Making the World a Better Place – Winter 2002

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It was in September 1975 that I met Séamus Cullinane formally for the first time.

I still vividly recall being welcomed by Séamus at the door of the Vocational School. It was break-time and the students were bustling back and forth in the front corridor. Standing tall and erect, he was an imposing figure, sincere and hospitable in his welcome to me, while at the same time his eyes, his ears alert to the different nuances of the movement of students and everything that would seem to be out of the ordinary, and as such, should demand his attention. That now is still my image of Séamus whose life’s call and service was to his school, its staff and its students. I was back again twenty three years later and he brought me on a tour of the final piece of the chessboard that was his building plan for the school’s extension.

It was his wish that before retirement all would be in order, building complete, debts paid, his final response to the demands of his position. There was pride in his voice; there was pride in his walk as he said with hands pointed outwards. “l have done my best”. Yes, Séamus did the sowing. If only bricks and mortar could speak, what a story! A story of leadership, of commitment of willing helpers of staff, of parents and community and a growing body of young adults who have been enriched and in turn have -enriched our society as a result of the years of education and development within those walls.

Séamus has richly earned the plaudits of praise and gratitude for his service to education.

Community work

There was life too outside the school and again it was the unselfish sense of service with which Séamus enriched the community, and by his vision and leadership empowered so many others in Community service and parish ennoblement. The early years purchase of Raheen grounds proved his vision, and this led on to his elected leadership of Community Council.

There are many who will remember Sales of Work in the Mart, Poker Classics in the Ardilaun Hotel, the purchase of cattle and farmers’ rearing of same and probably the most public events of all, the potato sowing project. No half measures when Séamus was involved, his meticulous checking and planning for the weekly card games and despite bad weather the “Meitheal” in motley garb, town and country, young and old, nun and priest on a late October Sunday in a potato field, presided over by a smiling and ebullient Séamus as the bags were filled and the stack grew higher.

Athenry’s rich heritage was very much part of his plan for overall development and maybe the open air Banquet in the castle grounds on the night of the King’s election could have been the firelighter for the medieval joists and functions of later years.

Love of hurling

Séamus was a GAA man through and through — hurling his game. His own prowess on the field of play in a Castlegar and a Galway jersey earned for him a deep rooted respect as a shrewd judge of the game, a tactical reader of the play and a coach and motivator of a very high standard indeed. His pride in the mammoth achievement of the school in coIIege’s competitions was not only visible but his distinctive voice could be heard loudly and clearly as he pucked every ball in spirit with his team on the field.

1977 was an ‘almost year’, as he led Athenry Senior team to that year’s County final. Members of that team will recall his statement “You don’t know what it takes to win”. Nearly or close was not sufficient. To win was the goal. He was disappointed then, but it was good that he saw it all come to pass in later years and how he loved to analyse and then relate the great breakthrough of the county in 1980 and his parish team in 1987.

Political discussions

Séamus was a private man in many ways, traditionalist and conservative by nature but open to the advancement, challenges and changes that technology and scientific development were bringing. He loved to talk and among his friends, there are many memories of political discussion, heated at times, where his strongly held views on political life, the state of the country and the growing urban/rural divide, could not be easily shaken or changed.

Conversation and friendly company brought a new dimension to his life’s interests.


The horse – part of our nature — certainly became Séamus’ source of relaxation and joy. His journeys to the Sales, his buying and rearing, resulting in his daily visit to the field of the horse. He had good advisors and he had friends to share his stories of how everything was progressing. Bawnrock, the horse he sold on to a Kilkenny syndicate was his great pride and I will always remember his childlike exuberance as Bawnrock won the Bumper in Killarney on his first race. It was a late night’s journey home, but a well-remembered one.

Family man

Time marches on and so does the journey of life. Séamus looked forward to many years of enjoyment and companionship with Anne and Ann-Marie, Niall, Cormac and their families. He was so proud of each of them. The shared as a family in the joy of the Papal Recognition and tribute to him and his life’s work. They now share with one another in grief at his loss.

His friends and all who knew Séamus, share too in his loss, and all the more so can then appreciate Anne and families’ loss.

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About this record

Written by Fr John Flannery

Published here 28 Jul 2023 and originally published winter 2002

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