Wednesday 13 November 2019

Piercestown NS unveils plaque in honour of Dr Thomas Walsh

Dr Walsh was a research leader in Ireland and a globally recognised scientist

Mayor of Wexford Cllr Tony Dempsey with Rosemary Buckley, daughter of Dr Thomas Walsh
Mayor of Wexford Cllr Tony Dempsey with Rosemary Buckley, daughter of Dr Thomas Walsh
Mayor of Wexford Cllr Tony Dempsey and school principal; Theresa Corrigan (second from left) with family members Michael Walsh, Michael Buckley, Roesmary Buckley (Dr Thomas Walsh’s daughter), Joan Walsh and David Walsh

Brendan Keane

A plaque has been unveiled in Piercestown National School honouring Dr Thomas Walsh who was a past pupil in the school and a pioneering contributor to the world of agricultural science.

The plaque was commissioned by Wexford County Council in conjunction with the National Committee of Science and Engineering Commemorative plaques to acknowledge Dr Walsh's role within the agri science sector.

The school's acting Principal, Teresa Corrigan, welcomed everyone to the event including members of Dr Walsh's family and former colleagues of his.

Speaking on behalf of the Board of Management and the school community Ms Corrigan said: 'We are all very proud of his achievements and we are delighted to be able to play our part in acknowledging his contribution to agricultural science.'

Ms Corrigan said it was a 'very special afternoon' and was an occasion of celebration for everyone involved.

In addition to welcoming Dr Walsh's family - including his daughter Rosemary Buckley who unveiled the plaque - Ms Corrigan also acknowledged members of Wexford County Council who were in attendance.

'We were delighted to work in conjunction with Wexford County Council on this project,' she told the assembled crowd.

'We hope that having this plaque and teaching the children about its significance they will be inspired to follow in the footsteps of Dr. Tom Walsh and others like him and go on to achieve great things in their lives,' she added.

The Mayor of Wexford, Cllr Tony Dempsey also spoke at the event and outlined the importance of children receiving a good education. He praised Dr Walsh for his pioneering work in the field of agri science and said he was recognised as an international leader within the sector.

Cllr Dempsey praised everyone involved with Piercestown National School and said the facility enjoys an enviable reputation for the quality of education it provides to its students.

He also said Dr Walsh's success and the success of people like him provided inspiration for other people to succeed in whatever their chosen field of expertise is.

Dr Walsh, who passed away in 1988, was a national leader in agricultural and food research in Ireland and a globally recognised soil scientist.

He received an honours BAgrSc degree in 1937, an MAgrSc in 1938, and a PhD in 1941. He was also awarded a DSc for published works on soil science and crop nutrition in 1947 and was subsequently awarded honorary doctorates by the National University of Ireland, in 1972, and by Trinity College, in 1980.

At the unveiling ceremony attention was placed on the fact that he was the first director of An Foras Talúntais, which was the institute for agricultural research set up to fulfil the functions assigned by the Agriculture (An Foras Talúntais) Act, 1958.

He was appointed to the position by the Government in 1958.

Dr Walsh was also instrumental in setting up the national advisory and training body (ACOT) which was responsible for establishing a regional management structure within the agricultural sector.

Among the many other accolades and awards bestowed on him were a Fellowship of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Honorary Membership of the Institute of Engineers of Ireland, the first Honorary Fellowship of the Food Science and Technology Society of Ireland, the medal of the French Society of Soil Science, and nomination as soil scientist of the year by the Soil Science Society of America.

Here are home he was also honoured by being given the Freedom of Wexford town in 1979 and there was also a dedication to him offered by An Foras Taluntais of the soil laboratory at Johnstown Castle Research Centre in 1987.

In 1956, Dr Walsh was elected as a member of the Royal Irish Academy where he would go on to serve as Senior Vice-President, Science Secretary and Secretary.

He was also a member of the Science Committee of the Royal Dublin Society (RDS) and in 1969 he received the organisation's Boyle Medal for outstanding contribution to science in Ireland.

Dr Walsh also served on the Commission for Higher Education and was chairperson of the National Council for Educational Awards (NCEA). He retired from public life in 1983.

The unveiling ceremony was also attended by Director of Teagasc, Professor Gerry Boyle, who praised Dr Walsh for his work saying it was 'pioneering and innovative'.

The unveiling coincided with the 25th anniversary of the Teagasc Walsh Fellowship programme which was marked at a seminar in Johnstown Castle earlier that day.

Through the Fellowship programme post-graduate students pursue their PhD's and Masters through Teagasc and universities.

This year's overall winner of the Teagasc Walsh Fellowship medal was Eoin O'Connor, from the Teagasc Crops, Environment and Land use programme, for his work titled 'Fish for Fungi: Visualisation of viruses in the mycelium of the commercial mushroom Agaricus bisporus'.

He was presented with his medal by Prof Boyle who said the overall programme is crucial for the success of research initiatives.

'Our Walsh Fellowships Post-graduate Programme is critical to the success of our research and knowledge transfer activities in Teagasc,' he said.

The seminar also saw Teagasc Chairperson, Liam Herlihy, launch the new Teagasc Walsh Fellowships Alumini network with the inaugural winner of the Teagasc Walsh Fellows Alum of the Year award going to Andrew Fisher.

He was a Walsh Fellow at the start of the programme in 1993 and was also the Walsh Fellowships RDS gold medal winner in 1996.

Mr Fisher is currently the Director of the Animal Welfare Science Centre in Australia.

Wexford People

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