Frank McArdle died on Monday 15 April, he had not been well since shortly after Christmas. His contribution to the college since the early days has been immense. Frank’s wife Moya herself also worked in the college canteen and she retired before the move to the new canteen. Frank started in the college in 1974 and in 2007 he kindly agreed to recollect his time in DKIT. His own recollections are reprinted here. Two of Frank’s grandsons Conal and Brogan have recently spent some time at the college as part of their transition year studies marking three generations of association with the college. Frank will be greatly missed.
Our Sympathy to Moya and Maeve and to the entire McArdle family.
May he rest in Peace.
The job at the college was advertised as caretaker/gardener. Frank attended the school at Chapel Street. There were some very good teachers during his time there, namely John Minogue, Niall O Neill who taught welding and Ciaran Coulter who specialised in Carpentry. He served his time on the railway as a “Body Builder” or “Coach Builder” in Dundalk. Further welding experience was picked up on the railway from Peter Duffy (father of Vincent), who was known as the ‘White Father’ in recognition of his good work with apprentices. Then it was onto Belfast and England for several years. On returning to Dundalk, Frank took up a position in Murphy’s on the Dublin road where he spent three years. The work at Murphy’s involved the insulation and furnishing of vans, for example the interior of the county library vans was carried out there. The house-building course in the college, spear-headed by Pat Herr also provided a valuable background where the digging of sewers, laying foundations etc was all covered.
The early days
Gerry McHugh also started in the same year, he was a senior clerk and in those early days he was involved in ‘admin’, personnel, finance and buildings. On arriving at the college, the caretakers at that time were Pat Kearney, Gerry Watters and John McGardle who picked up the “G” when he worked in the United States! The job was varied from keeping the boiler going, organising the cleaning, over seeing the summer works to draining. Keeping an ‘eye’ on the college in the early days especially during the ‘troubles’ was carried out in a very discrete way prior to the introduction of the alarmed system in 1988. Thankfully there were never any major incidents on that front. The caretakers did some cleaning in those days while the maintenance cleaners looked after the classrooms. Many of those early cleaners are now deceased, one lady, Mrs Dullaghan lived in Hoey’s Lane. On one occasion when the library was in the engineering section, many books got damaged as a result of flooding.
The many tasks on hand
On arriving Frank was told that the summer was great, that it could be spent ‘sunning’ oneself on the roof. During that first summer the toilets in engineering needed much work, needless to say that Frank never got a chance to ‘sun’ himself any summer! The summer works that evolved, included painting and maintenance of equipment & machinery. The grounds also needed to be continually maintained.
Many agree that Fintan McQuaid did an excellent job on the grounds during his fourteen or so years here. On another occasion trenches for the goal posts on the soccer field in front of the college, near Dublin road had to be dug, a “french drain” was found so a little draining was called for. The area was not called the marshes for nothing! Frank was responsible for many structural innovations for example the ‘staggered ramp’ system along the corridor allowing access to the well for the ladies with the trolleys. At Christmas time there could be some money left over on one occasion furniture was procured for the boardroom. Other essentials such as paint or machinery were purchased on occasions. In 2007 Frank was then involved in the Carroll’s building and drew on some of his experience that had not been utilised since coming to college as all the buildings went up from the ‘ground’, now for the first time a building with a previous industrial use has to be adapted for college life.
The two boiler men were Peter Curley and Patsy Curran (RIP), who finished in the VEC. Peter because of his gate, was called the “ghost at the window”. The boiler was fuelled by Arigna slack from the coalmine in Co Leitrim. There was usually a ritual on Sunday afternoons to set up a bed of fuel to ensure the boiler could be got going on Monday morning at 6 am. Half the time there was more stones than coal. Oliver McDonald and Sean Redahan did a check on different coals and found the Polish coal to be better than the British kind. During the bad frost in 1983 the fire brigade had to be called in to fill the water tank with water, as there was no pressure. The oil system was installed in mid eighties before the south block was built.
