02 Oct 2022

Sadness at death of former Offaly school teacher


The late Nora Wall (left) with her fellow teachers, Mick Cunningham and Maureen Dooley in Ballinagar National School in the 1980s

THE death took place last week of Mrs Nora Wall, a former teacher in Ballinagar National School and a well known resident in Tullamore.

Wife of former Offaly county engineer, William Wall, the late Nora (Charleville Road) was a very personable lady who made a huge impact on the many people she helped influence.

She possessed a lovely gentle kind personality and made a huge contribution during life in Ballinagar National School where she worked from the late 1970s through to her early retirement in 1991.

At the time Ballinagar was a small school with just three teachers and she worked mainly with the principal Mick Cunningham and a Clareen resident Maureen Dooley during her time there. They made a great team with Maureen Dooley teaching baby infants, senior infants and first class, Nora Wall taking second, third and fourth class and Mick Cunningham having fifth and sixth class.

Numbers were a struggle in many of those years, well before the explosion of population in Ballinagar with a house building programme during the Celtic Tiger years – there were times when Ballinagar was actually in danger of losing a teacher and they needed a few pupils from the Clonmore and Springfield areas of Cappincur to retain their teaching quota.

The construction of housing estates on the Daingean, Cappincur and Geashill sides of Ballinagar changed the goalposts in the years after Nora's retirement, resulting in a big extension being built on land donated by a local farmer John Malone and a subsequent increase in students and teaching staff with a resource teacher.

I went into Ballinagar National School in fourth class after we moved up from Nenagh, following the closure of the Silvermines not far from the town, and have always remembered the way Nora Wall tried to ensure the change of schools was a smooth one – I was a shy somewhat anxious 9 year old and Nora went out of her way to integrate me and sibblings, involving us in class lessons immediately and making sure we were making friends and being made welcome.

Nora Wall was a great devoted teacher with an infectious ability to communicate with young children and earn their respect. She had a great passion in classical music, English, art and creativity and she tried to instill those in her pupils. Girl students learnt a lot from the way she presented herself and this sense of etiquette has lasted with many of them throughout their life.

Writing on the Ballinagar Historical Society Facebook page last week, Sinead Betson (who acknowledged the input of her sisters Audrey and Carol with her tribute) wrote: “Today we pay tribute and honor the life of a wonderful lady and teacher, Mrs. Nora Wall, a lady ahead of her time who made a remarkable contribution to our lives. We are all so saddened to hear of her passing on Monday 15th June 2020. Mrs. Wall was a teacher in St. Joseph's National School Ballinagar she taught 2nd, 3rd and 4th class students.

“We remember her pulling up at the front gate of the school in her orange coloured Ford Fiesta, carrying her wicker basket containing her 11's and her lunch and our copy books that she took home to correct from the day before. Mrs Wall paid particular attention to her appearance and this she passed on to the girls in the Wednesday afternoon class. It was during these afternoons that she would teach us to knit or sew. Mrs Wall had a great love for music Mozart and Rimsky Koraskov could often be heard from her record player in the classroom two favourites were " Flight of the bumblebee" and "Peter and the Wolf" she would encourage us to listen to changes in tempo and ask us for our thoughts on what it meant.

“She also loved to share with us, her love for art especially, Constable and Van Gough. On Friday afternoons she read us stories. A particular favourite was, "James and the giant peach". Apart from the school library she would bring in books for us to read by Enid Blyton, AA Milne and Christina Rossetti. Poetry, essays, writing and especially limericks encouraging our creative writing. Debates and quizzes were the norm too the classroom. She encouraged discussion, free thinking and free speech. A beautiful lady inside and out, one of her beliefs in life as a teacher, was the importance of etiquette, her beautiful spirit will live on in the many students she taught in Ballinagar National School along with the great memories and advice Mrs. Wall will be sadly missed but will always be remembered by the whole community of Ballinagar.”

A dignified, modest lady, she was a member of Tullamore Golf Club and she was a friendly, nice lady. A great conversationalist, she was devoted to her husband William and family. Nee Phelan, she is survived by her husband William, daughter Julie-Ann, brother John, sisters-in-law Jeri, Mary and Helen, brothers-in-law Eddie, Patrick, Sean and Michael, niece Rachel and her husband Frank and their family Dáire, Ceoladh and Fíadha, nephew Jack and his partner Erin, neighbours, relatives and friends.

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