Home News Community End of an era as Heywood CS principal Philip Bowe retires

End of an era as Heywood CS principal Philip Bowe retires

Philip Bowe Heywood

Going to school with the Salesian Brothers in Ballinakilll had a lasting impact on him, according to the outgoing principal of Heywood Community School, Philip Bowe.

From the small parish of Moyne, Templetouhy, near the Kilkenny/Laois border, he was educated by the Salesians for fifth and sixth year from 1977/’78 and ‘78/’79.

“I was a boarder and played football, hurling, soccer and basketball with the school and went for runs around the woods surrounding the school,” he recalled.

“It was just school of course, but as I look back, it shaped me in many ways. I liked the Salesian ethos of reason instead of corporal punishment, religion, and kindness towards the students. This balance and faith stuck with me.”

After graduating from University College Cork with an arts degree in English and Irish and  having done the H. Dip in education, he  returned to Salesian College, Ballinakill as a teacher on a one year contract.

”I was kept on and spent 40 years there, 1983 to ‘90 with the Salesians. Then the school amalgamated with the Presentation, Durrow,  the Brigidine, Convent, Abbeyleix, and the Vocational School, Abbeyleix. I stayed teaching in what is now Heywood Community School from 1990 to 2011. I became principal in 2011 and saw and experienced a lot as teacher and principal,” Philip said.

He knew the school well after teaching there and being involved in extra-curricular activities.

“I knew what I was taking on and wanted a greater say in the education and development of our students and the growth and development of the reputation of the school as a centre of post primary education and a source of pride for the area. I liked the vision of the school belonging to the community, a community school.

“The community school ethos seeks to provide an holistic education, a broad-based education that prepares young people for life and all its challenges. It is multidenominational with a predominantly Christian ethos but welcomes all faiths and none.

“Respect for self, for community, parish, county and country are inherent in the ethos with the importance of each individual being cherished. I liked these values. It was an ethos I could live and promote with staff and students.”

The school currently has 750 students on its roll books. “It’s a very positive place to work and hopefully to attend as a student.

“Over 40 years there were many highs and lows. Covid 19 was a low for sure but our students and teachers were brilliant. They just saw what had to be done and they got on with all the changes and restrictions. For that reason it is now a positive time in our history,” Philip said.

“The real lows were the bereavements of students or former students, members of staff and parents of students.

“Some stick in my memory more than others but all rocked the school community and we needed our chaplain, our guidance counsellors and our pastoral care system to get our young people through.

“There were highs every week, simple successes for individual students. The school shows were brilliant and really well supported by parents and friends of the school, such as ‘Grease’ and ‘Annie.’

“Highlights were the lads winning the Senior Football All-Ireland in 2022, the hurling Leinster Senior ‘B’ in 2014, All-Ireland Basketball with Senior Boys ‘C’ in 2008 and to round up this year with the Senior Basketball Girls ‘C’ and the first year Basketball Girls ‘C’ winning both All-Irelands.”

In his final year as principal, the school won seven cups, hurling U-16 North Leinster; two basketball All-Irelands; two Leinster ‘C’ camogie competitions; a Leinster senior enterprise competition and a regional Junk Kouture competition. “We also put on a great school show with ‘Annie,’ Philip said.

The constant societal change has, he contended, altered school life. “The arrival of the mobile phone was significant. Its content has taken over the minds of our young people and only now are parents and society becoming aware of the dangers.”

The plan for his retirement is to keep in touch with education and work in the sphere at a different level and  a slower pace.

“I like to farm. There are lots of tasks I couldn’t get to with the job but hopefully now I will. I coach teams sometimes with my GAA club. I will take my wife, Mary, on a cruise in August when I should be going back to school. It’s a long time promise I will finally deliver on,” Philip laughed.

He expressed thanks to Fr. John Horan SDB, past principal of Salesian College, Ballinakill, who gave him his first job; all his teacher colleagues and ancillary staff and friends who supported him over the years; the parents for sending their children to Heywood Community School and for their support of the school ethos and code of behaviour.

He extended special thanks to all the students for such wholehearted co-operation with all the rules and guidelines during the difficult teenage years.

“I wish our current students well in the years they have left in school, and remember with affection all our past students who brought so much to the school, not just by their achievements but by their personality and individuality.

“It was a joy to welcome so many back to Heywood as parents, when we could laugh and share memories of those school days,” he said.

“Appreciation to the four boards of management – they do three-year terms – that supported me as principal over the last 12 years, especially chairpersons the late Sr. Mary Dalton; the late Br. Padraig McDonald and Fr. Dan Carroll SDB.

“Thanks to the Parents’ Association, its members and executive officers, particularly chairpersons Carmel Kenny, Nora Moore, Pauline McWey, Paula Mernagh and current chairperson, Joanne Gilnagh.

“Thanks to David Dwyer for handing me over a school with such high standards and great facilities; thanks to Sr. Margaret Creagh D.P. and Mary Fitzgerald D.P. and to the late Geraldine Ryan D.P. for their contributions to the development of the school.

“A thank you to current deputy principals, Peter Malone and Mary Harrington for their sincere care for and commitment to the school and for their support and friendship.”

Looking to the future, Philip congratulated Eamon Jackman, former deputy principal of Loreto secondary school, Kilkenny, on being selected as the new principal, wishing him every success in leading the school in the years ahead.

So what is his advice to the current crop of Leaving Cert students?

“There is no point in being anxious. You have done your best, taken the exam and worrying won’t change the result. If you are heading down the apprenticeship or immediate employment route, be diligent and responsible in all you do.

“If you reach your points goal and get offered the course you have chosen, grab the opportunity and move on to the next chapter of your young life.

“If you come up short, remember that there are many paths towards the same destination. You could take your second choice or do a Post Leaving Cert course or a diploma which eventually will lead you to your desired career.

“Follow your interests and have the confidence to change if it’s not for you. Remember to celebrate carefully and within reason.

!Look after one another and have consideration for your devoted parents who  have brought you this far. Just let them know where you are and when you will be home!”

SEE ALSO – Eamon Jackman looking forward to new challenge as Heywood CS principal