Master Danny: A Lesson In Quiet Determination.

Margaret Farren

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Lest we should think it was all difficulty and conflict in Master Danny's career, it must be emphasised that most of his memories are happy ones.

"I wasn't very happy in Clonmany but in Cluainte all the parents and the children were very co-operative and there were no real instances of insubordination."

One suspects that he secretly enjoyed defying inspectors and other authoritarians in his strangely diffident way, and, undoubtedly, when he was left to his own devices with his charges, the results were often immensely rewarding. One such experience was the almost unaccountable enthusiasm of his tin whistle band.

"I used to try and teach a bit of music and singing and one year I had a class of very musical children. I had a tin whistle and one morning I went up and played a couple of tunes. They were all very interested, only the girls mind you, and they all went down to Snowflake's and bought a tin whistle each. I started to teach them a wee tune every day, not by musical notation but by figures - 1, 2, 3, depending on the fingering. They were so interested, they were mad about it. After a while they played in a school concert organised by Fr. Mullan in Clonmany Hall, where they played for about half an hour non-stop. The other schools had a wee drama or something like that. Fr. Mullan was very encouraging and gave us lots of motivation to carry on, but for the most part the girls were self-motivating. There were about eighteen of them and I must say they did me proud!"

At this stage Danny produces a photograph and starts to name some of the girls. It's obvious from the attention he gives the picture that the memory is very dear to him. "I was very proud of those girls. And they're all grown up now. There's wee Helen John William, who'd be a friend of yours and that's Sally Tam, and Veronica Hirrell and one of the Mickey John's and Teresa McGonigle and one of the Tolands from Mindoran and my own daughter Margaret....."

Being headmaster may have brought with it many onerous tasks: religious instruction, discipline and not least of all decisions such as who qualified for free school books etc., but you get the distinct impression that it all fades into insignificance in the face of a success like the tin whistle band. That and the introduction of Physical Education by way of SOKAL, an aerobics drill imported from Czechoslovakia, with a potato rolled up in newspaper substituting for dumbbells, ("It was just the same and they took to it great!") In spite of the cold, the lack of work and money, and the general hardships of the time Master Danny found his scholars to be "generally very good and very willing to learn."

Due in no small part, I'm sure, to the quality of the instruction. His career saw no great changes apart from gradual improvements in conditions and pay. For all he knows the routine is very much the same in the schools today, except of course for less emphasis on grammar and a simplified catechism, interestingly enough.

So does he have much contact with his counterparts in the national schools today? "Apart from Noelle Haughey I don't know any of them, and they don't know me. Which is a shame."

It is indeed

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