My memories of Mr Bowen, the principal who gave me a chance

St. Peter's Principal Martin Bowen.
St. Peter's Principal Martin Bowen.
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Sir,

On Monday week last, May 3, past pupils of St. Peter’s were invited to take a tour down memory lane and for the last time walk the halls and classrooms of St. Peter’s before the school closes its doors in August.

I was with two friends, Ryan and Sean, who I spent nearly every day with for five years at St. Peter’s. We continue to be friends to this day. We wandered at leisure through all those familiar places, reminiscing about the ‘good old days’ and the usual mischief we got up to, and discussing old teachers, funny incidents and so on.

It was a great few hours.

To my surprise by the time I got home I was quite reflective. And I got to thinking about Martin Bowen.

There has been much written about Mr Bowen in the local press in terms of appreciation of him and his dedication to the school. However, I haven’t read something actually written by pupils, present or past, about Martin. So through the medium of the ‘Journal’ I’d like to express my own thanks and gratitude to him.

Most pupils go through their lives at school viewing the principal as a figurehead, a constant presence of authority and on occasions a disciplinarian. They don’t have much personal dealings with him or her.

Speaking for myself, I can say that Martin Bowen was all those things to me too. However, it would be fair to say that during my time at St. Peter’s, I had more dealings with Mr Bowen than, well, probably any ‘normal’ pupil should.

Frankly, I was no angel. In fact, there were possibly months during which I spent more times in Martin’s office on disciplinary matters than in the classroom.

Through all of these times, while Martin, naturally, did dole out the obligatory suspension, day exclusion and detention, he also had the opportunity (on numerous occasions) to actually permanently exclude me from the school.

This obviously would have caused me severe problems in later life.

I have asked myself, thinking back on specific serious incidents, why didn’t he just wash his hands of me, dump me out the door and have me forgotten about?

Then I realised why.

Martin never gave up on any pupil and always saw their potential. It would not surprise me that he had seen my potential with Information and Communications Technology (ICT). As I recall, even after one particular incident, he still allowed me ‘manage’ the school’s Lunch Time and Afterschool Computer Club.

Looking back, it’s clear to me that Martin channelled my energies in the right direction.

This benefited me later in life in terms of my further education and career prospects.

Despite all of my misdemeanours, Martin continued to allow me to represent the school at every single open night and prizegiving, and indeed externally at events outside of the school.

The amount of opportunities he afforded me (the trouble maker) is impossible to quantify.

Given my behavioural record, some wondered how he could trust me to do anything, and, believe me, a few teachers did.

Martin’s actions, which gave me these opportunities at that stage in my life, helped me develop my first sense of self-belief, esteem and confidence.

Sometimes every now and again, arrogance would creep in and no better man was there to take me down a peg or two!

One of the proudest moments in my life at St. Peter’s was when, in 2000, Martin himself actually presented me with the Brother Connelly Cup, the school’s award for the pupil with outstanding skills in ICT for the previous year.

If someone asked me to write my own personal summary of Martin Bowen’s long career in St. Peter’s it would be this: he was an educator to the core, I secretly respected him and he was the only person in the world I could never win an argument with!

I wish Martin all the best in the future.

Yours,

Michael Cullen,

Past Pupil,

St. Peter’s High School, 1995 -2000.