I was introduced to Mr Donegan while he was struggling to beat a Year 9 boy at pool, much to the amusement of the other Butler boys. My first impressions of Mr Donegan were that he was energetic, friendly and not as good at pool as he thinks. I have seen little since to change my opinion! I decided to catch up with Mr Donegan to find out a little more about how he felt he was settling in.
What were your first impressions of Worth? Did you find it initially daunting coming in as a new housemaster of one of the boarding houses?
On arrival, driving through the gates of Worth School I was initially struck by how beautiful the School site was. I don’t think I found stepping up as a housemaster daunting. Naturally there is slight trepidation coming into a house with over 60 boys, aged 14-17, who are used to their old housemaster; particularly the older students who would have had Mr Williams for three years. So I suppose striking up a rapport with all the students in the House was always going to be the first challenge.
The staff in the House have all been extremely helpful and supportive, and I would like to thank all the staff and students for ensuring that my family and I were made welcome at Worth. In particular, the boys in Butler have been fantastic. They particularly love Riley (Mr Donegan’s son) who struts around as if he owns the place and loves the attention he gets when he’s in the House.
When I have time off we spend it as a family. I think it is really important that you can do this, as opposed to constantly worrying about what is going on in the House. I have every faith that the House is in safe hands with the House staff at the helm.
At this point the interview was interrupted. I witnessed Mr Donegan showing an almost telepathic understanding of one of the overseas boys who was struggling to convey what he wanted. Mr Donegan then proceeded to talk briefly with the boy’s guardian. This interlude showed me two things about Mr Donegan: that he is approachable and understanding, and that he has a lot of different demands made upon his time. We resumed the interview after a few minutes.
How do you perceive the role of housemaster?
Our main aim is to make sure that every individual within the House is achieving what he wants to achieve, and achieving to his potential, whether that be academically, socially or in other areas of their lives.
I think it’s important to provide a place where the students can enjoy themselves and be happy. I’m normally in and about the House and join in to play pool and the PlayStation game FIFA when the need arises. It’s important for me to spend quality time with the boys. So my main aim in the evenings is to chat with them, see how their day has been, and try to ensure there is generally a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere in the House.
What are your hopes for Butler’s future?
I think as a House there is always room for improvement in terms of House spirit and pride. I want the boys to be proud to be a part of Butler and I think that is a work in progress. We have had a great group of boys come into the House in Year 9. The most important thing is the community spirit and the sense of mutual support on everyone’s part in Butler. That is why the Benedictine values which run through the School are so important and why, as the House Chaplain, Fr Martin is an important figure in the House. We are supporting Great Ormond Street Hospital as our House charity. Getting the boys to work together to raise money for such a worthy cause will develop friendships within the House and across the year groups.
Could you tell me a little about your early years in Limerick? I attended a primary school called Our Lady of Lourdes. I then went to a Jesuit secondary school which I thoroughly enjoyed. I finished school at 17 and studied biochemistry and analytical sciences. At age 21 I decided to leave Ireland and study marine biology and zoology at Bangor University in North Wales.
On returning to Ireland I worked for an American company, Thompson Scientific, for a year but I had always had a desire to go into teaching, so I did some part-time teaching in my free time at my old school. I then decided to come to England to complete my PGCE. I taught in some challenging schools and had a really rewarding year. Currently I am half way through a Masters in Education Management at King’s College, London. (CD to confirm still study status)
Find out more about each of the nine Day and Boarding Houses at Worth School.