Maths teacher who made notable contribution to her profession


Eirene Benson:EIRENE BENSON, who has died aged 95, came from a strong teaching background and made a notable contribution to the profession, particularly during a long spell at Portora Royal School in Fermanagh.

She was born Eirene Hobson in 1915, a child of the Rectory, in Birr, Co Offaly, the eldest of three children. When she was six years old, the family moved to Cork when her father was appointed headmaster of Cork Grammar School and her mother principal of the Girls’ high school.

It was here she received her early education before going, at age 13, to board in Alexandra College in Dublin. In 1937, she obtained a mathematics degree from Trinity College, Dublin, and returned to Alex as a maths teacher.

In 1943 she married the Rev Terence Benson. Their early married years brought a number of moves for the family – from parish life in Corbally, Roscrea (1942-1944), to Templeharry (1944-1946). During this time in parish life they had a daughter and a son.

In 1946 Terence was appointed headmaster of Killaloe diocesan school with parish responsibilities, but after six years they were back in Cork. In 1956 Terence was appointed to the staff of Portora Royal School, Enniskillen, and a year later Rene joined him to begin teaching in the maths department. She remained at Portora for 21 years until she retired in 1978 as head of department.

Outside teaching, Rene Benson was a woman of many skills and interests. She loved the theatre and during her years at Portora took an active interest in school drama, producing two Gilbert and Sullivan musicals. She was also a talented artist and musician; her two magnificent watercolours of the old and new Portora gates are a lasting testimony to her skill.

She never wasted a moment in any day and could turn her hand to any task in the household. She would never miss choral events, enjoyed the theatre and was an excellent bridge player. She had a wonderful interest in people, loved her pupils, had a great memory and enjoyed socialising.

At her funeral service in St Macartin’s Cathedral, Enniskillen, an address by a former colleague from Portora, the Rev Canon D Kingston, which was read in his absence by R H Northridge, the deputy headmaster of the school, referred to Rene Benson’s “great faith and strong principles”. She was “deeply spiritual, got great comfort from the scriptures, loved her church and the spiritual sustenance of the sacrament”, Canon Kingston noted.

The hymns, What a friend we have in Jesus and the Portora hymn Abide with me, together with the psalm The Lord’s my Shepherd, were all chosen by Rene Benson and reflected the important aspects of her life as she looked back upon it in her declining years.

Rene Benson is survived by her daughter, Joyce, and son-in-law, Ernie; by her son, Mark, and daughter-in-law Ava; by her grandchildren Hazel, Eleanor, Julian and Adrian and by her sister-in-law Elisabeth Ferguson.

Eirene Benson: born May 7th, 1915; died May 28th, 2010