The late Mr. Tom Geraghty B.A. -Roscommon CBS (1953-1988)

A Tribute by Tony Conboy   The death took place on Friday, February 23rd of Mr. Tom Geraghty of Toberavaddy, Athleague. He was one of the most highly regarded teachers in Roscommon C.B.S. for over three decades and is remembered with affection by generations of former students of that school.      Tom Geraghty came from Scrine, Rahara. His father, Patrick, died when he was a young boy and his mother, Annie, raised the family of four. He went to Secondary School in the CBS and Summerhill College, Sligo. He went on to get an Honours Degree and Higher Diploma in University College Galway.    He taught for two years in Ballybofey, County Donegal before returning to Roscommon CBS in 1953, becoming Vice-Principal in 1974 and retiring in 1988. Tom had many interests, especially politics. He became a staunch supporter of Jack McQuillan through his varied and eventful career. He read widely, covering a range of subjects in great depth. This was referred to a number of times by speakers on the day of his funeral. However if teaching was his profession his work on the land was his love and he was an exemplary practitioner in this area.    He was a devoted husband to his wife of fifty years Kathleen. He was a conscientious family man and a considerate neighbour possessed of great integrity. He liked to visit friends to talk and to listen, whatever their perceived station in life.   Personal classroom memories   Whenever former pupils of Roscommon Christian Brothers Secondary School meet and reminisce about their times in the C.B.S. invariably the first teacher to be mentioned will be Tom Geraghty. It is well nigh impossible to paint an accurate picture of, or to do justice to, this unique man.    He made an indelible impression on successive generations of students. He was a colourful and visual man. He was passionate, provocative, erudite. The image of Tom in the classrooms and corridors of the C.B.S. are deeply imprinted on the minds of his students. We remember the heavy step, the side-wards glance, the searching, interrogating look. His style of teaching might be regarded, in our politically correct world, as robust. His subjects were History, Geography and the all-embracing Commerce. These he taught with a flair born of a deep knowledge and the interest of a participant.    In History he added to the text books from his own vast reservoir of experience and sought to apply the lessons and consequences of the past on current events. It is the eternal quest of students to sidetrack teachers into talking of things that are not central to the course and thus pleasantly while away a class or the greater portion of it. This was sometimes achieved with Tom as he discussed with passion the happenings of the day whether they be politics, farming, current affairs or the whereabouts of former students. We may not have realised it but we were absorbing much from this shared experience.    On other days the door was quickly closed on these diversions and then it was necessary to bring the mind to full alert. Various groupings made up the student population in the CBS in my time. A number of students came on ‘the Castlerea train’, like Hayes, Heneghan, Neary and Finnegan. These seemed to have a special place in his heart. Then there were the ‘townies’ like the Donnellans, Mulveys, Brownes and Neilans. He often remarked on their tendency to ‘loiter’ on street vantage points. The group with which he aligned most were ‘the country’ boys like the Murrays, McDermotts, Harringtons, Wardes.  I was a country boy.    All three groups could be colourfully labelled depending on their performance and Mr. Geraghty’s disposition. Most students will have their own memories of these titles. The abiding salutation of his was, ‘Like a good man’ or the student had to complete the statement ‘And you brought no what, like a good man?’ ‘I brought no note sir’. I still have Dudley Stamp’s ‘The World’ Geography book we used then with extra pages on ‘the elevation of the sun’ taped into it. This was a particular topic which Tom chalked onto the blackboard with which we wrestled with mixed fortunes.    Once at the close of a last class on a Friday evening we thought we had escaped homework for the week-end when he turned at the door, ‘A map of France, mountains and rivers’.      I called to his home in Passage a couple of times in recent years (regretting now, of course, that it had not been much more often) and he was a most hospitable and engaging host. The conversation ranged over a spectrum of issues. In no way was it ‘weather’ talk. He listened intently to your opinion and challenged any loose remark. As I was thinking of leaving once, out of the blue came a question; ‘And, what about China?’ This we had to ‘treat of’ for a further period.    A man apart Tom’s concelebrated funeral Mass took place in Fuerty Church on Monday, February 26 th  with the main celebrant being the Athleague/ Fuerty Parish Priest Fr.John Leogue accompanied by a former pupil Canon Liam Devine and Fathers Casey and Martin. There was a large and representative crowd at his funeral including many past pupils. Father Leogue, in his Homily, spoke reverentially of Tom’s many and enduring qualities quoting John Stuart Mill ‘That so few dare to be eccentric is a danger of our time’. Humourously he noted Mr. Geraghty’s ability to teach a three year course in one year while he spent the remaining time ranging across a myriad of related and not so related topics.     Staff and pupils from the CBS formed a Guard of Honour as his remains were brought from the Creemully Church to Athleague Cemetery. Long-time CBS colleague Christy Hannon paid him a glowing and appropriate tribute at the graveside.    Mr. Hannon spoke of his ability to take his subjects ‘out of the text books’ and of he being ahead of his time in terms of providing career guidance. He spoke of his many outstanding personal qualities of, compassion, honesty and an ‘inflexible integrity’. He referred to him as ‘a legend’ and ‘an iconic figure’.    His nephew Louis also spoke in moving terms of his uncle who had made a deep impression on him and for whom he held such respect. He referred to Tom as ‘a gifted man of deep humanity and compassion with great regard for the underdog, in essence a good man’.      So many people have their own memories of Tom Geraghty, especially his former students. They will never forget their former teacher to whom they are indebted for enriching their lives immeasurably. Whenever and wherever those students meet, Tom’s name will be recalled with a smile and the stories will roll.    I’m sure I speak for many students in extending sympathy to his wife Kathleen and his extended family. Rarely is it more appropriate to say, ni bheith a leithead ann aris. Ar dheis De go raibh a anam uasal, macanta.   * I wish to acknowledge the material assistance of Father John Leogue, Mr. Christy Hannon, Mr. Louis Brennan and Mr. Francis Murray with the above.