Master Danny: A Lesson In Quiet Determination.

Margaret Farren

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Most people in Clonmany are familiar with the sight of the small, distinguished looking gentleman who comes into one or other of the local pubs of a night, orders the same drink and sits at the bar, quietly observing the goings-on, or engaging in polite, soft-spoken conversation with other regulars. Master Danny has been enjoying this aspect of his retirement for a number of years now and it is testimony to his lively mind and gentle manner that many still seek out his company for debate and/or discussion in this relaxed and genial atmosphere.

Back when they were all the rage, "Wee Danny" was much sought after by table quiz teams, and if only you could get him on your side, you were guaranteed a respectable place at least in the final scores.

Master Danny is the only surviving teacher from the time of the Folklore Commission's schools' project, and, I'm glad to say, he hasn't quite hung up his duster yet. While chatting to him in Mac Tam's about the possibility of an interview, we are interrupted by a man who has enlisted his help in learning Irish. Danny stops to exchange a cordial and informal cupla focail with him.

If you ask anyone who was taught by him, they will assure you that good humour and gentle persuasion were the hallmarks of Master Danny's time as a teacher, in both Clonmany and Cluainte schools. In an era when ruling with a sally rod was the more acceptable mode of instruction, that alone is a fairly remarkable achievement. Though it is not his style to be humble to the point of self deprecation, you will find that Danny is his own harshest critic, and is reluctant to find his slate as clean as all that.

His memories of his days as a teacher are well balanced between self criticism and an awareness of the many ways in which he was ahead of his time in pedagogical strategy.

Nervous and cautious, fresh out of teacher training college in Dublin and unsure of what type of student to expect, Master Danny arrived in Clonmany in February 1937. It was his first post before moving on, in November 1939, to be headmaster in Cluainte, and he believes his training ill-prepared him for the realities of teaching in a rural national school. Having graduated from the national school in Carndonagh, he was thrown in at the deep end when he arrived in Glasnevin, where learning was conducted entirely through Irish. Most of the others in his year had grown up in the Gaeltacht. In spite of this, he hardly floundered.

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