Farrell, who for over forty years made a profound impact on education and latterly the development of education in Co Longford.

Mary Farrell grew up in Esker, Killoe and was one of James and Mary Brady's three daughters. From an early age, her desire to pursue a career was obvious and she was in the vanguard of new and empowered Irish women, who were determined to attain a University Degree and subsequently leave an indelible stamp on their communities.

For Mary that journey took her to University College Galway and with her studies completed, she returned to take up a teaching post with Longford VEC at the Vocational school in Ballymahon.

Throughout her career she taught mainly mathematics and science and was remembered as a kind and conscientious teacher, who went out of her way to peel back the oft times mystique and challenge of those particular subjects for so many students, who might otherwise have floundered.  

Her approach to teaching was simple, she wanted her students to learn and she left no stone unturned in her efforts to ensure that each student reached their potential.

She knew well the challenges facing some students were not always academic and often times a challenging home environment was impeding a student's development. On many occasions, Mary Farrell was a helping ear and an invaluable mentor and confidante to students who might otherwise have easily slipped through the proverbial cracks in the system. 

Her return to Co Longford would also coincide with her marriage to Pat Farrell and the couple made their home together on the family farm at Carnan, Ardagh.

After a short while in Ballymahon, Mary transferred to Longford town via Granard VS, teaching first at the old Vocational School on the Battery Road and then what we now know as Templemichael Community College and was subsequently appointed to the role of Assistant Principal.  She was a highly respected member of the teaching staff and the esteem in which her peers held her was reflected in the large numbers from the profession who journeyed from all over the country to pay their final respects.

She was a person to whom colleagues could turn to for counsel and objective insight. She had a great grasp of the education system and the often overpowering political complexities that went with it and there was nobody better placed to cut to the chase and make the abstract seem perfectly normal than the late Mary Farrell.

With a stellar teaching career behind her Mary Farrell was appointed to the role of Adult Education Officer (AEO) in 2003 and remained in the role up until her retirement in November 2014. 

She was the perfect candidate for the role and during her time in the office emphasised the need to make education and training opportunities accessible and available for all. She threw herself into the role and clearly revelled in it as second chance education became readily and easily available across the county.

She played a key role in the early development and implementation of the Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) training programme locally. The benefits of that involvement are clear to be seen today with a network of course opportunities in place across the county.  For many these courses are the stepping-stone into skilled employment whilst others have used it as the platform to go onto further education. Together with the then CEO of Longford VEC, Josephine O'Donnell, she was also instrumental in securing a large tract of the Connolly Barracks site from the Department and this now forms the basis of the county's impressive adult and further training campus.

She believed passionately in the need to ensure equality of opportunity for all but especially women and she threw herself into the development of Longford Women's Link. She was an enthusiastic board member from the outset and her fingerprints are very evident on an organisation that today strives to ensure equality of opportunity for women in Co Longford. 

She fervently believed in the maxim that knowledge was power and was also member of the start-up board for Longford Citizens Information Service (CIS) and her early direction, experience and insight helped establish it as one of the benchmark centres for the CIS movement in Ireland.  

She served on the old VEC committee as the staff representative in Co Longford for a number of years and was never afraid to articulate her views and take issue with the establishment.

Even after her retirement in November 2014, Mary continued to sit on the board of management at Ballymahon Vocational School and would have continued to attend meetings up until Christmas. She was fiercely proud of the school's progress and excited for the future. 

Over the years the Farrell family have been very deeply involved in the local community and particularly with St Patrick's GFC. Notwithstanding the ties with the Ardagh club, she retained a deep and strongly held passion and love for her native Killoe.

She was a loyal and steadfast neighbour and having spent a lifetime in education her advice was regularly sought out by parents and teenagers as they grappled with deciding which course and career path to choose.

There were two aspects to Mary Farrell's life. One was very public and wrapped up in the county's education system. However, perhaps the most fulfilling second aspect to this very full life was back at home in Carnan, as wife to Pat and mother to Rory, Emer, Orla, Enda and Kevin.  More recent years heralded the arrival of her grandchildren and there is no doubt that Mary was happiest when Alice, Oliver, Charlie and Louis were in close proximity. Through a very difficult illness nothing gave her greater pleasure than the sound of little voices and laughter in the Carnan household. 

Sadly, Mary's long battle with illness came to a head in early May and she passed away peacefully at the Mater Private Hospital, surrounded by her loving family. 

Her passing is mourned by her husband, Pat;  children,  Rory, Emer (Hyland), Orla (Fallon), Enda and Kevin;  grandchildren, Alice, Oliver, Charlie and Louis; her  sisters Eileen (McManus) and Catherine (Brady), sister-in-law, brothers-in-law, daughter-in-law, sons-in-law, nieces, nephews, her extended family and many dear friends and teaching colleagues. Her remains reposed at the family home and were brought to St Brigid's Church, Ardagh for Funeral Mass with interment afterwards in the adjoining cemetery.