Monday 20 January 2020

Loss of Wexford Pres teacher is keenly felt

The late Margaret Walsh taught English, History and CSPE.
The late Margaret Walsh taught English, History and CSPE.

Margaret Walsh, teacher at Presentation Secondary School, Wexford town, died suddenly and unexpectedly on Monday, June 1, at her home in Dunmore, Co. Galway. She was 47.

Beloved wife of Murt Francis, mother to darling son, Thomas, she is sadly missed by her mother Nora, sisters Mary, Catherine, Deirdre, Sheila, Sinead, brother Martin, mother-in-law Lily, sisters-in-law, brothers-in-law, extended family, friends and colleagues. She is predeceased by her father Michael and her sister Anne.

Margaret taught English, History and CSPE in the Presentation Wexford since 2002. She had an infectious love of learning and of its habit of enriching life. She had a fine mind and an indefatigable spirit. Margaret's philosophy of education was that what we learn has intrinsic value, that retained knowledge of human achievement, past and present, artistic and practical, made progress toward a better future possible.

Margaret loved words. As a precocious student she came first in the English matriculation exam for the NUI. This foreshadowed a life-long love of literature and the English language which she would later pass on to so many students, earlier in Balinteer Community School and Loreto in Mullingar and latterly in the Presentation. She was a repository of quotes, of puns, innuendos and wryly turned phrases. The sound of language was for her, lyrical and beautiful in and of itself. Margaret also knew, and knew how to pass on, the craft that turns language into a conduit for persuasion, for passionate debate, for petitions for justice and equality.

Margaret loved the past. Having achieved a degree in English and History in UCD in 1989 she went on to achieve a Masters in History in 1991. Talking history with Margaret was always an adventure. She had so many stories, connections, trivias, tales and truths at her fingertips that she could make an era or event come alive before your eyes in an alchemy of imagination and conversation. She understood that history, whether it be local or national, was not a dusty scroll of use only as novelty but a living breathing part of the present, without which our parts on stage make less sense. Those who were taught by her, worked with her, or who simply bumped into her, had the opportunity to learn this too.

Margaret loved fairness. Alongside her husband Murt - a teacher at Wexford CBS Secondary School - she was a committed member of the local branch of the ASTI. Attending national conventions as a delegate or working as she did in her final year as school steward, she found in trade unionism an outlet for her bravery, her principles and her conviction. Colleagues in the union will remember her as a wonderful mixture of authentic idealism, intense intellect and mischievious good humour.

To her immediate colleagues she was a tireless defender of equality and solidarity. Margaret was individually gifted but not individually driven. More broad shouldered than sharp elbowed, she used her gifts in the name of collective progress not personal gain.

Margaret loved the West. Though she, Murt and Thomas made the happiest of homes in the Summerhill area of Wexford town and made many firm friends, not least in her treasured book club and the town's film society. She remained always a most ardent ambassador of the West. Steeped in a sense of place, she was always Margaret Walsh from Dunmore; a faithful daughter and sibling to the family which had so shaped her.

The premature deaths of both her father Michael and sister Anne only served to bind her more fiercely to her roots and to their legacy about which she spoke often. Every summer saw the family reunited and it is noted with no little consolation that it was after an evening of craic, debate, banter, and no doubt a song or two with her family and friends in her beloved Dunmore that Margaret passed away.

Margaret loved to talk. Conversation was where she lived. There were no quick words, no truncated thoughts, every quip, every idea was given its own time to breathe. She believed every problem or impasse could be teased out with talk.

In her staff room she embodied a brand of collegiality which relied on openess and respect, where talking, sharing stories and connecting made co-operation and progress happen. In the classroom students tell of a teacher who would connect through stories, through anecdote, through talk.

Many of them, on hearing of her passing so close to their exams, resolved to achieve not just for themselves as she had urged, but now for her, as she had inspired them.

Mostly Margaret loved Murt and Thomas. Unlike other aspects of her life there is little need here for elaboration or dissection. Her love for the family she made in Wexford was simple and true.

No interest or passion mentioned above matched the gleam in her eye when she talked of home. Murt and Margaret were a match in all respects, while her pride in her son left even Margaret lost for words. She will be missed by all who learned from her, worked with her or shared her life.

Margaret's Requiem Mass took place at the Church of Our Lady and St. Nicholas, Dunmore, Galway, last Thursday, with burial at Dunmore Cemetery.

May she rest in peace.

Wexford People