BY JOHN FITZGERALD
A teacher who transformed the lives of many pupils via his enlightened approach to learning has bid goodbye to the world.
Last week, hundreds of his past pupils in Callan and district were saddened to hear that Tim Kennedy, who taught for decades at the CBS in West Street, and later at Coláiste Éamann Rís, had died unexpectedly. He left a long-lasting and immensely favorable impression on his classes.
Tim was a native of Thurles who made Kilkenny is home, residing at Maidenhill on the Kells Road.
I remember him in the 1970s, when he taught a range of subjects, including Irish, English, history, geography and civics in Callan. He had a special devotion to the Irish language and culture and would often digress from hum-drum grammar tutorials to regale a class with stories of ancient Celtic warriors…or more recent chapters in the long sad tale of Ireland’s struggle to find its way in the world.
Past pupils will tell you that even today they can recite lengthy passages of Irish prose by heart, even in their sleep, thanks to the passion and dedication of Tim Kennedy.
Hand-in-hand with his penchant for the Gaelic went a passion for the National Game. He mentored hurling teams and helped to put Callan on the Gaelic Athletic map in the early 1980s. The local John Locke’s hurling club has fond recollections of his association with the sport. Though he participated in, and encouraged, others sports, he emphasized the inseparable historic link between hurling and the preservation of our “first language.”
He had a fondness for music, but especially, and not surprisingly, trad sessions where the fiddles and badhrains sent pulses racing, and all that is best in our musical heritage found vocal or instrumental expression in pubs, clubs and concert halls.
He loved theatre too. Shakespeare in particular, whose plays he delved into in later years with even greater alacrity following his retirement from teaching. The bard’s unique place in world literature had always enthralled him.
He took part in adaptations of Irish drama, memorably drawing plaudits for his rendition of Sullivan’s John, to the road you have gone.
He was equally attracted to cinema and the dramas of the Big Screen. No matter what the subject, he’d allude to a film he’d seen to illustrate a point or better acquaint the class with some tricky concept or life-experience.
He made the Civics and Christian Doctrine classes brighter and more informative by bringing his extensive knowledge of current affairs and keen grasp of theological and Geo-political issues to bear.
In his history class, the often intimidating or off-putting pages of the past came alive… thanks to his ability to capture the great ebb and flow of civilization with graphic and accessible language.
He always found the most apt image or metaphor to bring bygone happenings right into the classroom, so that, to coin a phrase from his beloved cinema, us pupils sitting at our desks (or day-dreaming) trying to figure it all out could see the past in “Glorious Technicolor.”
Apart from his love of our native tongue, he had a flair for all languages, especially French. He loved France itself and everything about it. This showed in history lessons whenever the role of France on the world stage, past or present, came into focus.
In later life he joined the Alliance Francaise, which aimed to promote French language and culture in Kilkenny. He engaged enthusiastically with the Alliance, sharing his own valuable insights and philosophical angles on a host of topics….learning and teaching at the same time.
Those who knew him will have more to say, but I remember Tim Kennedy as a teacher who went out of his way to help the class; as a man who excelled in his profession and for whom teaching was not just a job or a chore, but his special calling in life.
May he find peace and contentment on the “Other Side.”
Survived by his beloved wife Joan, son John, daughter Niamh, brothers Michael and Pat, sisters Mary, Joan and Anne, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, nephews, nieces, extended family, neighbours and friends.