One of Ballycastle’s oldest residents passes away

ONE of Ballycastle’s oldest and best respected residents has passed away at the age of 101, just days before her 102nd birthday.

Tuesday, 20th November 2012, 1:51 pm

Requiem Mass for Kathleen Dallat was held in St Patrick’s & St Brigid’s Church in the town and she was interred in the adjoining graveyard.Fr Brian Daly, Parish Priest of St Patrick’s and St. Brigid’s Parish, Ballycastle, and Right Reverend Monsignor Colm McCaughan con-celebrated Mass with Fr Ciaran Dallat - Kathleen’s nephew. Very Reverend Bishop Patrick Walsh presided.

The previous evening Very Reverend Bishop Noel Treanor and Very Reverend Bishop Farquhar presided when Kathleen’s remains were taken from her late residence at Atlantic Avenue, Ballycastle.

Kathleen Dallat was born in Ballycastle on 7th November 1910 to Peter and Sarah (nee O’Neill) Dallat. She was the oldest child of a family of eight, three girls, herself, Briad (Kennedy), Sheila (Fleming) and five boys, Christopher, Patrick, Cahal, Peter and Michael. Until her death she was the only surviving member of her immediate family.

When Kathleen first went to Primary School, she had great difficulty seeing clearly what was written on the blackboard, so she always listened attentively and memorised everything the teacher said.

Then when she was about 10 or 11 years of age she was taken to Belfast to have her eyes tested and the opticians deemed that she needed glasses. She wore glasses ever since that, and anyone lucky enough to engage with her over her lifetime, will testify that she has also retained a truly marvellous memory.

Early on in Kathleen’s primary school education it came to light that she was gifted, musically. She received music lessons from the sisters of the Cross and Passion Order and progressed to become an accomplished pianist.

There was always music in the Dallat household. Her brothers Patrick and Cahal played the violin and the clarinet/accordion respectively and their father played the violin also. The others in the family were all very good singers.

On 15th September 1924, Cross and Passion College, Ballycastle, opened its doors for the first time and Kathleen was one of its first pupils. A teacher who recognised Kathleen’s academic prowess, entered her, in her ‘Senior’ year, for the County Antrim Education Committee scholarship.

The result was based mostly on the Senior examination results and Kathleen passed. This scholarship meant that she had free education at Queen’s University, Belfast, for the next four years. There were very few female Queen’s graduates at that time.

In her time at Queen’s University, Kathleen only returned home to Ballycastle at Easter, Christmas and during the summer months so she welcomed the opportunities to visit relations in Belfast, her grand-uncle Mr. Christopher Kirgan (originally from Ballymoney), and her mother’s brother Fr. Charlie O’Neill, who at that particular time was a curate in St Peter’s Cathedral on the Falls Rd.

Kathleen graduated in July 1932 with BA (Hons.). On the occasion of her graduation ceremony, Kathleen visited the bathroom before entering the hall. A lady, who was cleaning there, asked why she wasn’t wearing her white gloves. Kathleen wasn’t aware of such a requirement. The good lady kindly came to her rescue by reaching into her bag and handing over a pair. White gloves were a commonly used fashion accessory for young ladies in those days.

When Kathleen left Queen’s, the Sisters in Cross and Passion College, Ballycastle, offered her a job and she started teaching in September 1932. It was taken for granted that teaching was going to be her profession when she completed her studies. Although Kathleen had no formal teacher training, she had a real passion for history and this coupled with a good working relationship with both the staff and her students helped her carve out a reputation as a ‘top notch’ history teacher – she commanded respect from fellow staff and pupils alike.

Her management of pupils never failed to impress her colleagues and of course throughout her long career her exam results were always second-to-none. She always tried to make the pupils enjoy the lesson, believing that teachers must have ‘a little bit of give and take’ in their teaching methods and to teach with a friendly strictness.

Kathleen’s teaching methods are still talked about by many of her past pupils: the same pupils can still recite the nursery rhymes she used to help them remember their facts.

In fifteen hundred and eighty-eighty

The Spaniard Armada met its fate

In fourteen hundred and ninety-two

Columbus sailed the ocean blue

In recent years she had recalled that in her first year, her wages were £16 -13 - 4d a month, except for every third month when they were £14 – 13 – 4d. The £2 that was deducted was to pay for her pension. For many years after she started teaching, she gave in her wages to her parents to help them raise the rest of the family. Being the oldest of eight children, this probably was most welcome and helped greatly to finance the education of her siblings.

