January 01, 2001
Seamus Cullinane was a man larger than life itself. When we took his mortal remains to their last resting place in Athenry Cemetery, all who knew him would readily agree that their life's experiences were enriched by their dealings with him.
I first got to know Seamus in the early forties and his personal integrity, charm, charisma and effervescent personality, even atthat young age, showed that he was destined to become a genuine leader of people.
Having obtained his Leaving Certificate at St. Mary's College in 1952, he graduated with a B.Comm. Degree from UCG in 1955 and a Higher Diploma in Education in 1956. He obtained a position as teacher of Commerce with Co. Galway V.E.C. and later that year he was appointed Principal of Gairmscoil Einne in Inishmore, Aran Islands at the age of twenty three. In 1958 he was appointed Principal of Colaiste Cholmcille and two months later in that same year he was appointed Principal of the Hotel Training School at Athenry. In 1970 he was appointed Principal of Gairmscoil Mhuire, which was opened that year in a greenfield situation, with two prefabricated classrooms and an enrolment of thirty students.
When Seamus retired as principal in 1998, with forty two years service, Gairmscoil Mhuire had a total of 760 students and 50 full-time teachers.
The secret of Seamus Cullinane's success as Principal of his school was his loyalty, commitment, and straight dealing. He earned the respect of all his staff and, in return respected the dignity, sensitivity and standing of all whom he worked with. He knew all his students, parents and grand parents intimately and visited the homesteads of all his students. He was physically present with them in their homes during times of celebration and vicissitude.
Seamus Cullinane also distinguished himself in the athletic arena, he was an outstanding athlete and a great hurler. He played minor and senior hurling for Co. Galway and was Captain and full back of the Castlegar Senior Hurling team that won a number of Co. Championships with that Club in the fifties.
With the co-operation of staff, parents and students, he embarked on a number of fundraising campaigns at school level, which enabled him to erect an Assembly Hall and Gymnasium, adjoining the school, which will serve as one of many monuments to his memory.
A huge attendance attended Seamus's Removal on Sunday evening and a continuous queue four-deep filed past the coffin at his home in Athenry from 4pm until 9pm. A capacity congregation attended at St. Mary's Parish Church when Very. Rev. Fr. Tony King P.P. and ten other priests concelebrated his Funeral Mass.
During the Homily, Fr. King stated that while equestrian events were taking place at Ballybrit race-course on Friday 2nd August, Seamus's wife Ann, and family Ann-Marie, Niall and Cormac, Fr. King and a few friends were at Seamus's bedside and thought that Seamus was about to take his leave of them. To quote Fr. King: "Seamus was mounted on the white steed of death and was approaching the descent for the second time. However Seamus Cullinane was not a man to push or be pushed, he tightened the reins and pulled up abruptly. It was obvious to all present that Seamus had some unfinished work to attend to. His two daughters-in-law and his three grandchildren were winging their way home from the States in order to be with him and the rest of the family. Seamus rallied in true Cullinane fashion and was there to greet them with a smile when they arrived. He presented a sculpture he had specially commissioned to his two month old granddaughter Sarah Ann whom he had met for the first time."
In conclusion, I would like to express or sincere sympathy to his gracious wife Ann, his family, grandchildren, to his brothers Jack and Michael, his sister Sally. I would like to conclude by saying that:
"Lives of great men all remind us, That we should make our lives sublime, And departing leaves behind us, Footprints on the sands of time.
Mar fhocal scoir "Leaba imeasc na Naomh go raibh ag a Anam Dilis. Hi bheidh do leitheid aris ann a Sheamuis."
Conor Morris, former CEO, Co. Galway V.E.C.
Courtesy of The Connacht Tribune
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