A delighted Peter Lennon pictured outside his home in Belturbet, Co. Cavan alongside his proud mother, Mary and sister Ashleen. Peter who went to St Bricin’s College earned a massive 601 points in his leaving certificate. Photo: Lorraine Teevan

600+ pupil's tribute to 'phenomenal' maths teacher

There are few in the country who can top and tail their secondary school years in the manner Belturbet-born Peter Lennon has - marred by tragedy with the loss of his sister in first year, and latterly the upheaval of Covid to book-end his second level education.

There are fewer still who would have emerged through it all with such poise, dignity and distinction.

“I don’t know if it pushed me harder,” Peter says of his sister Sinead’s passing, age 16 years, back in 2016. He was still only in first year at the time, and she was a member of the Leaving Certificate Class of 2017.

“I would always have tried to work hard myself the whole way along. It would be hard at times when everyone else was out having the craic, and you’re still studying, but thankfully it all paid off in the end,” the student at St Bricin’s College told the Celt this week.

On Monday last, following his years of hard work former head-boy Peter earned his just rewards - 601 points in his Leaving Certificate.

Disappointed to have missed out on the traditional end-of-school experience, Peter (17) from Drumbarlum and nearly a dozen more of his classmates organised to gather at a social distance in the school yard to open and share in the delight of results day.

“I got 601, so over 600... just about,” Peter told the Celt this week.

“I was kind of shocked, but delighted as well,” he adds of the experience of peeling back the envelope, seeing his grades, and totting up the accompanying points total. “We all were in it together, so it was nice to be together to open the results as well.”

Peter now hopes to go and study Engineering at Trinity College in Dublin. While a career in engineering was always on Peter’s mind, a place at Trinity was not in his sights.

He visited open days at universities in Galway, Limerick and elsewhere in Dublin, before, on the eve of CAO deadline, committing to work harder than ever to win a place at the hallowed College Green campus.

Despite all the changes expected to impact college life, Peter is excited about starting the next chapter in his education.

“I can’t wait,” exclaims Peter, who will move to Dublin towards the end of the month. “I’ve never actually been on campus, so I’m looking forward to getting there on my first day.”

His feelings on the Calculated Grades process are, to say the least, mixed.

“The worst part was when no one knew what was happening. For those weeks, myself included, people were still studying like mad,” says Peter, who says after word first broke that the exams were to be called off, he felt both relieved and disappointed at the same time.

“I’d done a lot of work since the end of school, and you had the feeling it was all for nothing. But, as time went by, I was glad then because otherwise it would have meant spending the whole summer studying,” he said.

Ultimately, Peter believes it was the “safest” course of action taken by the Department.

Still, Peter is confident he would have done well had exams been on the cards, and puts that level of preparedness down to the hands-on tutelage at a smaller rural secondary school like St Bricin’s.

“In some classes there might only be six, and I never would have done as well had it been a class of 30.”

To pursue engineering, Peter learned the required physics modules for the course outside of school hours, under the guidance of school maths teacher David Brady.

“The school didn’t have the numbers to offer physics. [Mr Brady] would tutor me two evenings a week after school, and I’d study on my own when everyone else was studying biology or art.”

Had exams transpired in normal times, it would have presented a unique situation whereby Peter would have had to sit the physics exam on his own in an otherwise empty school building.

“Mr Brady is just phenomenal. It’s people like that I’ll remember most, and thank them for getting me to where I am today," says Peter.