'I saw a notice in The Irish Press looking for volunteers to teach in Irish missionary schools in Africa'

File: http://www.lifehistoriesarchive.com/Files/FGS10.pdf

Dublin Core


'I saw a notice in The Irish Press looking for volunteers to teach in Irish missionary schools in Africa'


Frank remembers going to Irish Missionary Schools in Africa.


Frank Gaynor


Trinity College Dublin




This item is protected by original copyright

Access Rights

This content may be downloaded and used (with attribution) for research, teaching or private study. It may not be used for commercial purposes without permission.


Frank Gaynor

Is Part Of

Adolescence and Early Adulthood


Life Story

Spatial Coverage

Kenya, Africa

Temporal Coverage


Life Story Item Type Metadata


By the end of July 1963 I was beginning to get restless. Maynooth was now history and there was no future for me in Clondaliever. It was a great time to be young and free. Sean Lemass was leading Ireland away from a dull and conservative past into a more exciting and businesslike future. The election of the relatively youthful and energetic John F Kennedy as President of the US, combined with his very popular visit to Ireland in July 1963, had us all feeling good and excited about the future. Elvis, Cliff, The Beatles and others were churning out the music that we wanted to hear. The Showband scene was gathering pace all over Ireland. In Africa former colonial territories were emerging in rapid succession as newly independent states. There was good reason to be confident about the future. I was keen to get out there and be part of it. A while in Africa was one option I decided to explore. I was influenced to some extent by the missionary magazine, Africa, which was produced by the Kiltegan Fathers. I saw a notice in The Irish Press looking for volunteers to teach in Irish missionary schools in Africa. I responded, and requested some more details. A few weeks later Fr. Paddy, a Kiltegan priest, called to Clondaliever. As he was on a busy schedule our brief conversation took place leaning over the entrance gate. He was looking for a maths teacher for their minor seminary near Kitale in the diocese of Eldoret, Kenya. Once I confirmed that I was interested he said 'That's great; I'll see you in Kitale in October'. He then drove off at speed and left me pondering over what I had agreed to do. Back in the house I took down an old school atlas and scanned a map of Africa to see where Kenya was situated. I knew that Kiltegan priests worked in both Kenya and Nigeria and presumed that they were neighbouring countries. From that low starting base it was a steep learning curve for me all the way to Kenya and back. I was booked to fly Dublin/London/Amsterdam/Rome and overnight to Entebbe. At Dublin airport I was introduced to the founder of the Medical Missionaries of Mary (the MMMs), Mother Mary Martin. Her name meant nothing to me then. I knew very little about the work that the MMMs and other religious organisations were doing at that time in different parts of Africa, including Kenya. On the London/Amsterdam flight I found myself sitting between two cigar smoking Dutchmen who chatted away non - stop in Dutch. It was my first experience of being in the company of non - English speakers. I felt strangely isolated and uncomfortable at not being able to understand one word they were saying. In Amsterdam we joined a RAPTIM flight for the journey to Rome and on to Entebbe. RAPTIM was an organisation that chartered planes from KLM for the purpose of flying Catholic missionaries to and from Africa. The outward flight usually included a meeting with the Pope in Rome. I was well dressed for a cool October in Ireland but was uncomfortably dressed for a hot and humid mid - October evening in Rome. I was wet with perspiration and weary by the time we had climbed what seemed like hundreds of steps to where we were due to meet with the Pope. We then waited for the best part of an hour, during which time I just wanted to get out of there and was in no way excited about the imminent arrival of Pope Paul V1. When he did enter the room where we were waiting I was surprised by how frail and small he was. He was friendly and encouraging when he spoke. He greeted us individually and gave each one a medal. It was a great relief to get back to the open and slightly cooler spaces of St Peter's square. We had an excellent meal, in the company of some lively Italian musicians, before starting our night flight to Entebbe. Arriving at Entebbe at about 6 am on my first visit to Africa was an unforgettable experience. I remember in particular the brilliant scenery as the early morning sun shone across Lake Victoria, the great variety of sounds as insects, birds, animals and people got busy for the day ahead, and the distinctive smell which seemed to emerge from a mixture of heat and dust and fruit and sweat. As it was my first time going through a customs check point I did not know what to expect. I need not have worried. In the company of good missionaries I was asked no question. In the arrivals hall I was approached by a young man who asked: 'Are you Francis Joseph Gaynor?' For a moment I did not recognise myself. The man in front of me was Vincent Kearney who was there to drive me to Kitale. Vincent, like me, was a volunteer with the Kiltegan Fathers in the Diocese of Eldoret. Vincent's task was to service and repair vehicles for the Diocese. As it was Sunday, we went to mass in Entebbe. There I saw for the first time Ugandan women elegantly turned out in their very attractive brightly coloured Victorian style long dresses. Our first stop on the road was at Jinja Falls, at the home of an Irish couple. We were given a warm welcome by Mrs Tierney, whose husband was an engineer at the nearby hydro - dam on the river Nile. I never saw Mrs Tierney again. When I read her death notice in The Irish Times a couple of years ago it brought back memories of that hot Sunday morning in Jinja. I was still grateful for the few happy moments I shared with her. At that very early stage I appreciated any reassuring contact with Ireland that I could get. Our next stop was near Tororo where our car broke down. Vincent succeeded in getting through to Kitale by phone. After a couple of hours a rescue car arrived to take us to Kitale. When we reached the Uganda/Kenya border it was not fully operational; there was nobody there checking passports. We simply drove through. My passport now showed that I was officially in Uganda but not officially in Kenya. Uganda had become an independent state in 1962 and independence for Kenya was to follow later in 1963. It was past midnight when we arrived at St Joseph's Catholic Mission and Teachers College outside Kitale. Sitting by a log fire was a Kerry priest waiting for transport to take him to the airport and back to retirement in Ireland. For a moment I just wished that I could join him. I spent the following three days at St Joseph's. The priests there went busily about their tasks with parish work and duties at the college. There was no word of anyone coming to take me to my place of work. On day two I was delighted when Fr. Joe invited me to join him on Kitale golf course. I had never been on a golf course before and while I had a general interest in sport I had no particular interest in golf; the weather was perfect and I needed some exercise. My memories of that day include being drained of energy, due to the mismatch between the heat of the day and the clothes I was wearing, being impressed by the golfing skills of the 73 - year - old man who joined us, and being fascinated by the four children I saw crossing a fairway. The children's ages ranged from about one year up to four or five years; there was no adult with them. With the smaller ones on the backs of the slightly larger ones they were able to move to safety that bit faster.


Irish Research Council for Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences (IRCHSS)

Research Coordinator/P.I.

Dr Kathleen McTiernan (Trinity College Dublin)

Senior Research Associate

Dr Deirdre O'Donnell (Trinity College Dublin)


This item has no location info associated with it.

Social Bookmarking