Long-serving school secretary retires

June 29, 2010

By Brónagh Murphy

A significant period in the history of St. Patrick’s Primary School in Cullyhanna came to an end on Friday when its longest serving member of staff retired.

Chris O’Neill has given an astounding thirty-eight years of service in her role as school secretary since St. Patrick’s first opened in August 1972.

At the heart of the school for almost four decades, she has witnessed generations of families pass through.  The first port of call for visitors to the school, Chris offered a welcome smile and a kindly word and was always efficient and professional.  Her dedication to her job meant she often went above and beyond the call of duty whenever the need arose.

Chris remembers well the day she took up her post under the guardianship of the then principal, Master Hugh Macauley.  Back then she relied on a typewriter to record all her administration work, a task which was both arduous and time-consuming.  It’s no surprise then that the one progression that stands out in her memory over the last four decades is the onset of technology and the advent of computers.  Following a number of training courses, she quickly adapted to using a computer, which, in turn, made a significant difference to her workload, she said.


During her long tenure, Chris has worked with just three principals – Mr Macauley, Mrs Mary Caraher and the current headmaster, Mr Pat O’Hanlon.

Mr O’Hanlon paid tribute to her long service to the school adding that her knowledge and expertise were a huge help to him when he took up his post 13 years ago.

“I want to compliment Chris on her dedicated service that she has given us,” Mr O’Hanlon said.

“Her local community knowledge was invaluable to me when I first became principal here.  She was always very courteous and totally trustworthy.

“Extremely reliable, Chris often came in to work even when she had been feeling unwell, she always made a huge effort to ensure the smooth running of the school,” he added.

Mr O’Hanlon praised the relationship Chris shared with the children adding that he was always confident of her ability to handle matters in the event of his absence.

“She knows how to take care of things when I’m not here and that was always a great help to me,” he said.

In turn, Chris praised Mr O’Hanlon for his understanding and support over the years, describing him as very down-to-earth and approachable boss.

“I’ve been very happy working with Mr O’Hanlon.  He is very easy to work with and has a great manner with both the staff and pupils.

“I will miss my work here terribly, especially my colleagues and the children,” she added.


A special Leavers’ Mass was celebrated in the school on Tuesday for Chris and the Primary Seven pupils who are moving on to new schools.  This was followed on Thursday by a presentation ceremony during which flowers and gifts were presented to Chris and teacher, Mrs McLeod, who is also leaving the school.

Money contributed by parents and past pupils was presented to Chris who signalled her intention to donate part of this gift to Craigavon Hospital by way of thanks for care she received there – another example of her generosity and thoughtfulness.


Chris’ retirement will allow her to spend more time with her family – husband Francis, daughter Martha, son-in-law Donal and two-year-old grand-daughter Shannon – and she is especially looking forward to being more involved in little Shannon’s daily routine.

The St. Patrick’s school community bids a fond farewell and extends every good wish to Chris to enjoy a long and happy retirement.