The hosting of various events was part of the job. Some of the concerts held in the MPC, that come to mind are: Boyzone, Finbarr Wright, the RTE Orchestra (several times) and Colette McGahon, a local Soprano. The acoustics in the MPC were good. Winning Streak was held on one occasion with Mike Murphy, resting facilities were arranged for Mike before the show! The college also hosted the Motor Cycle show. Clannad held a concert in the old college theatre. The ‘Omagh Event’ in the Spring of 1999 was memorable as well.
Colleagues in the early days
Other early caretakers were Patsy Byrne, James Byrne and James Wogan. Paddy McCoy used to check the building on Sunday mornings; he was a great man for pruning roses. Tom Carroll (RIP) father-in-law of Patsy Byrne came from the VEC and looked after the grounds. Maurice O’ Neill (father of Michael) was a local retired electrician who used to help out in those early years. It was not all serious either, Christy McAreavy, Tony Rice and Pat Herr were the leading lights in organising inter-college drama, this would mean that sets and scenery would have to be prepared. Some of the college staff was involved in the Belfast-Dublin Mara Cycle in the eighties and nineties. Eugene Mulholland helped raise funds by preparing the Red Cross packs. Brendan McCoy and Pat Kearney were two staff members who took to the saddle.
There was great respect for Sean McDonagh, on his arrival to the college in his donkey jacket, he met Patsy Curran and asked where the principal’s office was. Patsy in his own imitable way replied, “I don’t think anybody will starting there for awhile, son”! Sean would look after the caretakers at Christmas time by giving smokes to those who did or a tin of biscuits. This practice continued until Peter Curley declared he did not want them anymore! The parties in Sean McDonagh’s are well known, whatever about their documentation. Luminaries like Mairead Ni Choiseog, Frances Ruane, Marie Guilfoyle and Dorothy O’ Boyle were all there to keep an eye on the boss. Sean was also fond of sport in particular Badminton where he and Gerry Watters organised tournaments. Just in case the badminton was too sedate, there used to be ‘ferocious games’ against the hospital doctors. The College’s Act 1992 and growth of the college changed Sean’s role somewhat, and his latter years were spent more in the management and administration side of things.
On several occasions the students organised a ‘sleep-in’ to protest about grants or their lack of. On one occasion the college theatre was full where the then USI president Pat Rabbitte spoke vehemently on the issues of the day. Even one Gerry Adams visited the students on another occasion; there was a cohort of students from Monaghan who gave him a tough time indeed!
Finishing up in the college
Frank retired in October 2006 and a very enjoyable night was held in the Lisdoo on 25th October where Frank’s family, friends and colleagues joined to wish him well. Denis Cummins thanked Frank and recognised his good work down through the years; Frank in turn thanked everyone on the night. However that was not the end of Frank’s involvement in the college, he came back part-time in the mornings and was involved in the preparation of the Carroll’s building for the next phase of its development. Apart from the ‘Bright Room’, offices and the rooms used for examinations, the rest of the building to be refurbished needed to be cleaned and prepared before going to tender for a contractor.
Fr Murtagh’s kind words
Frank’s first cousin, Fr Michael Murtagh (Dunleer) paid tribute to Frank at the funeral Mass. As well as all the qualities of Frank as a family man a remarkable thing he said was that Frank ‘is one of the very few people that I have ever met about whom I’ve never heard a bad word spoken and who, in turn, I have never heard speak a bad word about anyone else’. Frank’s parents were both from Shelagh. His mother was Brigid Murtagh and his father was a neighbour from Rassan, Pat McArdle or Pat the Boss as the family nickname had it. Fr Murtagh concluded by praying ‘we commend him to God's mercy and welcome. We trust that God will receive him and us in our turn, in the way that Frank received others in life; with kindness and with generosity of spirit’.
Article by Seamus Bellew.