A MAN has been honoured for teaching thousands of people to speak in their native tongue over a 50-year period.
Tomás Ó Riordáin got quite a surprise when he attended a Mass in his honour at Scoil na nÓg in Glanmire, for there to meet him were dozens of former colleagues and Minister for Social Protection Éamon Ó Cuív.
“I wanted to be here to pay tribute to Tomás’ 50 years of service to the Irish language. It is dedicated teachers like him who have inspired generations of young people with a love of their language,” said Mr Ó Cuív.
“This love of the language can be seen today with the amount of Gaelscoileanna which are springing up all over the country.”
Tomás, who is now teaching the grandchildren of some of his first students, said he was very proud of what he’d achieved.
“I also look back and I think of the friendships I made with the other teachers and the pupils. We had a lot of fun and it is great to see Irish schools thriving,” he said.
Tomás was involved in teaching and organising Irish courses in the summer colleges set up by Gaelachas Teoranta, a body established during the Second World War to promote the Irish language and heritage.
The first Gaelachas summer courses were organised in Garryvoe, Co Cork, in the 1940s. Tomás’ involvement started in 1960, when the courses took place in Trabolgan, Whitegate.
Three years ago Tomás retired as principal of Scoil na nÓg, although he still lives on the campus and remains involved in the summer school.
Around 120 summer school students gave him a standing ovation at last week’s function.
Following a Mass said by Fr James Gould, curate at Little Island, Seán Ó Coileáin presented Tomás with a sculpture on behalf of Gaelachas Teo, while on behalf of his colleagues, Donal Stritch presented him with a piece of Cork Crystal.
The ceremony was also attended by Tomás’ wife Máire, his son and four daughters — two of whom had flown in for the occasion from their homes in Paris and Rome respectively.
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