Lord Puttnum urges Mercy Heights’ students to take on life’s challenges

Posted on: 9th February, 2015

Category: Features

Contributor: West Cork People

By Carol Gilbert Pictured above: Students who achieved 500 plus points in the 2014 Leaving Cert, at Mercy Heights Secondary School Awards night. Aine O'Driscoll, Aileen Connolly, Clare O'Neil, Jessica Tidmarsh, Sharon Stoutt, Vivienne McCarthy, Michelle Collins, Cliodhna Ni Chonghaile, Marcella McCarthy, Grace McCarthy, missing from photo is Aisling Hunt, Standing far left, Mr Anton O'Mahony, principal, far right, Michael Lucitt, chairperson, board of management and seated, guest of honour Lord David Puttnam.

With the anticipated opening of Skibbereen’s amalgamated secondary school within the next two years, there was a sense of nostalgia during the penultimate Mercy Heights Secondary School Awards night held on Friday, January 16, 2015, in the West Cork Hotel.

Guest of honour, Lord David Puttnam, was introduced by school principal, Mr Anton O’Mahony. Also on stage were Mr Michael Lucitt, Chairperson of the Board of Management and Caoimhe Davis, of the student council.

Mr O’Mahony warmly welcomed all to the celebrations, commended and congratulated all the award winners and said it gave him a great sense of pride to be associated with such fine students and staff.  He encouraged each of the students to continue to strive for excellence saying, ‘the world is your oyster and your potential infinite.’

In an inspirational speech, Lord Puttnam spoke of his privilege having lived in West Cork for past 26 years in “a coherent, cohesive community where there is nothing we cannot solve ourselves.” He advised the students to take great care to choose the right friends not only at school but when they started work. He said these friends could be a fundamental and essential part of their lives so they should choose friends who offer protection and support and share their values and dreams.

He spoke of the importance of learning to become part of a team and that students would find themselves increasingly sharing skills and information as part of a team.

“I suspect the next 10 to 25 years are going to be tough for you young people. My generation has not done a great job of looking after the treasure and passing on security to you. We have created a financially unstable Europe that will affect all our lives. For a large part of the world there are desperate threats, which are going to become very real within the next five to fifteen years. I am sure you are going to be some of the people helping solve these problems in the future.

“I think we are massively privileged to live in a physical environment where we have clean air, clean water and an environment where things grow, an environment which has a future. How do you make sure we protect what we have in this country and particularly in this area? How do we protect it, nurture it and most importantly hand it on to your children? These are big challenges, which may seem remote at the moment, years away, but they are real and they are going to happen. They will require real understanding of what we have here as a community.  I feel massively privileged to be part of a community that has a future and I am certain of that! I am certainly determined, for however many years I have left, that I will promote it, support it and become part of the cheering group of what you will be part of in the future.”

Ms Terri Lieber, an excellent and witty MC, ensured proceedings were light and entertaining throughout. The school’s traditional music group, Mary Therese Coughlan, Aisling Fitzgerald, Maria Carey, Hannah Collins and Siadbh Redmond entertained the capacity audience on arrival. Lorraine Crowley sang during a break in proceedings.

Students, Jagoda Bocianska and Louise Gallagher presented Lord Puttnam with their beautiful painting in appreciation of his input to the evening and the most enjoyable awards ceremony concluded with refreshments.

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