Martin Heffron Reflects On His Time At Princethorpe
My time at Princethorpe was from 1973 until 1980. I was lucky enough to attend Princethorpe in the good old days when (as boarders) we roamed far and wide around the buildings and grounds.
The stability of boarding school was an important discipline for me, because my family moved around a lot and I had been to five different primary schools in almost as many years. I wouldn’t have described me as a wild child, but I needed to settle down. After the initial shock of being away from home, I soon settled in and discovered two passions that have lived with me for the rest of my life:
- Birdwatching; and
- Rugby Union
Princethorpe was ideal for both. The slightly fearsome Mr Price taught me all about the game they play in heaven and the grounds themselves were my birding tutor.
The combination of boarding school discipline, compassionate support from staff, lots of great sport and the freedom to spend time on my own doing my own thing could not have been a better environment for me at the time and I thrived.
The school was also a place to make great friends. I remember meeting my great friend Antony Jarvis for the first time on the walk out to the rugby fields. He told me about his life in Kenya and how much his mother loved birdwatching. I told him how wonderful it must be to watch birds in such an amazing country and the next thing I know I’m on a plane to Nairobi at the start of the summer holidays. My connection with Antony, his family and Africa itself have remained very strong and my eldest son is just about to start a ranger course in South Africa and Botswana as part of his gap year adventures.
Kieran Cahill was another great friend I made at school. We spent the last two years of school sharing a room in the building at the end of the drive where we had to keep the coal fired boiler working or we ran out of heat and hot water. Not so funny in the middle of winter. Unfortunately for Kieran, he is a very tidy man and……I am not. I still fold clothes the way he taught me to. Thanks for all your patience Kieran. Like me, he married an Australian and lives in Brisbane. I see him several times a year.
The teaching staff at the time were a combination of lay and clerical. There were too many great people who supported me and helped me whilst I was at the school to name them all, but I would like to mention Father McManus. Even as a very young man, I would have described him as my friend. His compassion and wit were the source of great wisdom and insight for me. I learned a great deal from him, much of which has been invaluable to me as my life has progressed.
I moved to Australia with my work many years ago, married a fantastic Australian girl (Meg) and have been living happily every after ever since.
Meg and I established a business in the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales in the pensions space and never really looked back. I have had an interesting and fulfilled life with many friends and plenty of love. I have been truly blessed.
In December last year, my family and I visited Princethorpe and Melanie Butler was kind enough to devote some time to showing us all around. Neither of my children had been there before and it was my first visit since Midnight Mass in 1993. Obviously, a lot that has changed (for the better) but also a great many things remain the same.
The visit brought back so many wonderful memories and whilst it was only a brief visit, the atmosphere and ethos of the school feel the same as they always have – for me, and that is great news for the current students.
As for many people Princethorpe left an indelible and positive mark on my life that has continued to this day. I consider myself very lucky to have attended the school. It really changed my life.
I wish everyone working at the school and all students the very best for 2019 – you have a great legacy to sustain.