Kathleen taught in Cross and Passion College for 41 years. History was very much her main subject but she also taught English and French. To enhance her command of the French language she attended French Summer schools in Tours at the University of Poitiers, and also at the University of the Sorbonne in Paris.

So many of Kathleen’s past pupils attribute their love of History to her passion for the subject; she made it come alive in her own special way. Recently one of her past pupils, commented on the radio how lucky she was to have had such an inspirational history teacher as ‘Miss Dallat’, when she was a student at Cross and Passion College, Ballycastle.

Kathleen was always an avid reader and attributed this love of reading to her parents. Her father, who incidentally had no secondary education, but had a tremendous flair for Mathematics, also read voraciously and always had books in the house.

She had recalled that they had O’Laverty’s History of Down & Connor and any free time she had, she read these. Her mother who originally had come to the town to teach in a local school always encouraged her children to read at every available opportunity.

Kathleen enjoyed her 41 years in Cross and Passion immensely. She enjoyed the tremendous camaraderie among the teaching staff of the College. If at any time she needed time off to help with an extra-curricular activity or to attend a medical appointment someone always volunteered to help out with her classes - the nuns were especially helpful in this respect

Posts only came in ‘late on’ in Kathleen’s teaching career and she was lucky enough to receive a Post of Responsibility for the teaching of History. She was also a member of the Secondary Teachers Association but they only met once a year – as it was, she wasn’t particularly interested in the politics of teaching as she had too many other responsibilities at home.

Kathleen retired from teaching in 1973. She felt that it was time to stop working because she was beginning to get very tired. Sadly she retired just one year before the Houghton Report - if she had taught that extra year her pension would have been discernibly bigger, but at the time she didn’t give the financial consequence much thought.

She always believed that she had been very lucky to have enjoyed such a long retirement (over 39 years). Sadly however in her later years none of her contemporaries were alive for her ‘to ask a question to’ or to reminisce with.

Kathleen, being the oldest of a large family helped her mother and father as much as possible to rear the rest of the family. However she still found time to live a very active life outside of work and the household. She played golf (Ballycastle Golf Club Lady captain 1949-1950 and at her best, played off a handicap of 17) badminton, bridge, was a member of the Legion of Mary, the Apostolic Work Society, and for a number of years attended evening cookery classes.

In 1964 Kathleen’s sister-in-law Mary died at the early age of 39 leaving 7 young children and then in 1968 Kathleen’s brother Patrick died leaving 5 young children. Kathleen stepped in on both occasions to help in whatever she could. Both families have always been fulsome in their praise of Kathleen for her kindness and caring during those difficult times.

In February 2002 Kathleen’s brother, Fr. Christopher Dallat retired from his priestly ministry and returned to Ballycastle to live in Atlantic Avenue with herself and their brother Peter. Kathleen, then in her 92nd year, continued to keep the house and make the meals for all on a regular basis and continued to do so up until 2006 when she moved into Rathmoyle Home in Ballycastle at the tender age of 96.

Kathleen had always been regarded as the matriarchal figure of the Dallat household, taking a keen interest in the fortunes of her nephews and nieces, grand nephews and grand nieces. She was particularly proud, when on the 13th February 1994 her youngest brother Michael was ordained the Auxiliary Bishop of Down and Connor in St. Peter’s Cathedral, Falls Road, Belfast.

Kathleen died on the 3rd November 2012, four days short of her 102th birthday. To all in the Dallat clan she was a very special person. She was a kind, caring, extremely well-read person with razor-like intellect and a lovely sense of humour.

In her last years spent in Rathmoyle Home, Ballycastle, she remained lucid right up to her death and it was commented on by so many of the staff that while she was a real character constantly regaling everyone with her one liners, she was also a lovely patient, never cranky or demanding and very appreciative of any assistance afforded her.

She had lived through two world wars, brought a love for history to pupils for 41 years and helped many people through difficult times. She was indeed a truly impressive lady whose attitude to life in all its ups and downs was always measured and dignified.