50 past students of Rockwell Agriculture College course of 1978 returned to Rockwell and Cahir House Hotel on Saturday 29th September, to renew old acquaintances and share memories and stories of 40 years ago.
On arrival in Rockwell, tea was provided by the College catering staff. A tour of the college began with a visit to the former Agricultural College building which has since been adapted and refurbished as the residential accommodations for boarders in the secondary school. The group walked down by the lake to the dairy buildings. They were met by Fr. William Kingston, Bursar for the farm business and Michael Long, Farm Manager. They gave a summary of the current farm programme, milking in excess of six hundred cows and outlined the future plans for the buildings now under construction. These include a sixty cow unit rotary parlour and winter accommodation.
The second part of the reunion was dinner at Cahir House Hotel. In excess of seventy sat down for the meal which included some of their partners and former teaching staff of the Agriculture College in 1978. Guest of Honour was the then Principal of the College, Fr. Bernard Frawley, who said it was a great night to have such a big group together to celebrate and chat after such a long time.
Speeches were made before the meal. John O’Dwyer, former teacher, acted as Master of Ceremonies. John referred to the fact that there were students from 18 counties in the college in that year. This was as broad a range as one might find in any University or Third-level college. The main organiser of the event, a former student of 1978, John O’Connor, spoke of the year spent in Rockwell as the catalyst for sending many of them on their way into farming or into a wide range of other careers. John himself spent twenty one years in the management of the Beef and Sheep unit, joining the College in 1980, two years after he completed the College course. His fellow student, Andrew Doyle, now Minister of State in the Department of Agriculture and the Marine spoke of the joy and benefit he derived from his year at the College.
It led him on to further training in Farm Management under the Farm Apprenticeship Board, then to New Zealand , later back to his native Wicklow and ultimately to local politics and his current position as a T.D. for Wicklow. Liam Maher, former Tipperary Senior hurler spoke on behalf of the College Football team that won the All-Ireland Colleges Championship that year, defeating two of the big heavyweights of the time, Kildalton and Warrenstown Colleges.
The final speaker was Willie J. Dwyer, teacher at the College. He believed that during the year, apart from the programme itself, both theoretical and practical, the social interaction, sport, and an active Macra na Feirme Club in the College, all played a pivotal role in helping many of the students to mature and see more clearly what future career path they should pursue.
He cited the central involvement and input by many of them on Co-Op boards, Farm Organisations and at Community level. Over the intervening years, on meeting past students at outside events, such as the Ploughing Championships, two questions which arise frequently include ‘what is happening in Rockwell, and secondly, how is Fr. Frawley’? Fr. Frawley was principal of the College for most of the thirty three years it provided a dedicated Agricultural Educational course. (1969 until closure in the summer of 2001).
Following the meal, photos were taken, old acquaintances renewed and the memory bank topped up with stories and eventful episodes of the year recalled. As the night drew to a close and the group went their separate ways, this will be remembered as a night of good company, banter and joy.
Former staff in attendance included: Fr. Bernard Frawley, College Principal, Willie J. Dwyer, Billy Gleeson, Val O’Connor, John O’Dwyer.
Apologies were received from Eileen Murphy and Jim Fitzgibbon who were unable to be present. Popular Rockwell College staff member, James Mangan, also attended.