WHEN a school gets a new principal there is always much speculation as to what sort of a contribution they will make in a community.
Such was the case back in 2006 when Michael Lydon arrived to replace Mattie Murphy as principal of Lackagh National School, but few realised that the contribution of the new head of Lackagh would be so enormous.
This week Michael steps down as Principal of Lackagh NS but has left an enormous legacy of accomplishment.
Michael had previously worked as principal of Kilnadeema N.S. and in coming to Lackagh faced many new challenges.
The old school was bursting at the seams and with a growing population, the need for a new school became a priority for the new principal.
It had been talked about for some time as additional prefabs had to be purchased to cater for the additional pupils and it came to the stage of ridiculous when there were 11 prefab classrooms added to the existing school that had been built in 1966 and also needed much repair work.
After much negotiating with the Dept of Education, Michael Lydon had eventually received notification that a new school, instead of an addition to the existing school, would be the preferred option, but getting the Department to commit the funding for the school was the greatest difficulty.
Michael called on the services of local Fine Gael Councillor Frank Kearney to bring political influence to get the funding for the new school. After many meetings with several local and national politicians including former TDs Brian Walsh and Derek Nolan, current Galway west TD Sean Kyne, Minister Jan O’Sullivan and Minister of Stage Damien English, the project was eventually granted government funding through the efforts of then TD John O’Mahony and former Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
While huge efforts were being made on parents’ behalf with tremendous leadership being provided by Chairman of Lackagh NS Board of Management Seamus O’Connell, the project would not have come to fruition without the trojan efforts that were made with his ongoing contact with the Department of Education by school principal Michael Lydon.
Michael had undertaken a planning process and oversaw the building of a brand new school with all modern facilities. It was with great joy and excitement, tinged with a little sadness and 20 staff as they moved into the state of the art new school last February.
A new chapter in primary education at Scoil Bhríde, Leacach began. The playing and recreation areas surrounding the building have been further developed in recent months. The planting of new trees will enhance the surroundings to make the school a beautiful environment for pupils to enjoy as they learn and play.
Previous schools served from 1886 to 1966 and from 1966 to 2018, and no doubt the current new school will serve for decades to come and Michael Lydon can proudly sit back knowing that had made a major contribution that will benefit the children of Lackagh for generations to come.
Michael will be remembered by his pupils especially for his love of the Irish language, of books and reading, of science and technology, of local history; for his support and encouragement of the pupils’ efforts to collect funds for charities, particularly Trócaire, for good manners and respect, for competing in quizzes and debating.
Ever since the arrival of principal Joe Collins in the 1960s there had been a strong tradition of Irish music in the school and Michael Lydon continued to promote that. To make it easier for families Michael agreed, with the support of the parent association, to purchase a large number of musical instruments, so that every child who wishes to learn to play music has the opportunity to do so, and he engaged music teachers for after school lessons.
Michael inherited a school with a great history of playing sport, particularly hurling. He promoted and encouraged all sports to the highest levels, from playground games to hurling, football, camogie, athletics and basketball.
Daily coaching by Mr. Lydon brought successes on the sporting field. In 2011 Lackagh competed in the Cumann na mBunscol Galway football final for the first time and were runners up to Brierhill N.S.
A week later the school captured the Galway 11-a-side National Schools Hurling final with ease, with Niall Bree as captain.
In 2012 Lackagh National School won both the Cumann na mBunscol Hurling and Football County titles, becoming the first national school in the parish to win both titles in the same year.
The school went on to have further successes, capturing the county football titles in 2013 and 2014 and the Cumann na mBunscol Hurling 13 a side title in 2015. The footballers were runners up in 2015.
It was a mark of honour for the school when Barry Callanan and Aoife Lyons referred the Cumann na mBunscol games in Croke Park on August 12th 2012. Many pupils will remember Mr. Lydon’s encouragement as they competed at athletics in the Galway County Sports in Dangan and in basketball blitzes with local schools.
As Lackagh NS headed towards anniversary celebrations of schools built in 1886 and 1966, in late 2015 Michael Lydon set up and led a committee whose aim was to publish a history of the school to mark the 130th and 50th anniversary of the opening of the previous two schools in Lackagh.
Under the chairmanship of former pupil Frank Kearney and a dedicated committee working with the school principal, Lackagh National School, Times Past and Present, a work of history, photographs and memories was published in 2016. It has proven to be a massive success with past and present pupils.
Michael Lydon retires from teaching in Lackagh this week and he has left a wonderful legacy of achievement behind him. Lackagh has become a better place because of his presence as principal. His contribution to the area will be appreciated for many decades and the people of the area, past, present and future pupils will be forever grateful for his efforst during his time here.
The people of the area wish Michael Lydon and his family many years of good health and happiness on his retirement.
Mr. Shane O’Connor takes over as Principal Teacher in Lackagh next week.