Speech of the Right Reverend Dr Paul Colton,
Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross
at the Official Opening by the Provost of Trinity College, Dublin,
Dr Patrick Prendergast,
of a new sports hall at Midleton College
dedicated to the memory of Professor Trevor West
Friday, 14th September 2018
Mr Chairman, Dr Gash, Dr Prendergast, Maura Lee West and Members of the West Family, Minister, My Lords, ladies and gentlemen.
Dr Prendergast, you are not the first Provost to visit Midleton College to perform an official opening. Your predecessor, Provost Leland Lyons, visited on 14th November 1974 to open a new room as a memorial to Timothy West, father of Professor Trevor West. It cost £13,000, of which £12,000 was donated directly by individuals.
As we each ‘do our bit’ in our own time, it is important to acknowledge all the very significant ‘bits’ done by previous generations, and from which, during our time have benefitted. So many strands of that past are represented here today – former students and staff members, a former principal (Simon Thompson), Mrs Kay Cairns, former chairpersons, former Governors, and members of the Midleton College Association.
Indeed, what we are doing here today was started in the time of students and parents who are no longer here, but who wanted to help leave their mark, as we now will leave ours in the hope of inspiring future generations to continue to build and to move Midleton College forwards. Professor Trevor West was a church-going man with a strong Christian faith, and therefore, as we mark and remember his legacy today I am mindful of the words of Saint John’s Gospel – ‘Others have laboured, and you have entered into their labour.’ (John 4.38)
On behalf of our three boards, therefore – the Governors (who are the trustees of the school and its patron), the Board of Directors, and the Board of Management – I welcome you here today. I feel like the parent who sat beside me at a wedding reception once. His son had had an inordinately long courtship of nearly 12 years before marrying his new bride that day; the father of the groom turned me to and said ‘We thought today would never come.’
But here we are today in phase one of this magnificent new Trevor West Sports Hall at Midleton College. Everything has been beautifully prepared for today including the siteworks undertaken over the summer, campus improvements of recent years, and it is all truly splendid. It’s a credit to you Dr Gash and to all your team – management and staff – here at the College to whom our thanks are especially due.
Along with many other improvements to this campus, this is the second entirely new building project here at the College to be opened in the last six years – a new academic building in 2012, and now this sports hall today. This all stems from the major strategic plan – an overall campus development plan – drawn up by the Boards in 2007, a process initiated when Professor Trevor West was chairman, and adopted by the Board of Governors when Ken Brookes was chairman, and when Simon Thompson was Principal. It is important also to acknowledge their leadership in all this today.
I told Dr Gash recently that, in the light of the ubiquitous menace of GDPR, I was reviewing all my old College files over the summer, and I came across that very 2007 strategic plan, and indeed also, the project timeline devised by the architect for the completion of every single aspect of it: September 2011!
We all know what intervened; the economic crash in 2008, and a radical shift in Government policy towards funding for schools in our sector, both of which tilted our cosmos, and many people’s world, on its axis. A piecemeal, phased implementation, and further adaptation and change to what was originally envisaged, became the only option. Indeed, it is probably true to say that a complete review of that plan now and a new strategic vision and plan is needed 11 years on. But that’s next week’s work; it’s not for today.
I have to say that I feel a bit of a fraud being the one pushed forward to speak on behalf of the boards today, because it was only when I stepped down from the boards two years ago that this project actually began to take off and get going. Perhaps that absence of two years from involvement gives me the independence, however, that permits me to ask you to acknowledge here today the work of my successor chairpersons, Noel Ryall, first and more recently Ken McIlreavy, of all the Board members, of Dr Gash, as Principal, and everyone on his management and administrative team, and everyone in the school community – parents, staff and students – who have rowed in behind this project and brought it about. I am sure that Dr Gash and others will be setting out all these thanks in detail.
That said, I have been around Midleton College for long enough now to describe the beginnings of all this, as I have just done. Moreover, I didn’t entirely escape the project, for fund-raising was never far away in our house as in many others. In a memo to us all in January 2014, Simon Thompson recorded that the first meeting of the fund-raising sub-committee commenced its work on 4th February 2011. They had started with nothing, and with donations, pledges and specific events and activities had by the time of that memo (January 2014) raised €404,054. That work has continued, and combined with sound in-house management of finances, we are here thankfully today.
As I look down I see many of you who have longed for this date. I know from my 35 years of community leadership that projects like this are loved and hated in equal measure, but with tenacity and vision this point has been reached, and the work will continue into the future.
The College community over the years since the project started, the businesses and people of the town and region of Midleton and further afield have all responded generously, as have, in particular, all the major donors – many anonymously or in memory of loved ones, such as the donation of The Buckley Foundation in memory of Brian Coomber. In terms of fundraising, things have been knitted, baked, made, and sold; auctions dreamt; scrap gathered; dinners eaten; walks walked; Christmasses ‘faired’; umbrellas sold, cookbooks printed, marathons run, and ramps strutted at fashion shows.
Apart from the Viscount Midleton (who does not attend meetings but appoints a representative, at moment, Noel Ryall) I am one of only two Governors who had the privilege of serving with Professor Trevor West: the other being Daphne Spillane. The Boards, I know, were greatly honoured when Maura Lee West, and the West family, agreed to allow Trevor West’s name to be given to this building. And this brings me to my main point: Trevor West.
Professor West had many strands to his immense personality – mathematics, politics, Midleton, Midleton College, Trinity College Dublin, sport, the Church of Ireland, and, of course, Maura Lee, and his family circle. Many of us are thrilled that our endeavours here overlapped with Trevor’s leadership. I recall his humour, his wit, his commitment, his intellect, and his succinctness. In the short history he wrote about Midleton College the chapters have very succinct headings which, nonetheless say all that needs to be said. For example, for the period 1882 to 1928, covering the College in late 19th century – Ireland with further famine, land league, gaelic revival, home rule debates, coming to terms with disestablishment in the Church of Ireland, the Titanic, the Ulster Covenant, 1916, the First World War, women’s suffrage, the Spanish flu, the War of Independence and the Civil war – all just, ‘for starters’, Trevor gave this chapter the two-word heading ‘Political readjustment’: ‘Readjustment’ indeed!
The West family have been intrinsic to 82 years of the 322 years since Midleton College received its charter. If my mathematics are right that’s just over one quarter of the school’s history. This project embodies so many of those strands in Professor West’s life and interests, as does your presence here today, Dr Prendergast, and, in particular, Trevor’s huge commitment to and personal interest in students, especially those from Midleton College when they went up to Trinity, as well as in the sporting life of this College, and that of Trinity.
The last occasion on which I was out and about with Trevor was on 14th March 2012 at the side of the Presentation Brothers rugby pitch at Dennehy’s Cross, watching Midleton College playing Bandon Grammar School in a final. Trevor died later that year. Just three days before he died he sat on the College steps chatting with Simon Thompson. Even in his latter days, in retirement and in illness, his interest and fidelity to the students of this school never waned.
This new sports hall further adorns Midleton College. Huge credit is due to all of you who have brought about this adornment. Rightly, it is named after one who, in his time, adorned this place and left his mark: Professor Trevor West.